Complete Beginners Guide to Online Mahjong – Part 3 – Playan

Owner of the most popular outgoing link from – Swedish riichi player hates Dutch players, drob is a guy known for rants, and… rants. He’s been doing pretty decently in recent European tournaments so maybe the “mediocre” got removed. Also he doesn’t really hate Dutch players. I think.

I’m drob, you might know me from either posting stuff here on or bothering the mahjong community over at 0x23mahjong. Chances are you don’t, though. That’s okay.

TACOS asked me to write a sort of play demonstration. Said it’d be okay since the audience would just be new players and they wouldn’t be able to judge me. I don’t worry too much about that – I judge myself a lot more than I judge others (and I judge others a LOT). I’ll still write a small disclaimer at the end though.

Let’s begin!
drob guide hand 1
Well, it’s not the best start ever. Sanshoku seems like an out-of-reach option, and I can’t say I’m seeing much possibility of a decent pinfu hand either. Possible, but not probable. Getting rid of that east as soon as possible is probably a good idea. The chances of me drawing another east are slim, and the chances of someone else having a pair in their starting hand are also slim. This is a tactic that can and will backfire at times though, and you seriously shouldn’t even consider it if East happens to be dora. In fact, I’d advise against discarding any tile that can give someone yakuhai if it also happens to be the dora.

drob playan 2
A few moves in, and it’s not gotten anywhere. I had an early idea about chanta, but that looks unlikely. Also the 6688s could, however unlikely, be the start of an iipeikou. To be perfectly honest, though, this isn’t a hand that I’ll pursue like a madman, because it’s not worth it.

drob guide 3
A few tiles later, South declares riichi and I start playing defensively. There’s still a lot left of the game, and my hand is nowhere near completion. The hand ends with South in tenpai, waiting for 14s.

drob guide 4
Well, it doesn’t start out good, that’s for sure. Getting rid of those pesky honours first; there are various schools of thought on how to do that, or if you even should. Personally it depends a bit on my mood, how my situation is, and how my opponents have been playing up till now.

drob guide 5
It’s definitely looking better. I’m waiting on loads of different tiles, with the optimal being 3s. It’s getting a bit late in the hand though, with half of it being over already, and my opponents are getting closer to finishing their hands too. The fact that 1m is gone already is bugging me, so a little while later I get rid of 3m, only to draw 4m next. That’s okay though, I’m getting used to that.

drob guide 6
Well, that didn’t come as a major surprise. From all the terminals he’s discarded, he’s probably aiming for tanyao and any number of dora. It’s fairly obvious that the pin tiles are dangerous, given how few have been discarded (across all discard ponds, not just East’s). I’m too far away from an actual hand, so defence it is.

A few tiles later, East self-draws a tanyao, dora 2 for 6,000 points total – waiting on 258p.

drob guide 7
Well this looks decent: the West pair can be used in pinfu, and the 234578s could be the start of an Itsu. When it comes to Itsu and Sanshoku, I’m definitely hesitant to opening my hands too early. If at all, I tend to open them finishing the last part of either yaku, not before that – else people will definitely see what you’re up to.

East starts by discarding 1s. Well cocks. I let it pass; opening my hand on the first tile of the game is a tad bit much for me.

I’m rewarded for my patience; this is looking good.

drob guide 9
Actually, it’s looking decent. I now have a choice between getting rid of the red dragon or the 4p, or the 8s. I decide to get rid of the red dragon, hoping to get myself a pinfu on top of the itsu. East immediately calls it.

drob guide 10
Well, here we go. Getting rid of 8s and NOT declaring riichi. Why, you might wonder? Well, look at it this way: itsu + riichi is worth 3 han; it’d be worth 3,900 or 5,200 (depending on if it’s a self-draw or not). However, itsu+pinfu is the same value (if I should draw 3 or 7p), and together with riichi it’d be 5,900 or 7,700 points. If I draw 3p I would also be in a position to connect to the dora for more delicious points, but it’s not something I’ll pursue too hard – if it happens it’s a bonus, not some brilliant strategy. Besides, you can’t defend if you declare riichi, and there’s also the fact that it’s still very early in the round. That said, if someone should discard 5p I’d definitely call it.

My next draw, however, changes my plans entirely. I draw a 5s. Greed and stupidity (maybe) makes me discard the 6p (if I draw a 3p I can still get pinfu). Good or bad, I’m not sure yet – it’s a bit of a risky move.

drob guide 11
I’m now looking at a honitsu, pinfu, itsu hand – add in a possible iipeikou too. I’m not going to give up on this hand, so I declare riichi, despite the fact that my discard pond is SCREAMING “Honitsu! Beware!” and despite the fact that the tiles I’m waiting for, 36s, only have 2 each left. Still, this is too good to give up on, because I’d be looking at a baiman if I get it.

3 tiles before the end, North rons East for a tanyao worth all of 1,300 points. Bastard. I’m a little disappointed, but my hopes weren’t exactly too high that it would happen (looking at the replay, 6s might actually have come out, but it’s unlikely). Ah well, putting it in the words of Andre (Phantom of the Opera) “these things do happen.” No matter, I’m down some points but it’s nothing major and it’s still early.

drob guide 12
This looks okay – I have a pair, some pesky honours, and a dora tile. It’s not a perfect hand by no means, but it’s my turn as East, so I’m going to go for as quick and dirty hands as possible in order to keep being East. Pinfu + dora looks like the quickest way for this.

drob guide 13
Well, now what? In retrospect, I should probably have gotten rid of one of the 5p instead, but at this moment I instead opt to discard the 4s.

drob guide 14
Well, curses. Here I am in tenpai but no yaku. I’m sitting on a pretty shitty hand, but I’m also East. Now here’s the thing. Here’s where I’m stupid. I declare riichi. It happens that I do that because I want to put some pressure on the other players – if it works they’ll start folding instead. At times you run into people who don’t care what you’re doing but are playing some kind of single-player mahjong together with you, so they’ll just plow ahead, ignoring the danger of dealing into a hand. Either way, the stick’s been thrown! I have 3 outs, but maybe they’ll be smart and fold instead? NOTE: This is actually really stupid and you should definitely NOT play like I did.
TACOS: Chill, it’s fine, yo

drob guide 15
Aha! What to do in this situation? Well, normally I’m quite cautious when it comes to declaring kans, even closed ones. The chances of your opponents getting dora are too high, and then there’s the ura-dora issue as well. However, I’ve declared riichi, my hand is closed, I just discarded a 4m which might help bring out a 7m, so I will indeed declare a closed kan – if only to put even more pressure on my opponents (or so I say, without knowing if it actually works).

drob guide 16
Well, God blesses idiots and children I suppose. The final hand is riichi, menzen tsumo, dora 1. No ura-dora, but it still gets me some well-needed 7,800 points.

drob guide 17
Did this work out? Why, no, it didn’t. I’m pushing hard to keep dealership, but people are cautious about giving me the last 7p necessary. The hand ends in tenpai for me and South (who was waiting on 47p). The 1,500 points pushes me to 30,200 – 1st by 900 points. Or 1st by nothing, which is pretty much the same.

The next hand I manage to deal into a mangan – bye-bye East, bye-bye 1st place. In my defence though, I played like an idiot throughout the entire hand, wavering between different directions, and finally dealing a tile that was extremely risky just so I could stay in tenpai. Badly played, and I paid for it.

The hand after that I’m, obviously, frustrated over having lost my lead. I start playing risky – yes indeed, I got affected by the game. Don’t let it happen to you. However, I luck out and start very close to toitoi, which is a horrible hand that nobody should go for (honestly, it’s shit), and I take 5,200 points back.

And now I’m going to fast-forward until something happens that I can comment on – it’s a long game, I should have gone with tonpuusen instead of a hanchan; the player to my left gets 12,000 points from the rest of us, another draw, I get some 11,300 points on a dual pair wait riichi (riichi, tsumo, 3 dora and 3 riichi sticks), together with the three dora I get points and am back in second place. When I’m east 1st place pulls off a nice 16,000 hand and puts me down 8,000 points (and the other two 4,000 each).

The thing is – while I could continue to write about each and every draw I made, and every decision I made, there’s a thing called attention span. I’m at my end of the line here, and I’m the one writing it. It’s already a wall of text, and I don’t want to make it any longer. The rest of the game, the three hands where the guy to my right, East, plays a desperate game to get 2nd are not really interesting either, unfortunately. What happened was East – the guy to my right – played a hard game aiming to keep his dealership as long as possible (last hand of the game), he pulled off a 6,000 tsumo (riichi, dora, ura-dora), then this happened:
drob guide 19
Clearly I’m a master of defence (I couldn’t even deal into two of them!). Either way, defence cost me 5,000 points, putting me ahead third place by 200.

Either way, the game ends shortly into the third hand when I’m north. Yes, I know, I’m lazy by skipping 5 hands entirely, but seriously, this stuff’s pretty hard to write about to begin with; as I said, I could continue but it’d be terribly dry and boring. No, better then to leave you with the final, Saki-like score:
drob guide 18
Yeah, first place definitely was a force to be reckoned with. Some might say that the flow was with him, some the Force, and some that he played a damn good game. Looking at the replay, he played a solid game, had chance on his side a few times, but that’s about it really. Instead of being a spoilsport, I’ll say “Well Played, Sir!”, take a sip of my brandy and discuss the latest haps on the east front.

As TACOS said in the beginning – we’re not pros. Hell, at times I feel I’m still not sure how to play this game. I hope you’ve gained something by reading this though, even if it is how to NOT play.

(Maybe I should hold off on publishing this until after the European championship?) TACOS: I doubt they’ll be reading this guide.

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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