Today I think I’ll write a letter to myself. We’ve covered a lot of hands so far. There are only about 10 or so I haven’t told you about yet, and for the most part, they will probably not figure largely in your Mahjong careers. So today in light of some recent events, I thought I’d review a couple hands that are comparatively rare but will still be relevant to your Mahjong conquering dreams. At least, one would have been relevant to my dreams had it come to mind at the right moment. How about another look at the two outside hands using some recent real life examples.
Let’s begin with the Pure Outside hand, known as “Junchan” in Japanese. Every group must contain a 1 or 9, meaning that only triples of 1’s and 9’s, and runs beginning with 1 or ending with 9 will be in the hand. It will never contain any honor tiles, and will not use the numbers 4, 5 or 6 in any suit. It is 3 hand points when concealed, and 2 hand points when tiles are bumped or chowed. This is a fairly difficult hand to put together so parts of it will often be exposed like in today’s example. There are many ways to make this into a high scoring hand, but today’s is one that might not have occurred to a lot of players. It’s also a good example of how remaining flexible throughout the hand can help you change course and still pull off a nice winner when you run aground on your first course.
My friend’s starting tiles and first draw looked about like this:
It’s not a great starting hand, and with 9 different outside tiles, it actually qualifies as a hand that you can say “I give up” and make everyone start the hand over. My friends however, ever the dreamers, never give up a chance at a limit hand, and so off this guy went on a quest for 13 Orphans. After 7 or 8 draws, he had only managed to exchange a couple of the middle tiles and was not any closer at all to assembling the orphans, especially after I’d bumped 3 of the White Dragons. His hand now looked like this:
This hardly looks promising, but 1 of Dots was the Lucky Dragon and when the player in front him threw 8 of Grands he suddenly chowed and decided to go for an Outside hand. Next he drew 8 of Dots and with more cooperation from the player before, he chowed 7 of Dots from him and was now only one away from ready. That player next called Reach, discarding the Lucky Dragon which our hero bumped, and what was his next draw but his winning 7! His winning hand:
Pure Outside Hand(exposed), 3 colored runs (exposed) and 3 Lucky Dragons, was good for 12,000 points. Sure it was a lucky crazy move, but then that’s what these games are, putting yourself in a position to get lucky.
Next let’s look at an example where I put myself in fantastic position to get lucky and blew it with Mixed Outside hand. To review, this hand is like the Pure Outside hand except that it allows the use of Honor tiles. Concealed it’s 2 points but exposed it will be worth just 1. I had had a pretty tough first 3 games at Masters last Saturday and needed a big win in the final game if I wanted to continue onto the next round. We were getting toward the end of the South round of the final game and my last turn as dealer had just been stolen on a 1000 point hand. A little despondent, I felt more like disrupting everyone else’s game at that point than trying to win. I started with:
and bumped the White Dragon my first chance when it came out first round. The next round someone threw the South Wind and right away things are starting to look interesting, especially when I draw the West Wind to make a Head. Now I’m now only one tile away from completing this Half Flush hand with two Value tiles, that’s 8000 points and gives me a shot at finishing the day in the black and going on to the next round. At some point here, it would have been good for me to notice that the hand also included the Mixed Outside hand, even though for the moment, the five hand points still only make it an 8000 point hand. The defining moment was when the player before me reached and I drew the last South Wind to make a quad. Not only was the “King’s Tile” the 3 of Dots but it was also the “New Lucky Dragon” giving me one more point and bumping my hand up to 12,000 points. The Reacher threw my winner on his next draw but without thinking, I just said 8000 points and that missing 4000 would prove to be what kept me from advancing. I finished with -1900, and the cut off was -300.
So not only is an awful story because I didn’t advance, but also I know all the guys I work with can’t wait to start teasing me about how I could advance in tournaments if only I knew how to keep score. Add to that the fact that I threw an 18,000 point winner to one of the guys I work with when we happened to be at the same table, and the fact that I will undoubtedly make this very kind of mistake again, and….sigh. Well it’s enough to drive a boy to Poker. So let Mixed Outside hand never be far from your mind, especially when it is the deciding 4000 points for whether or not you’re advancing to the next round in the biggest Mahjong tournment of the year.
To post comments to this column, click here.