Winning a Hand

We continue this week with xKime’s translation of Puyo’s blogs. We also have professional input from JPML’s Garthe Nelson, adding to the depth of the conversation. Hopefully some of these issues will bring some good conversation to the forums as well.From:

Let’s go over the requirements to win a hand of mahjong:
4 groups + 1 pair + 1 HP (yaku)

You need 4 groups, and only 1 pair, on top of that pairs are very easy to form, therefore they are not that necessary unless we go for an All Pungs hand or perhaps a Seven Pairs hand.

Pairs may possibly become groups of 3, one pair only needs to draw one more identical tile and it’s already a set. However the probabilities for that to happen are low, because there are only two tiles remaining that you can draw, and it is therefore inferior to the edge wait. (Note: You may think about doing pungs and going for an all pungs hand. However, right now we are talking from a tile efficiency point of view; we’ll go down this road first. The theory will be explained little by little in the Reach Mahjong Hands section)

Therefore, when you have more pairs than you need in your hand, the tile efficiency is very low. A common mistake seen in beginners is stacking up many pairs and unknowingly making their hand slower and harder to win.

I’ll explain very simply the principles of handling pairs.
Do not decide on your pair too early
Because your need for pairs is low and they are easy to make, when you’re far away from ready and your hand only has one pair, if you prematurely fixate on that pair it can be very hurtful to your hand.


There are many people who prematurely decide on 4 of dots as their pair and discard 6 of dots in this hand. However, I cannot approve of this thinking.
The correct way to think about it is considering the 2446 shape as two gut-shots, and so discarding 1 of dots is the correct answer.
The 23 of characters and 34567 of bamboos have the highest possibilities for becoming three runs, but where can the fourth group come from? If you discard 6 of dots, the candidates for a fourth group can be the 79 of characters and 12 of dots, but both of them are poor shapes, and they have very little probabilities of evolving into good shapes. Succeeding isn’t easy.

After discarding 1 of dots, you preserve the chance to make a group when you draw 5 of dots, this is pretty important.
Even if the 79 in characters was a 78


If it’s early in the hand, discarding 1 of dots is still a very powerful discard. Even though the 2378 in characters are all good shape, it’s not necessarily 100% certain that you will draw them. In fact, it’s still possible you may complete the gut-shots, and it won’t be too difficult to go on after you have completed another group.

Some people may ask, wouldn’t it hurt to draw 3 of dots after discarding the 1 of dots?

There is always some pain, but this is not too serious, all we have lost here is a pair. Drawing 2378 of characters, 14 of dots, 3467 of bamboos, all of them can become a new pair. By keeping the 6 of dots, you also keep many good possibilities.


(To be continued)

Commentary from Garthe Nelson.

Sometimes your pair might not even look like a pair at all until you actually finish the hand. Consider a hand like the following:


Obviously, throwing the 4c is fastest, making me one away from ready with quite a few options for Ready/tenpai. And this would indeed be a good choice if, for example, it’s the end of the game and I need only to win the hand or finish ready to win the game.

But think about the possibilities if I were to drop the pair of 9c‘s. Let’s say it’s the end of the game and I need an 8000 point hand to win the game. It’s going to take some pretty huge luck to get there with a Reach only hand. I’m much more likely to create such a hand by dropping the upper pair and going for at least Simples. 456, and even 345 and 567 Three Colored Runs are all within reach. In addition, I might end up with a 3 sided wait if I complete 3 runs in the other suits and my wait shape is 4c5c5c5c. With just a little luck I have a good chance of running into an 8000 point hand where as going with the faster

So that’s a shape I want you to remember. It doesn’t look like a pair right now, but it could become one very quickly. And it’s potential could push you toward discarding a ready made pair in favor of a bigger possible reward.

Finally, I want us, me included, to shy away from saying this or that way of thinking is correct or incorrect. I was most recently admonished by Hiro Yamada for speaking of another player’s strategy in such a manner and of course he’s absolutely right. In the case below, thinking of (12) as a possible run is definitely not incorrect and it is definitely a loss and slowing down the hand if we were to draw the (3) after discarding (1). So thinking in that way is perhaps a “faster” way of thinking, whereas thinking of (2446) as two gut shots is perhaps a more “ambitious” way of thinking.

Now, let’s get lucky!

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