In Garthe’s Hands #6 – All Terminals & 4 Concealed Triples

Oh how I’ve waited. Today I finally get to declare my true love, my favoritest of favorite hands, a thing more beautiful than Yosemite and my girlfriend put together. (Now we’ll see if she’s really reading this).

So far I’ve given you some one pointers that will let you score some small hands. You can also put them together to score bigger hands. I’ve also given some higher point hands which will let you make the big score with just a couple of them in your hand. But these are just base hits, little jabs. What if you’re swinging for the fences to hit that grand slam, that one knock out punch that leaves your opponents reeling, mouth agape in awe. That’s when you need the uninspiringly named “Limit Hands”, known as “Yakuman” in Japanese. Another translation, though not much more inspiring, would be “full” or “complete” hands. You can’t get anymore points out of a hand than these. They are extremely rare, some more than others, and because of that they are worth a lot of points. If you hit someone with one of these, chances are you’re going to knock him out of the game in one fell swoop. A few of them, I have yet to see in my 5 years of Mahjong, so ignoring them for the moment, let’s start with the more commonly occurring ones, All Terminals and the love of my life, 4 Concealed Triples.

All Single Terminals (a.k.a. 13 Orphans): Limit Hand
All Single Terminals is called “Kokushimusou” in Japanese and it’s probably the most well known of the Limit Hands. It’s one of those random words that people who don’t even play Mahjong know, so that when I say I play Mahjong they start blurting out “Kokushimusou” and “Men-tan-pin” with knowing grins to let me know that they have no idea what they’re talking about. It is the other hand in Mahjong like “7 Pairs” that bears no resemblance to the normal form of a hand in Mahjong. A winning hand will have one each of the Honors, 1 and 9 tiles plus one more of one of them to make a “head” (or “eyes”). Generally, when this hand gets “Ready” you will have your head already and be waiting for one remaining terminal or honor not in your hand. However, if you managed to get one each of the 1’s and 9’s plus one each of the Honors before you established your head, you would then be waiting for any one of those 13 tiles to make your head, the dream 13 tile wait, and depending on who or where you’re playing, it will be worth double the most amount of points possible! How crazy is that?!

There are of course several problems finishing a hand like this. For one, just getting all those tiles together is surprisingly difficult. Those Honors which were the bane of your existence when you were trying to get Peace and Simples will seem to never come. If they do, they’ll be the ones you already have. Also it becomes clear pretty quickly what you’re trying to do as you throw away one useful middle tile after another. You’ll make for an easy target from someone who has nothing more than Simples in his hand but knows that it’s only a matter of time before you throw his middle of the road winning tile. Still, there’s nothing more satisfying than showing your hand and asking for the most points possible. “What? You don’t have that much? Well I’ll just take the rest of your points and your money too then.” So I almost always go for this hand when I have at least 9 of the terminals already in my hand. If it’s toward the end of the game and I’m probably losing anyway, I may even go for it starting with only 7 or 8. If the hand ends up not going anywhere, I have a hand full of pretty safe tiles so I can probably throw pretty safely if someone declares Reach. And every once in a while you get some idiot who buries his head in his hand and has no clue you’re going for anything until you say “Ron” and ask for all his points. Unfortunately, that idiot would be me, and if I miss the cut to move up to the next league tomorrow, losing to this hand 2 months ago will be the reason.

4 Concealed Triples: Limit Hand
And now perfection: 4 Concealed Triples or “Suu Anko” in Japanese. It was the first limit hand I ever completed so it’s always had a special place in my heart. It’s like its little brother, 4 triples, except that all the triples must be made from tiles you’ve drawn. Bumping tiles immediately precludes being able to go for this hand. You’ll find that you end up going for this hand when you started out going for normal 4 Trips and also 7 pairs. A note to be careful of here, the triples must really all be self drawn. That means that if you are one away with two pairs waiting for one more of one of them to finish the triple, you still have to draw that final tile. If another player throws the winner, it will be a much cheaper hand, still fairly expensive, but not the home run you were swinging for, more of a ground rule double. If you did manage to get 4 triples into your hand and you have a singleton waiting for one more to complete your head, this special wait will again qualify the hand as a double limit hand depending on what rules you are playing. Most Free Mahjong Parlors, however, don’t allow double limit hands so as amazing as it is, you’ll still just get the normal most points score. (Sidenote: I don’t know why I used so many baseball terms writing this. I HATE baseball!)

Another note about these two hands: until a year ago, I thought 4 Concealed triples was the most common Limit hand. Yet I still have not finished it once on Fight Club and I have finished All Terminals several times. I think the reason for this is the tables on which we play live games. It is a common complaint that in fact they do not shuffle the tiles very thoroughly, so that when the “walls” (or deck so to say) come up out of the table, tiles that had been grouped together in the previous hand will often be near each other in the wall. This leads to a higher occurrence of pairs in starting hands which will thus lead to many players opting to go for 4 Concealed Triples more often than they normally could. The more random distribution of tiles in the computer generated Fight Club certainly seems to lend itself better to the scattering of tiles needed for All Terminals. Just another little side note and excuse for why I have yet to finish my favorite hand on Fight Club.

Let’s look at some examples. Also regarding examples from now on, I will provide both the score as if the hand was won by the non-dealer and dealer.

13 Orphans ex.1
1 crack9 crack1 dot9 dot1 bam9 bameast windsouth windwest windwest windwhite dragongreen dragonred dragon
Winning Tile: north wind

32,000/48,000 points

13 Orphans ex.2
1 crack9 crack1 dot9 dot1 bam9 bameast windsouth windwest windnorth windwhite dragongreen dragonred dragon
Winning Tile: 9 dot
Usually 32,000/48,000 but because of the special wait, sometimes 64,000/96,000

4 Concealed Triples ex.1
5 dot5 dot5 dot3 bam3 bam3 bam6 bam6 bam6 bamwest windwest windwhite dragonwhite dragon
Winning Tile (Self-Drawn): west wind
32,000/48,000 points

4 Concealed Triples ex. 2
2 crack2 crack2 crack5 crack9 dot9 dot9 dot4 bam4 bam4 bamred dragonred dragonred dragon
Winning Tile: 5 crack
Usually 32,000/48,000 but because of the special wait, sometimes 64,000/96,000

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