In Garthe’s Hands #13 – 9 Treasures, All Green, & Big Wheels

Let’s have some fun today. Well, dream a little anyway. I’ve covered nearly all the hands in Reach Mahjong at least once now and that includes the vast majority of the hands that you will ever see in your Mahjong careers even if you should decide to play 20 hours a day for the next 10 years. Limit hands are like Straight Flushes in Poker: they only happen once every few thousand hands or so (OK, I picked that number out of a nether area, anyone have an exact number?), but they’re still fun to think about and even go for when opportnity knocks. Taking a look at my Fight Club statistics, the only sort of extensive statistics I have, I’ve played 359 “Competition Rules” games which probably average around 10-12 hands per game for a total of around say 4000 hands; in all of that, I have a grand total of 3 limit hands, Big Dragons twice and 4 Concealed Triples once. I’ve played 1501 East Round games which probably average between 5 and 6 hands per game and in that total of say 8000 hands again there are only 3 Limit hands, this time all 13 Orphans. So those 3 are the types of limit hands that actually do come out on occasion. Today, I figured I’d introduce a few so rare I’ve never actually even seen them: 9 Treasures, All Green, and Big Wheels.

9 Treasures: Limit Hand
9 Treasures is known as Chu-ren-poh-toh in Japanese and it’s so rare that it’s rumored to be a harbinger of impending death. It’s like a Full Flush except that specific tiles are required for it to qualify. The winning combination will be 1112345678999 and one more of any of them. The thing that makes this hand so devilishly impossible as that it must be concealed. (Sidenote: you may notice that if you miraculously get to ready with the very combination above, it’s a dream 9 tile wait and this will be a double limit hand in places that allow such things.) And to make it more confoundingly impossible, it’s also the kind of hand which falls into the Missed Win trap when unneeded tiles come and complete a normal Full Flush hand but not this special flush. Or before Missed win even becomes an issue, sometimes after 5 or 6 draws in a hand, I’ll notice I’m only a few tiles away with a combination like 1112356779 and then check the board and notice that there are already 2 9’s on the table so the chance for it is already past. It’s the kind of hand that’s fun to dream about and then come back down to earth and just go for the Full Flush with maybe a Full Straight for a few more points.
Not only have i never seen it finished, I’ve only ever seen it ready a total of one time also. And of course that one time it was a victim of the Missed Win, though not maybe for the usual reasons. My starting tiles in that hand were a lot of 1’s and 9’s with a 123 of grands in there also leading me to believe it would be a good chance to go for an outside hand so my first discard was the 6 of Grands. But before I could really get started, some jerk called Reach on about the 4th draw, and it just seemed best to give up the hand. As he kept drawing and not winning I was was happily discarding the Dots and Bamboos that he kept throwing away. Without noticing, I was collecting a lot of Grands and around the 11th round I looked down to see quite a few Grands. Sure enough, after putting things in order I had 1112345777899 and some blank to be one away from ready. The 9 came on the next draw but what should my wait be but that “#$!$%&#” 6 of Grands I had thrown on the first draw. The hand ended without anyone winning, and I got all kinds of advice on how better I might have played the hand. Well, maybe that’s why I wasn’t struck by lightning and am still here today.

All Green: Limit Hand
Next let’s look at All Green. It’s another one requiring a very specific bunch of tiles which is what makes it so rare and also so prone to Missed Win woes. It’s called Ryu-i-sou in Japanese and both names mean what they say, the hand only contains tiles that are entirely green. Those would be the Green Dragons (Hatsu) and the 23468 of Bamboos. I must admit I was a little slow in noticing this, but it’s true, 1579 of bamboos do have a bit of red on them which is why they don’t get to be a part of ALL Green. In fact, with the Green Dragon being nicknamed “a-o” (pronounced “ow”) which means blue in Japanese, sometimes I wonder why it gets to be included. There’s a weird confusion of blue and green in this country: traffic lights are allegedly red yellow and blue; “blue onions” are green, fruit that’s not ripe is “blue”; but maybe that’s a discussion for another website. Anyway, some rules will allow All Green without any Green Dragons but most rules require at least 2 for a head though a triple is acceptable also. The remaining groups can be any pair run or triple of 23468 of Bamboos. Of course, runs will only be possible with the 234 and this is where Missed Win rears its ugly head again. Once again, the one time that I’ve seen someone get this hand to ready, he also had fallen victim by throwing away a 5 when his wait was the 2-5 of bamboos. Because of that 5 his winning 2 was discarded twice but he couldn’t win on them because he had discarded one of his winners. This hand is the only one I’m introducing today that doesn’t need to be concealed, but somehow that doesn’t seem to make it occur any more reguarly. Once again, stories about it tend to be fish tales about the one that got away.

Big Wheels: Limit Hand
Finally we have Big Wheels. It’s called Dai-sha-rin in Japanese, and it rounds out today’s frivolity by being so rare as to not even be included in most rules. I write about it because a lot of home games do like to include it though it occurs even less often than the other 2 I talked about today. It’s a pair each of the 2 through 8 of dots and in keeping with the theme of impossibility, it must be concealed. Also in keeping with today’s theme, because it’s all one suit like the others, it shares the same tendency towards Missed Win discontent. It’s almost not necessary to make it a limit hand because as is, it’s probably almost already that many points anyway. Consider that Concealed Full Flush, 2 Double Runs and Simples are guaranteed to be part of the hand with also a possibility of Peace, Reach, Concealed Self Draw and even Lucky Drags. 13 hand points would make it a “Counted Limit Hand” but I’ll leave that as the subject for another frivolous column.

You may notice that all of today’s hands are some variation on the flush theme. I’ve heard that these hands used to be divided along suit lines, i.e., 9 Gates had to be Grands, Big Wheels had to be Dots, and All Green had to be Bamboos. I’m just guessing but given the ludicrous impossibility of Big Wheels, somewhere along the line people may have decided to just go with the only ridiculous impossibility of 9 Treasures and changed it so that it was acceptable in any suit. All Green’s name was just too suit specific to allow it to use other suits however. They’re stilll fairly valuable hands even if one goes for the cheaper options, Full or Half Flushes. In most cases though, I imagine it’ll be fun to try going for the glory for a few draws until it becomes obvious that cheaper is the only option. Just like in Poker, it’s more fun to win with a Straight Flush and it makes a better story, but a simple straight may get the job done just as well. But every thousand hands or so…..let’s look at some examples.

9 Treasures ex.1

Winning Tile:
It’s a limit hand!! That means 32,000 points or 48,000 for the dealer. Of course, there are other winning tiles here. Can anyone take a shot at guessing the other winners and how much they’d score?

All Green ex.1

Winning Tile:
Once again, a limit hand!! No computation necessary, 32,000 points or 48,000 for the dealer. Here again the wait is tricky. Both the 2 and 8 still qualify as limit hands but winning on the 5 would just make it a Half Flush and Value Tile hand for a total of 3 hand points and 3900 points or 5800 for the dealer.

Big Wheels ex.1

WInning Tile:
A limit hand is a limit hand, 32,000 or 48,000 for the dealer. Even in situations where this is not allowed as a limit hand, it’s still a knee slapper. Anyone want to take a shot at scoring it regularly? Just a little hint: I seperated the tiles that way to confuse you.

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