Still Drawing? Time to Fold?

I’ve been playing a lot of Badugi lately in my ongoing quest to be a better gambler. Of course, that could also be read as my just trying to find a game, some game, any game, that I can win. Sometimes I write notes to myself and hope that you guys will find them interesting. How about one of those notes today?

Quick introduction to Badugi, the object is to get the 4 lowest cards with all different suits and different ranks within 3 draws. Any 4 cards of all different suits and ranks is called a Badugi, and any Badugi beats any 3 cards of different suits and ranks no matter how good they may be. There’s also a round of betting between each round of drawing.

The key here that has gotten me thinking about Mahjong is the fact that it’s a drawing game like all of our favorite game too. And I happen to know that the one thing I’m good at is drawing. If I do say so myself. And I do. But when another player or even two has stopped drawing (and probably started betting), perhaps it’s time to stop and think about the message he/they are sending.

YOU ARE LOSING!!!!

A lot of people think these games are all about posturing and trying to find the right time to bluff. Bluffing is certainly part of the game, but the real art of the game is in deciding when to make your stand. It’s called “shoubu” in Japanese and good players wait for their “shoubu-te” (hands to take a stand) if they don’t come right away.

If the other players are standing pat, betting, and I’m still drawing, I’m behind. I better have something pretty worthwhile to try to outdraw them and catch up. And what if I DO even have Ace, Deuce, Three so I’m drawing to the nuts, but then I draw a Jack? I’ve made my hand and there’s STILL a good chance I’m losing.

OK, let’s look at something closer to home. It’s the 3rd hand of the East round and we’re in the North seat with 27,900 points after the jerkoff who is dealer now just ended our turn as dealer with a stupid 1,000 point hand. First place in the South seat has 33,000. Seething with vengeful desire, things are looking ok as we manage to put a hand like this together by the 5th draw:

Lucky Dragon is , and look, 3 Colored Runs is soooo close. But then that jerkoff dealer declares reach and what’s worse, his discards are all letters, 1’s and 9’s except for an early which the South seat discards safely but then the player to our left throws a very dangerous . Of course our draw is a very dangerous right next to the Lucky Dragon. Do we just discard it as if the dealer hasn’t just proclaimed to us in big capital letters that we’re behind? Some players might, but lately, I’m not one of them. We’re still in second place and there are at least 5 more hands to play this game. Sure this is a potential monster, but we have two bad waits, and our one good wait is almost meaningless as we’re only really happy about drawing one end of it anyway. Add to that the fact that the tiles we don’t need that are still in our hand are not safe by a long shot and it’s hard to come to any other conclusion. We are behind! We’d need a small miracle to win this hand. There will almost certainly be better chances. I start by dropping the and probably continue by throwing the keeping an eye on that guy to the left who doesn’t seem phased by the reach, sometimes even scarier than the reach itself. Incidentally, there are many small parts of the above situation that were they a little different, I might be tempted to continue going for the hand: if I had none or only 1 tile that I knew for certain was safe; if it were later in the game; if I know he always reaches with any ready hand; if I were only 1 tile away from ready. But as the picture is painted above, I think it’s a pretty good time to fold. OK it’s probably something I should have been able to realize without starting to play Badugi. Unfortunately I’ve been too confident in my ability to see potential in hands and actually get there too. But now I’m a lot choosier about the draws I’m willing to play; when another player has declared he’s ready and drawing for the win, I need something a lot more than that hand above to keep drawing just to get ready. And it’s definitely saved me from some big losses like I used to have when I first started playing.

Yes, I have become much better. I’ve gotten so good I hardly win at all anymore, but maybe that’s another column.

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