In Garthe’s Hands #22: Full Straight: Prettier than 3 Colored Runs

I’ve made no secret of my contempt for 3 Colored Crap (3CC) and I’ve also mentioned previously the surprisingly frequent crossroads one comes to when a choice must be made between it and Full Straight. Am I just going to say the same thing over and over again? Maybe. This column also relates to my oft advocated strategy, just go for it! Why must I say it again and again? I just never seem to learn I guess.

To review, a full straight is a hand where you have the runs 123, 456, 789 all in one suit. It’s called Ikkitsukan (Ittsu for short) in Japanese and it’s worth 2 points concealed or one point if the hand is open. This hand and 3CC are mutually exclusive so it seems strange that it would be possible to go for both of them at the same time so often but there it is.

Today’s story comes from last week’s Rookie King tournament in which I played pretty well to get to 5th place, and also played not so well not to make it into the final 4 and both situations relate to the Full straight.
In the semi-final round (consisting of just 1 game) I was in about 9th place of the remaining 12, with about 53 points. The top 4 from that round went to the final table so I needed to aim for at least the current 4th place player, who had 84 points and was also at my table. I started as dealer and managed to get to ready with a half flush without stealing any tiles with this hand:

This is a good example of a hand that manages to have all the numbers 1-9 without actually being a Full Straight(no 456 run). As it was already the 13th draw and I hadn’t thrown a single bamboo yet I figured there was no hope of anyone throwing any if I reached so i waited quietly. What should my next draw be but another 2! Now dropping the extra 5 gimes me my misssing 456 (Full straight guaranteed!) with a possibilty of double run too. But so late in the hand and I could only see 3 of my tiles remaining I continued waiting quietly. That must have convinced the guy next to me I wasn’t ready yet as he threw the last 1 bamboo and with 18000 points I was off to a great start to make it to the final table. No reach, right answer.
I think.

Contrast that with the way I played the second to last hand of that game. Actually I still can’t decide whether I played it “right” or should have gone the other way. I was just on the border of having gotten the 31 or so points I needed to beat the tournament’s current 4th place. After about 5 draws I was already ready with a hand that looked like this:

The lucky dragon was the 5 of bamboos so no points there and I could already see one of my winners on the board so I didn’t reach this cheapie only to see 2 more of my winning 6’s discarded on the next drawing round!! What a pisser. Well, no fear, a few draws later another 7 came so I was waiting on two pairs, the 1 bamboo or the 7 of cracks. In a normal Mahjong parlor game with hidden lucky dragons and First Turn wins it’s probably a no-brainer reach, especially with that wall of 6’s already on the board making my winning 7’s so hard to use. But this tournament used competition rules so I know when I reach that the best I can hope for is reach-self draw for a total of 2000 points. Risking 1000 reach points to gain at most 2000 didn’t quite seem worth it so I didn’t reach again only to watch a 7 characters and the last 1 bamboo come out on the next two drawing rounds!!!

Fairly frustrated at this point what should I draw but the 1 of dots. Hmmmmmmm, Full Straight? Well, I knew with that last discard the 7’s were pretty safe so my risk of discarding a winner with them was not too great; why not drop one and hope hard for the 2 of dots. Apparently I only hoped half hard enough because my next draw was the 6 of dots, filling in the other hole of my Full straight and giving me a single tile wait.

This is what Hamlet was really thinking: to Reach…or not to Reach? That is the question. Well if I was going for the full straight anyway, why do I care which comes first. In fact, the 6 ensures that I have the Full Straight, so I should actually be happier that I have the crappier wait and reach yes? But then, that situation means I don’t need to reach to ensure a hand point and what if I reach with my crappy unlikely wait and other people get careful so my winner doesn’t just pop out like it might naturally, and someone else wins the hand and takes my 1000 points (1 point in the final calculation for tournament points) especially the tournament’s 4th place jerk lurking on my left the whole game just waiting to swoop in and claim his spot at the final table with some totally lame 1 hand point hand. Besides reporting me to my 8th grade English teacher(Mrs Hedgpeth) for writing run-on sentences, What would YOU do?

Well, I do want to hear your unbiased answers and I imagine telling you what I did and the result may likely affect them. But then having made you read this far only to keep you in suspense til I get around to finishing the story is just rude, like some melodramatic soap opera. So the unhappy ending is………

No reach. What was my next draw; my winning 2 of dots. How many points do I get for Concealed self draw/Full Straight: 1000/2000, a total of 4000 or 4 points in the tournament calculation. How many tournament points did I lose to the new 4th place player after that game: 3.2 points. How many more points do I get for Reach/Concealed self draw/Full Straight: 3900 or 3.9 tournament points. In hindsight should I have reached: Goddamn Hamlet!

In the final reflection, I still can’t decide whether I played right or played wimpy. Alright, I definitely played wimpy, but was it right. In the heat of battle, I couldn’t know how much other players had gained on the other battle fields so maybe it was right to protect the points I had taken already. But then, I’ve always been told and usually play in a take-the-more-points-attack-option style which would have been successful here. Probably. Today’s column is almost as much about Reach as it is about the Full Straight and I really mean it when I say that if you continue to play Reach Mahjong and reflect on whether your reaches were good or not, you will agonize over the dilemma for the rest of your life.

Anyway, after 3 years, the “rookie” stage of my career is over, at least from the view point of the Japan Professional Mahjong League. Thank God now that I’m a “veteran” all my choices will be right by definition. Look forward to my future unmitigated irrefutable righteousness. I know I sure am.

RM on Social