I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, (which I’ve also said before and will again too probably) Mahjong is a lifelong study. At least I expect it will be for me. There are several things I think that will always be mysteries or at least will always be parts of my game which need improvement. One of those is the Japanese concept of “tsuki” or “nagare”, often translated as “luck” and “flow”. I’ve written of my disdain for the idea before. But the more I play and try to fly in the face of the idea, the more I seem to be done in by it. Let’s look at a couple series of hands from some recent games.

First, from a recent study group session. On the first hand of the game I won a big hand from Sawazaki. He had thrown an obviously dangerous 二 to my reach which was with this hand:

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Wooohoo! The expensive one! Moriyama then began to comment on how I couldn’t really be happy about that because Sawazaki was obviously playing me for a fool. (Apparently this was sarcasm which in my 11 years in Japan would bring the grand total of times I’ve heard it from Japanese to about 2 and half) Really apparently, what I should have realized at that point was that I had the “tsuki”, I was the lucky player in the game at that moment.

I won the next hand too on a Concealed Self Draw only, immediately after the dealer had just reached. Then I really should have realized I was in the luck driver’s seat. On to my turn as dealer, I got to ready with this hand on the 7th draw:

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With no hand point, I decided not to reach, and on the 8th draw when I drew the Active Image, decided to break my ready hand for the moment by dropping the Active Image, and hope for something good to happen in the dots. Of course, the next tile I drew was Active Image, should have been my winner except for the fact that I don’t understand “tsuki”.

Two draws later, my upper house(Osanai) reached, I still hadn’t gotten back to ready again, and had to fold the hand to let her win 1300/2600. When we opened our hands, Moriyama was beside himself with disgust for my wimpy non-“tsuki”-appreciating play. How could I break a ready hand when I so obviously had luck on my side at that point?!?!?!?! When a second Active Image had come out and it became less and less likely that I’d be able to change my hand, I should have reached! Or at the very least not broken up my ready hand. What should have been a positive 1500 or even 3000 points for me turned out to be negative 2600, a 5600 point swing. Worst of all, I had thrown away the “tsuki” I had gained on the previous two hands and handed it to Osanai.

Whatever.

On to my tournament performance this weekend. On the second to last hand of the game, I drew 2000/4000 to put myself in first by 4500 points. On the last hand as dealer I got to ready with this hand on the 7th draw:

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No hand point, and lots of possibilities to change stuff in the bamboos, I decided to wait for something better. The next tile my lower house drew and discarded was 西, what should have been my winner except for the fact that I hadn’t reached because I still don’t understand luck. 3 draws later I did get the 4 of bamboos to change my wait to the 369 but it was too late, as the next draw 2nd place reached followed immediately by 3rd place reaching. I decided to go for it, throwing my next draw, Active Image, but unluckily for me, of course it was 3rd place guy’s winner and 8000 points from me to him made us switch places. Instead of a nice little first, I dropped myself down to 3rd.

So there you have ’em, two instances where I threw away my luck to not win hands. There is, however, a bigger lesson to be learned here, I think, rather than just jumping on the “tsuki” bandwagon and going for it every time you happen to win a hand. What really did me in? I should say what the final result was in the first example. I actually won that game. What makes these two games different is the way I played after I had thrown away my luck/tsuki, if in fact it is possible to do such a thing. I played the rest of the first game very conservatively(like I had in the hand I lost to Osanai) taking a couple small wins and finishing hands ready without reaching. I finished a few points ahead of Osanai and Moriyama teased me for sneaking off with a win on such weak play. In the second example, I continued to go for it, even after I had missed my chance. I could have played it safe and dropped my head, the Wests. If the hand ended in a draw, I’d still take first place and it was possible the other guys’ hands weren’t even big enough for them to overtake me even if they won the hand anyway. I pretty much had 2nd place sealed up and maybe even 1st if I could have just played wimpily again. But I went for it after not going for it in the first place, and it cost me big.

So the real moral of the story I think is consistency. If you’re a head-in-the-clouds-believe-in-luck player then play like that and go for it when luck is on your side. But if you’re a solid feet-on-the-ground sort of player, play like that, and don’t try to get lucky when the odds are against you. Playing both half-ass is a sure way to shoot yourself in the foot.

RM on Social
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