That was all you need to know to play, really. For further and more detailed information you can check out detailed rulebooks and stuff.
The thing is, although we do love to play and don’t mind sharing what we know, there’s a huge gap in skill between us and real or imaginary puros you may find online. When you get down to it, we’re just random casuals running a blag. We simply don’t have the confidence and authority to dish out opinions and have them count for something. It’s all different here, though. If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably a beginner who can barely play, and won’t be able to tell us that we suck. If someone does I’ll just say “I see you like reading complete beginners guides” and create an awkward silence.
So here’s something I’ve always wanted to do – actual play demonstrations.
I asked a few friends to get in on this together, so hopefully you will be able to check out a few different styles and ways of thought. Even though you’re a beginner, keep in mind it’s less “this is how you should play” and more “this is how we do it”. Here’s mine.
This hand looks pretty decent. Dora is 3p, and if I’m lucky I can snag it off the left player or wait on it, for a 3900 hand of hatsu, red 5, dora. However I won’t mind just a quick bread-and-butter 2000 win, especially if I can get it off fast.
North player opposite me looks like he’s going for a normal fast hand, with or without dora. It’s hard to say anything about the dealer but when 5m is the worst tile in his hand, I don’t really like the look of things.
Dealer chis a 4p showing a dora, while I draw useless tiles, deciding not to kan the hatsu because even though my hand is 1 shan ten, tenpai feels so far away.
Second hand and I’m the dealer. Here’s one of the minor turning points. I could go for seven pairs, already having four pairs in my hand early. Or I could continue and go for a probably-open sanshoku, while keeping the lone east as a hedge thing in case even that fails. Maybe I should have chi’d the 1p first turn, but I think that’s way too pessimistic. In hindsight I probably should have gone for a desperate chanta, even though I hate those kinds of hands.
This deal is kind of neutral-ish. I mean, I have to cut something, right? I probably have some good draws ahead of me. I hope to see what the dealer will do. If he decides to ignore the riichi, that pushes me towards folding. There’s loads of dora unaccounted for, and I hope one of the two leaders deals into each other, so I can steal second place. If he folds I will wait and see if I get some good tiles to continue with my hand. Even so, I am gonna fold like 80-95% of the time here. It’s way too dangerous holding a load of danger tiles, with 3 dora indicators showing, being nowhere close to tenpai, and miles away from my ideal hand.
All last and it’s not looking great at all. Even something like pinfu riichi tsumo isn’t going to get me anywhere. Not to mention it would be textbook play to defend against the riichi and strand me in 3rd. Now a mangan tsumo or ron on the guy in second is the only way out to second place. First place is virtually unassailable.
San an kou.
Riichi tsumo san an kou. If it’s a tsumo, it has to be san an kou. All I need to do is draw a 4s or 5s for the insta-riichi. I’ll even pass on a ron if I have to. There’s really no point winning a small hand to keep myself in third place, unless the guy in last is making a move, and he doesn’t even look alive.
Riichi ippatsu tsumo would have been nice, and I’d have gladly taken the uradora gamble. Still, I have no regrets. This is the only path.
And now here is where I make a rather bad mistake, I think.
I decide to cut the pair of 4m, hoping to draw a dora for a single wait. In hindsight I would have preferred to cut 9s, since they are all showing. leaving 45678s, with any one of 4578s giving me the san an kou riichi.
I’d like to talk about some things I may have touched on, or you may have noticed in my play during the match.
First off, I placed a great priority on considering the point totals, even cutting tiles from a complete winning hand when it wouldn’t have gotten me anywhere. I don’t mind advocating this style of play to you because I’m imagining most of you will go on to play casual matches. It’s more enjoyable in a casual match if everyone plays to improve on their placing, and ultimately for first place if at all possible. It’s extremely common to see people playing to make random hands without any purpose, and while that may be your cup of tea, I find it more enjoyable to know I am actually playing the entire game, instead of a small part of it.
In a really tight high level grindfest I would have taken the win right there, since the chances of even getting at second place were extremely slim, there’s a good chance of dealing into a hand post-riichi, and who knows what the guy in last is cooking up. When you are grinding for tenhou dan levels, 3rd place is infinitely better than last, especially behind a solid deficit. But since not much is at stake, what’s wrong with clinging on to the slimmest of hopes? If I actually did manage it, it would have made my day, and at the end of the day isn’t that what we all play for?
Secondly, the stress on defense. Sure, I could have forged ahead with any of those hands. But when you see me struggling in the last hand, imagine if I had lost 1000 or 2000 points somewhere earlier. Let’s say I dropped 2000 points to the guy in second place. He would be at 29000, and I would be at 17000, and even a mangan tsumo would have been useless then. Small point differences can go a long way. Now imagine dealing in for 8000. When you lose 8000 points, you are not behind one player by 8000, you are behind everyone else by at least 8000. Think of the efforts you will need to overcome that deficit.
The thing about defense is when you are facing a riichi or obvious tenpai, you generally are holding one or more dangerous tiles that will have to pass if you are ever going to get to tenpai. Let’s even say that all other players are folding, which is rarely ever the case – in later stages it’s perfectly normal for multiple players to be in tenpai. You need to risk facing all kinds of trouble in later stages to even reach there, to get a, say, 50- 50 chance at making your hand. Now imagine your hand is worth 2000 points. Yeah, I’d just forget it. I don’t even mind taking apart small tenpai hands to avoid dealing in. The risk is just not worth it.
Also notice I don’t try to ‘read’ what tiles my opponents are waiting on, based on their discard patterns, besides obvious signs of course, like single suit hands or possibly waiting on a yakuhai for atozuke (for the only yaku, like when someone pons 999p). That kind of magical hand reading is either nonsense or higher level than I will ever be. Just play solidly and discard 100% safe tiles. To think you can mystically divine what tiles people are waiting on is nothing but pure vanity and will cost you loads of matches. There is a reason why ‘nailing waits’ is a running joke on the channel.
Thirdly, I try my best to keep tabs on all my opponents as a matter of course. Some things are really obvious, like making single suit hands, a pon on the dora, kokushi or chanta-type hands, and most important of all, declaring riichi. If you don’t care what the other players are doing, you might as well be playing a single-player game.
I’ve played enough to not care too much about winning and losing. As long as you play well and keep a good mindset without going crazy, the wins will come naturally, and more importantly, you will feel you have earned every one of them yourself.