A Game of Mistakes: My lesson from Masters (part 2)

Garthe NelsonLast week we started Garthe’s story of his first JPML Final table at the celebrated Masters tournament. Now the conclusion. You can read last week’s story here.

The second game he really started getting out of control, on his turn as dealer he chowed 789 of dots and then ponned the 4 of bamboos. The Lucky Dragon was 8 of bamboos and after all the useful letter tiles had come out, I decided that the only thing he could possibly be going for was 3 Colored Runs and gave up my hand when I got an extra 8 of characters I was worried might be his winner. Of course, I eventually drew what would have completed my hand. Just before the last draw he drew the last Lucky dragon for a kong (meaning he already had 3 lucky dragons in his hand!) and then when he opened his hand at the end, he had no possibility for a hand point except for a miracle like Last Tile or King’s Tile Draw.


To waste a point-getting opportunity like that! He did manage to win a couple hands as dealer to put together a lead going into the final hand, though I don’t remember what they were because he was obviously not worth paying attention to any more. I was not going to let his goofy play distract me from claiming my Masters title.

On to the last hand of that game, I was dealer and my hand showed promise early except that he reached on the 7th draw. What is this crap!?!? There were no letter tiles in his discards so I started thinking 7 Pairs was a likely culprit and letter tiles would be a little dangerous. When I drew the first visible East I put it in my hand for a draw or two just in case maybe I could draw another one. But I didn’t and I started getting possibilities elsewhere and besides, I thought, “whatever he has it’s probably just Reach, 7 Pairs. 3200 points or 8000 if he has Lucky dragons. Besides, on his turn as dealer he reached with any ready hand, no hand points and crappy wait. It may even be just 1000 points. I’ll still be in 2nd for this game, even losing that much.

Whatever. Here. Have your East, you dork!” Big mistake.

In a voice, louder than his usual already crackly too loud I heard 32,000 points. Huh? East completed his 13 Orphans hand, and even after my win the first game, that tile popped him from last into 1st and me from 1st to last in one fell swoop.

Various buddies tried to cheer me up. Even Setokuma (A1 league) said it couldn’t be helped, there was no way to know. But I DID know. I put East in my hand because I knew it was dangerous. You always want to play so as to keep players guessing about what you have. He went one better. He actually got me to stop guessing even when he actually had a monster. And what a mistake!

Needless to say, he controlled the next 3 games too, playing the rest of us like the orchestra conductor he is. Given my reputation as a poor loser, it probably isn’t too much of a surprise that I spent the evening after telling anyone who’d listen how awfully he played but won anyway. As my silly ego simmers down, I must now give unqualified “Congratulations!” to Makino, winner of this year’s Master’s tournament.

Materfully played! May we meet again and may I be a better non-mistaken opponent that time.

P.S. After I wrote this, I went to work yesterday and who should come waltzing in the door for the first time there but Makino himself! My chance! Of course, Okino, our manager made absolutely sure we never ended up at the same table. I did watch him play a couple games when I wasn’t playing. That guy really is crazy, but it doesn’t seem to stop him from winning. It seems there is a method to the madness.

Garthe Nelson is Grade 2 in the Japan Professional Mahjong League. You can catch him as a featured Pro on Mahjong Fight Club.

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