Fame and Glory at the World Series of Mahjong

Ah yes, like a Halloween weekend party binge at UCSB, I have binged at the World Series of Mahjong. And it was good.

It wasn’t quite the result I was looking for, just 15th out of about 300. It’s so nearly almost really good. In the middle of the made-the-money field, but still not quite good enough to say I killed it. Before lamenting what might have been when I effectively ended my tournament in one hand (in fact, maybe I’ll just stop doing that) how about looking at my other big hand of the tournament.

Actually, I suppose many of the hands leading up to this hand would have to be considered at least as important as this hand wouldn’t have even happened had it not been for the previous successes allowing me to move on to the later rounds. The 5 pointer I won to squeak into the money and the round of 32 is probably most important in that respect. But if anyone sees how I played that, I’ll just look like a pinhead, not the almost-hero I really am. That set part of the stage, let me set the rest of it.

The only excitement I managed at my first table in the round of 32 was to nearly not make it. Special thanks to tournament staff/organizer Alex for coming to find me at breakfast while I tried to eat my way to disqualification. Having started at the bottom of the field in that round, I already had ground I needed to make up and my next table was also my first time on the featured table, broadcast to the audience in the public viewing room. If there was a chance for glory, here it was.

To get myself started, I dug myself a hole by throwing a 60 point hand on the 6th or so draw. Because of the way scoring works at the World Series, that meant a 120 point loss for me and obviously not the start I was looking for. I didn’t get much to work with until the 6th hand where I stole a few key tiles to make myself a Full Straight and get myself back to nearly 0. I still needed something good to push my way into the next round. My starting tiles the next hand looked good for an outside hand and/or 3 Colored Runs(called 3 Similar Sequences in their rule book) so I decided to take that course early on stealing outside runs when I had the chance and holding on to Honor tiles in case they might pair up. What I thought was a bit of bad luck in the beginning having missed a chance to pair up two East tiles ended up being good luck in that it really forced me to go for 3 Colored Runs, making the hand nearly twice as expensive. After chowing tiles to make 123 runs in Dots and cracks I was left a hand that looked something like this:

As I waited for a 2 or 3 of bamboos or Red Dragon or the 9 of Cracks, I saw more and more of the precious 2 and 3’s discarded by the other players and my chances of finishing the hand dwindling. Not only that, the girl to my right was collecting Cracks so every discard of them or value tiles was becoming more and more dangerous as she stole tiles to make her hand too. It was fairly likely that she had some of those tiles and was maybe even already ready and waiting for the Red Dragon. There were none on the board yet.

I could already see 3 of the 3 of Bamboos when I finally drew the second to last 2 of bamboos to be waiting for that last 3. Not only was my wait crappy, but I would have to discard that extremely dangerous Red Dragon. The only reason I decided I could go for it was that I could also see all 4 of the 4 of Bamboos and several of the 1’s and 2’s already out on the board. The possibility that the last 3 was not being used and still in the deck seemed good enough to risk throwing another big hand there. With only one more hand to go, how many more chances was I going to get at an 80 point hand? Well, and the other reason I could hope for it was that the players on my right and left were clearly not giving up their hands either and hadn’t seemed to be watching the board much all game anyway. I could reasonably expect them to throw my 3 if it came their way. I just had to hope it didn’t go to the stronger player across from me who probably would have thrown it off the stage to get it as far away as possible from me. As it happened, the girl to my left drew it, and with no way to use it discarded it immediately giving me 240 points and my ticket to the next round.

I hear the crowd erupted into cheers and applause as she discarded my winner. Mahjong the spectator sport. It doesn’t get much better than that. Except for taking 1st place in front of an even bigger crowd I guess. Anyway, 15th place in my first World Series of Mahjong will have to do for this year. I can’t wait to start practicing again for next year’s.

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