Jenn’s Corner #2: International Mahjong

Helloooooo everyone. Did you miss me this week? I hope you enjoyed my first corner, however lengthy it may have been. How about In Garthe’s Hands? By the way, currently taking bets on how long Garthe will be able to keep up with a weekly column!

So here is my second corner, only halfway away from a room!

Some exciting news
We got an interview with the winner of this year’s Japan Professional Mahjong League’s OUI Tournament. That will be up this month so stay tuned! Also be warned girls, he is definitely the hotty of Mahjong players in Japan~ I would also like to announce that starting Friday, my very first official Reach Mahjong student, Gemma, will be posting her journal about the difficult but worthwhile task of learning Reach Mahjong! Beware, Gemma is from the UK so you might not be able to read her spelling sometimes, but the content is definitely worth the confusion (~.^)v

It seems like I should mention something about the rules since it may not be clear how Reach Mahjong specifically is different from any other kind of Mahjong. The simple answer is that Reach Mahjong is the best in the world (^.^) Not enough to quench your curiosity? Ok, fine, I will continue.

So yes we all should know by now that Mahjong itself originated in China. But, like many things (Valentine。’s Day, etc.), Japan somehow made it more complicated. In the case of Mahjong, it became much more interesting and much more strategic. Now, this doesn。’t necessarily mean that you ‘other types of mahjong’ players should renounce all of your Mahjong beliefs and convert directly to Reach Mahjong. Like Poker rules (Texas Hold’em, Omaha, etc.), Mahjong rules too can co-exist in the world and we, as a human race can be free to promote all types of Mahjong rules to the world! Yay for us!

The point is that the concept of one set of International Rules is not only ridiculously unnecessary, it also creates a limited and quite boring environment for what should otherwise be healthy Mahjong playing. So here is my challenge: I challenge you to learn at least 3-4 types of Mahjong rules, including Reach Mahjong, so that you can reach the obvious conclusion that Reach Mahjong is the best!

Alright, so the differences between Mahjong rules throughout the world. That is a huge topic and I am going to expand on my one sentence answer (Reach Mahjong is the best) and try to limit myself to a 3-4 paragraph answer to save your eyes from death by computer screen rays. Also, I have to finish adding pictures to the second set of the rule explanation and I don。’t have time for more than that this week (Garthe is also STILL being unhelpful in the link section. Send him e-mails and tell him to hurry up).

The basic concepts of Mahjong are the same. If you learn to play one type of Mahjong, you can basically pick up any form of Mahjong very quickly. All Mahjongs require creating sets of 3 and 2 in your hand (certain rules also have sets of 4 and 5). Most rules use 13 hands in an active hand and 14 in a finished hand. In Taiwan the active hand has 16 tiles and 17 to complete. Virtually all types of Mahjong allow chows and bumps and play in the same order. The biggest difference is the hand points, scoring and strategy.

Let’s start with numbers. The most commonly played form of Reach Mahjong uses just under 40 types of hands. Sounds like a lot to remember, right? Well, not when you think of the current Chinese Official Mahjong (commonly mislabeled as the Official International Rules), which contains 81 different hands. Also, the Reach Mahjong hands include 9 Super Hands that don’t require point calculation. In general there are less than 30 regularly used hands. Since Taiwan is considered virtually illegal in Taiwan it is hard to find a correct and current list of hands and since there is no authority on the subject in the country there are many house rules depending on family. The official American Mahjong hands change every year which obviously creates a dilemma every January, but also keeps the game interesting for long-time players.

DoraThe first obvious thing that sets Reach Mahjong apart from the rest is the lack of flowers (Chinese rules) and jokers (American rules). Instead, one of the normal playing tiles is designated as a Lucky Dragon. The Lucky Dragon is changed each deal. The next obvious difference is the use of only 2 dice instead of 3. The third completely obvious visual difference is the placement of discarded tiles. Reach Mahjong requires that a player。’s discard is placed from right to left, lined up in the order of discarding. Other forms of Mahjong allow the player to discard wherever he/she wishes. This makes reading hands a bit more of a reality in Reach Mahjong but doesn’t require the player to memorize opponents’ discards. This also creates the extra rule unique to Reach Mahjong, the Lost Hand (meaning that if your winning tile is in your discard pile you may not Mahjong off of another player).

BoardThese are the basic differences and while there are many more, hopefully you are now at least curious as to what makes Reach Mahjong so great. When played against veterans, the game gets quite advanced. Like Texas Hold’em in Poker, Reach Mahjong creates a game with more information on the table, more competitiveness and more skill. Still completely lost? Check out Gemma’s Journal coming Friday for a beginner’s look at the game!!

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