Apr 12th, 2009
Easter treat for everyone today. I’m sure most of you have scoffed far too much chocolate by now. Here’s the perfect way to distract yourself from your over-full tummy… Over to Konno…
Hi, Mahjong players of the world! It’s Shintaro Konno again. Last time I wrote about attending the Mahjong Supercup in Macao. My time in Macao wasn’t limited to Mahjong though; I also played poker.
Due to legal restrictions, there are no casinos or poker rooms in Japan. There are some places where you can physically play, but not for money. Most poker is played online.
I played Texas Hold-em in Macau. It is actually surprising how similar to Mahjong Hold-em is. The two cards that you’re dealt in the beginning is very similar to your starting hand in Mahjong. The next five card, flop, turn and river, are like your discard pile.
My favorite part of poker is “all in.” It doesn’t get called all that much in games, but when it does and you push your chips into the center, it’s a thrilling moment.
So what does “all in” correspond to in Mahjong? I think that riichi is its closest counterpart.
Riichi is the similar to “all in” in that once you’ve called it, there’s no going back and you can’t change anything. All you can do is wait for the outcome.
It’s a drastic, uncompromising move and thus requires preparation. When you go “all in” you’re thinking of the end result. You can’t just riichi every time you hit tempai. You have to think of when you can get the best results from riiching. You have to consider your pot odds…
You have to decide when it’s best to riichi. Perhaps the best way to start this discussion is first considering when you shouldn’t riichi.
Review these examples:
Neither hand A or B has a yaku. You may be tempted to riichi because otherwise you won’t be able to win. However, you should wait. If you do riichi and win, it’ll only be 1300 points (in the case of non-dealer).
While you’re reached and unable to affect the game anymore, your opponents may catch up with a great hand. Then your riichi stick is like a loaded gun to your head. (This is similar to poker when you have been the first player to push all-in. You are in a dangerous position as you are no longer able to fold your hand. I think anyone who has player poker will understand my meaning.)
So, back to hands A and B. What should you do in situations like these?
Let’s look at A first. When you’re in a position like the player of hand A is in, you should first wait to form a yaku. Now you could win with a 7 but you instead you should wait and see if you pull a 2, 4 or 5. Then you could discard the 8 and have pinfu (peace hand). (If you self-draw the 7 before, then of course you should declare your win.)
What if you do pull a 2, 4 or 5? Should you riichi then? No, you shouldn’t. Riiching here will make 1000 points, 2000 points (in the case of non-dealer). This is the time that you start to consider your pot odds.
Now we know when to not riichi… When should we be riiching?
Consider these examples:
I think everyone should be able to see how these two examples are different from hand A. A-1 and A-2 both have a dora tile and the potential for sanshoku (three- colored run). Now, because we could push this hand all the way up to a haneman (12000 points), we should reach.
In Japan, we call hands in play which have attained the highest potential points it could be expected to achieve the “final shape.” Japanese Mahjong professionals often say that when you’ve reached this “final shape”, you should riichi.
So what happens if before you read your “final shape”, your winning tile is discarded or you self-draw? I would recommend that you declare your win. It is probably not the hand to push in the game. When the hand that could win the game does appear, I recommend you riichi.
I’ve explained A now. That leaves B. I think that I should make B my quiz to you. Think about what would make B into its “final shape”. It should be easy looking at A!
Next time, I’ll have the answer to this quiz and I would like to continue this discussion with “reading a reach”. Until next time!
Note from Gem: I’ll put this question into the forums so please answer away! We’ll pass comments onto Konno. Thanks for reading!
Posted in Konno's Kolumn