Hi, readers and web-lurking bots copypasting this post into sites other than osamuko.com right now. You may have noticed (or computed) my absence for the last couple of weeks. You know that old wives’ tale, “you should do things other than your main activity to become better at it?” Well, I didn’t know about it either, but hey, it works. A few weeks playing League of Legends and dettaching myself from mahjong allowed me to get a better perspective on certain aspects that I had been considering but never took seriously enough. When you learn something new from scratch, there are a lot of things involved in the learning process that can’t be taught… or can they?
My first instinctive reaction towards playing LoL, and the approach I took, was to NOT play exhaustively and to NOT learn the game by playing it. Genius. I wanted to learn all about it in written form before playing, because I didn’t want to suck at the game when I tried it out. You hear all these stories about people bashing others for being noobs in this kind of games, and nobody wants that sort of humilliation, so I read up as much as I could and looked up tutorials in Youtube. And after a little training… can you guess? I sucked! I still suck, of course, but I sucked harder than Pam sucked Tommy. Why? Why, of course, I had no experience! And there comes the idea that to be good at something, you have to DO it. You have to play as much as you possibly can. It sounds obvious, but some people miss the importance of learning by force of practice. Anyhow, realizing that I sucked despite trying my best not to, shocked me. So the only solution I could find was… searching for more tutorials online. And here is where it (finally!) gets interesting, as I find a sort of salvation. I found a series of videos by this person called gbay99, and takes a more “League is a mental game” kind of approach to his videos, and the first one on this list shocked me as it described me quite accurately:
1. Getting rid of your God Complex
Okay, this one is a little bit tricky in the case of mahjong, but hey. You could think of your mahjong “build” as the set of values and beliefs you hold for your game style, and you could think of your results as your rank, rate and averages. In mahjong you need a larger sample of games to judge if something works or if it doesn’t, I’d say at least a hundred games, but as I said, some people “don’t have the time to play so many games.”
Well, MAKE your time! If you don’t play a lot, you won’t make as many mistakes and you won’t learn from them. Stop reading this fucking article and go play, for fuck’s sake!
For those of you eager to ignore my advice and who are still reading, especially if you might feel a little uncomfortable when playing through a losing streak (which seems to happen so often to us), it’s too bad there is no video on losing streaks, going on tilt, why that happens and how to stop it. So you’ll just have to suck it up.
2. Losing streaks and going on tilt
Man, I cannot even begin to tell you how important the concept of charity is in mahjong. “If you don’t know what your opponent is doing, you should assume they are being smart.” This rings so true in mahjong. Of course, AFTER you have confirmed your opponents are idiots, you can treat them rightly so, but don’t assume the NoName that just joined your game doesn’t even know how to win a hand because, well, shit happens and it will happen to you.
I think this video is actually the one that helped me the most with my games. I can’t tell you how stressed and worked up I used to feel about playing in ranked lobby, every game was an uphill struggle, I considered my opponents to be idiots, and myself a bigger idiot for losing to them, getting all sorts of frustrated and feeling threatened every time someone won a haneman or drew a mangan on my dealer turn. I just tended to think that the second I temporarily fell to fourth place I would never be getting out of there (and with that mindset, very often, I wasn’t). Well, it turns out that if you can get over such feelings and just, you know, HAVE FUN while playing your best, that works a lot better, you will play more games, and you won’t rage and lose as hard and often in them. As for how to relax to avoid feeling threatened, anything that works for you, I’d recommend; maybe having some tea, rolling a good joint (efficacy guaranteed), or just a bag of onion cream flavored chips might do the trick. And this video echoes something I have been saying for the longest time: never individualize your games and focus on your whole playing career instead.
I understand some of you might feel a bit disappointed he talked about how to prevent losing streaks, but never told you about how to actually stop them. That might be an interesting topic for a future video.
3. Time to do the things that you want to do
The future is now.
This is another very important concept that it took me, as you would expect, some time to understand. I always felt pressured for time in tenhou because, some of you know, there is a lot of shit going on around my life as an individual right now, becoming a parent, moving with my woman, preparing for moving to Japan, graduating from college, and god knows how many other projects I get myself involved with. And everyone who plays on sadistic ranked lobby in tenhou knows what it feels to lose. It usually takes you two wins to recover the points of one single loss in higher ranked games. And the fact that houou players took thousands of games before getting to where they are certainly isn’t very encouraging. Getting a loss right after winning a game makes you feel like you have absolutely wasted the past hour and a half. But yeah, you have all the time in the world to recover and show your real skill. Well, if you still suck, you might want to go back to video number one.
4 & 5. Say ‘elo to a higher ELO
Okay, I will start off by admiting that I ignore whether tenhou’s R system is actually designed as an elo rating system, but it doesn’t matter, it’s the same thing. R2000/ELO2000 is a good thing in both games.
I am aware mahjong is not a team game, so you can’t blame your teammates for you being stuck in whatever dan level or wall you are stuck at. But I’ve heard people actually blaming their opponents for being so bad they can’t beat them! “Oh, I never know what everybody is doing, they all keep making kans for no reason, and playing like shit, and they make me lose, if they played like sane people I would win.” Uh… huh. You are blaming your opponents for your losses? That sounds pretty much like what losing is to me. You are not stuck at your level – you belong there! Tenhou is very effective at filtering people, and making a new account will not magically increase your R in the long run, because once it stabilizes you will go up or down where you belong. I can bow for this. I have made countless sub/smurf accounts in tenhou to take advantage of how volatile R is when you have few ranked games, but in the end my expected stable dan and rate is always the same in the long run, and if anything just a little better. It wasn’t until I actually got serious and tried to consciously improve my game (using the advice above mainly) that I managed to improve my average to where I wanted it to be. I’ve seen casual players with years of experience and thousands of games on their belts, or even with a dozen yakuman or whatever losing players brag about, who can’t even get passed the 3rd dan wall. Because they are not consciously playing to get better. Mahjong is more of a challenge against yourself than it is against everybody else. And if you still believe the reason you can’t win is that you are just being unlucky, do as I said at the beginning and play a couple thousand games – numbers do not lie; after a couple hundred games you will be where you belong, regardless of how much you don’t understand your opponents or how often they seem to get big tsumos in your dealer turn. If some of you still aren’t convinced, oh well fuck it, I will charge you only 100 EUR to get your account to 4d R1800, no questions asked.
By the way, if you see me playing in lobby 7447 instead of playing ranked, tell me “stop being a Fool” and send me on my way back to ranked games, please.
That is actually pretty much the reason why you can find me playing in a consequence-free environment like 7447 now and then. I try to keep a good balance between ranked and unranked games. I can remember the moment that I got the most stagnated in mahjong as the time where I would play exclusively 7447 in my main because I feared I would rank down in ranked games, and just wanted to show off a good ratio like that Fool guy in the other video. I believe I wasted a whole year that I could have been using to improve in L0. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing with people I know and other people I sort of know and… random guys from 4chan who happened to jump on in for a game or two. But I was wrong to play 7447 almost exclusively. If you look at the last days of my xkime account, it’s filled with 7447 games. http://arcturus.su/tenhou/ranking/ranking.pl?name=xkime
While testing stuff out in a consequence-free, pressure-free environment is good, without the competitive drive from a more stressful setting it is very difficult to push yourself towards becoming a better player. I can’t stress enough how important it is to play a shitload of ranked games, so I will say it once again: PLAY A SHITLOAD OF RANKED GAMES
7. Lost Cause Fallacy
This fallacy is probably the reason while I am still sitting here hitting this article. I should just hit the damn Publish button already. But there is also a mahjong lesson to be learned from this. Mahjong is not about getting 1st place 100% of the time. Even strong people only place 1st about 30% of their games. And this is obviously a very basic notion that we have mentioned over and over in this blog but, learn to minimize your losses even if it means giving up 1st or 2nd place. Killing off the game on 2nd or 3rd is a lot better than ending it one placement lower. Going towards the last hand of the game, have a realistic expectation of what your placement is likely to become, and work towards it. This always holds true ONLY in ranked games. If you kill off a tournament game in 2nd, 3rd or even worse, in 4th place where everything other than 1st place is considered just the same level of losing, then you are a douchebag and should be properly called off by the other players whose chances of winning you have screwed in your effort to purposefully lose. Then again, if you are the kind of player who does that kind of crap, you probably don’t even care.
8. Body language is a lifehack!
It may sound silly to you at first, but this works! Just try it out. Who wouldn’t want a self-confidence boost? I could probably dedicate a whole other article to how self-confidence (not overconfidence) is a huge asset in mahjong! I even basically did an experiment for a couple of sets of sessions, where I had realized that when I played doubting and re-thinking every move without being quite sure what the real answer was because every discard had multiple interpretations, when compared to another set of games where I played trusting myself and didn’t question every single one of my discards over and over right after I made them, as it is to be expected I performed a lot better. By not being constantly double-checking myself and doubting my knowledge, I could accept that every discard I was doing was as best as I could do, and had a lot more time to concentrate on what my strategy would be for the next couple of possible draws and discards, and I could anticipate table situations more effectively. I mean, you have to choose only ONE discard per turn anyway, and you can never take them back, so look forwards and not backwards while you are playing and trust yourself more. If you did something, chances are you had a reason. That reason is probably based off your experience and your intellect. Give yourself more credit whilie you are playing, and you might realize that perhaps not ALL your discards are shit.
9. Misreading statitics is fairly dangerous for digital players
He makes a very good point here which I believe some of the few people here who actually look at their statistics might miss. I used to joke around saying that every time I started a game sitting west I would win more often because my win rate as starting west was higher. Of course these things are unrelated, and lately, my win rate as starting west is actually the worst out of all four. Some people even complain about how they feel they are at disadvantage when they start as East or North, or maybe they feel at an advantage on either. Everyone is different. However, people who feel at a disadvantage at say, starting East, tend to complain that they start out as East too often. Laughable, but I can relate to the feeling.
Anyway, the good thing about tenhou’s Windows client is that it provides you with a long display of your playing style and statistics. Reading these appropriately is good for realizing your flaws and strengths, especially because you can compare them to stronger players’ statistics, but you must also not forget about how volatile mahjong is and that well, the difference between correlation and causality. But do stop to ask yourself certain questions like “what’s a good hand-win rate when I am dealer? Well, since there are four people trying to win, accounting for drawn hands, a little under 25%? But since I should be trying even harder to win, faster than the other three, and since they should usually defend to me, perhaps it should be actually a little under 30%?” And well, if you see that yours is 10%, then you are definitely doing something wrong.
10. The difference between pros and you
I could swear this video is about mahjong and not about League of Legends. I could, but I would be lying, it is about League of Legends. But it applies to mahjong so well. Keeping track of every factor efficiently makes up for a lot of the stronger players. Sure, who has the time to figure out what tiles came from within the hand or tsumogiri when you are too busy counting up your own hand score? Ain’t nobody got time to think over a list of possible draw-discard/call candidates if you are too busy checking whether your hand has a yaku or not, right? But as you get used to playing the game, you can keep track of more and more things with much more ease. You can look at the round number, tell what the priority is, look at the score differences, know what your hand should be like to go for it and who you should be careful about, then look at your hand and know immediately how you can use it to meet your goal, how much it can be worth and how to balance things out. With that figured out, while everyone else is picking up and discarding, you should be able to theorize what your next draws might possibly be so that you can make your discard decision in advance while it isn’t even yet your turn and still do this while checking whether the other three are discarding from the hand or tsumogiri, and whether certain tiles lag upon being discarded or not. The more things you can easily keep track off and visualize, the easier the game becomes. Perhaps you can even do this while ALT+TABing to other open windows. The important thing is gaining the necessary awareness and don’t fall into teh delusion that what you are doing and what stronger people are doing isn’t very different, because there is actually a whole world of difference between 7d and 3d. Some answers to certain situations are absolute no-brainers, but how you respond to situations that aren’t obvious and how you reached to those conclusions is what sets you appart from the crowd.
I could perhaps sum up this whole post in a few lines:
Play for fun, you have all the time in the world, play a shitload of ranked games by trial and error, learn to admit and recognize your mistakes and look over your stats critically. These are the ingredients for the soup of success not only in mahjong, but as you can see, in most games or activities you will find yourself involved into. I believe in you!
If you like my articles, you can read more by me here: http://www.osamuko.com/author/xkime/
Thanks a lot to gbay99 for making those videos; I never thought a series of videos on LoL could help me get better at something other than LoL. Be sure to check his series of videos and watch him stream if you like the game, and subscribe to his youtube channel. I don’t know him, but he seems like a cool guy! We all like cool people like us.
And if you want to pay me to spam a blog for you, be sure to offer a good amount and pay upfront if you don’t want to be on hold for months.