Complete Beginners Guide to Online Mahjong – Part 3 – Playan

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.

Page 2 – Ron^5

Page 3 – drob

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.

Pon the hatsu, clearing out the terminals. Drew 1s and decided to clear out the 5p here. Not sure if I’m doing it  right. If I can make one tile stick to this mess I’ll be just waiting for a pair.

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.

West riichis and I defend by dealing absolutely safe tiles until someone deals in for a mangan.

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.

Then again it’s impossible to predict how many terminals you will draw subsequently.

Riichi and immediate tsumo for mangan again.

So here I am with 21000 points, being all kinds of behind. This hand looks nice normally, but riichi + yakuhai  isn’t gonna accomplish anything. I just need to draw some more man tiles…

Well shit.

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.

Dealer decides to ignore the riichi, so I just fold.

A mangan tsumo. The only bright spot is that it pulls me closer to the dealer score-wise, although not as much as I  had hoped. Uradora 4 or something would have been great.

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.

Hon itsu with hatsu and dora 1s was a distant option but with the first row gone and getting nowhere, I had to dump  the hatsu and a subsequent haku.

Looking at this excuse for a hand and desperately searching for a mangan tsumo,  only one yaku remains in my list of possibilities.

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.

Oh come on.

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.

However we will never know what might have been, because dealer makes a small tsumo here to end it.

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.

7 thoughts on “Complete Beginners Guide to Online Mahjong – Part 3 – Playan

  1. But… Can you pull off +/-0 three times in a row…

    Great guide! It’s better when the hands are more “mortal-like” anyways. Gives novices like me a chance to see what real hands look like and the thoughts behind them.


  2. I have small thoughts about this guide

    1st : pinfu rule -> tanki(head) can’t be made from honours so why on the 3rd page

    @this :
    but as it’s clear that north (and west) is going for a chin/hon itsu,

    north maybe but not west…

    First : we have already know that north will go for chin/hon itsu
    11 2 333 444 5555 666 7777 8 99 <<That is what's unknow who hold it…
    Also let's see that north didn't throw ANY of honors… so its much more he/she is going for hon itsu… so he has 4-5 more sou tiles on hand + honors probably…
    west throw 2x 1s tiles so he/she didn't need them and he throw them early in game meaning that he didn't have
    2-3-4s close by or have them already completed but seeing that 2 is not much left then let assume that he have 345 or 456 set on hand, also nobody took your 9s in 8th turn so it means that 9 sou is either completed as 789 or nobody need it so what's left possible is :
    (11 out)… (345,456 possible in west hand less possible other) (345,456,567 possible in north less possible other) (99 out)…

    if you are sure that north is going for hon/chin itsu then you can see that there is not much left sou for making another chin itsu so it is almost sure that west won't complete chin itsu hand… now because west throw his seat wind at 6th turn then you can assume he have either tan-yao hand or hon-itsu hand or san-shoku-hand (4-5-6) but after throwing 6,4,6 san-shoku possibilities went out… so only tan-yao or hon-itsu left but if he/she took it so long we can also assume that he/she thought that there is still opportunity for kazepai but he somehow throws that possibility so i could say 60% tan-yao + possible dora , 40% hon-itsu

    This is how I would get through the discards and hand possibilities… of course reading discards is freaking hard and often you get it wrong but still trying to think it about gives you some more safe tiles to throws in hard situation…

    Sorry for my bad english :)

    I like this Guide and I think it is written very very good, reading this i thought (if I saw this Guide when i started playing it could help me a lot in improving myself)

  3. Actually, the pair in pinfu can be honours, but only if it’s a non-value wind (i.e. not your seat wind or the round wind)

  4. Thank You all for you time to put this together. Red Dora are new to me, I’ve never played with them.. But I guess I will learn.. maybe.. Old horses tend to hold their way, plow and all you know.

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