Playing Faster Mahjong

Hello, Temeraire here. Recently, due to the advent of Saki, I’ve been getting very annoyed about how various people in 7447 use far more thinking time than is needed. As I’ve thought upon this subject, I realize that this is hardly limited to the newbies of /a/ and /jp/ who fag up in ari red hanchan. This disease affects the entire mahjong world, disregarding rulesets, nationalities, and ages to inflict its pain upon the uninfected.

Now, I am not expecting everybody to suddenly improve after reading this article (I’m lying), but you slow people should know that it’s bothering the other people who play faster than you and is impatient. If I’m reading a page of a book between turns in 3p (no “Oh no, 3p goes way faster than 4p, so I need time to think” excuses, please), that should be seriously slow enough to be distressing. You’re probably not asking “How do I not bother people with my slowness and improve my abilities”, because you don’t care about everybody else. Well, no need to panic, I’ve written this article to help you with your speed.

First, a little bit about how I play. In real life, I usually take about a second to tsumokiri. Of this second, about .5 seconds comes from me taking the tile from the wall (maybe a bit longer if the wall is opposite me), .2 seconds to recognize the tile and decide that I don’t need it in my hand, and .3 seconds to discard the tile. Obviously, if I decide to keep the tile, it’ll take a bit longer to take the tile from my hand and discard it, but I usually don’t take longer than 3 seconds. On the internet, I take a bit less time. There is the drawing of the tile (depending on how fast the program will do it, mostly .2 seconds or so), .2 seconds to recognize the tile and see if I need it, and .3 to mouse over and click the tile that I don’t need. If there’s one thing that I’m proud of in my mahjong, it’s that I play decently fast.

A little help for the absolute beginners first, those who have never played a game of mahjong before (or not with the ruleset that you’ll be using). If you’ve never played any kind of mahjong before, familiarize yourself with the tiles. This includes learning what those funny symbols mean, how to stack the walls, etc. Learning the ruleset is extremely important for everybody, even for the fast people. If you’re playing online, knowing what the flashing buttons do is important as well.

For the people who have played around a bit, but still aren’t very fast, consider doing some of those What Would You Do problems, like on Japanese puro sites. Working out your waits can cut precious seconds off your thinking time, and considering what to do with your hand in the beginning and middle helps with speed immensely.

The ones who have played a lot of games can be tough to help. What I would do is play with unorganized tiles. If you’re on Tenhou or somewhere else that organizes your tiles for you, tough luck. If you’re playing in real life, or something like JRM, don’t organize your tiles. Glance through them, and then organize them in your head. This is also helpful as a defense against players that look at your hand when you discard. For instance, if they recognize that you put your honors at your right, then sou, and you throw an 8 sou from your extreme right, they’ll know that you don’t have any honors or 9 sou in your hand.

I know that at times, people need a bit of time to mull over their decisions; I do that as well. However, you should try to limit those times as much as possible. As I see it, there are about four situations in which you will need time to think.

1: Starting hand, deciding what to do when something isn’t obvious.

2: You’re at the crossroads, deciding which way to go with your hand. Throw those terminals and honors and go for tanyao? Or go for honitsu?

3: You know somebody is in tenpai, and you can’t afford to deal in their hand.

4: You’re in tenpai, and you have to decide on what your wait is, or deciding which tile to throw (for example: 23456s, go for 25 or 36? Another: 2345m88p67s, throw 2 or 5m?)

Well, the only way I can think of cutting your time is to practice, think fast, and think ahead.

Hopefully, this has been a little helpful for you. Don’t be afraid to work out your own methods of improving your speed, as long as you do it. I’ll be expecting everybody in 7447 to play at my speeds within a month, so you best prepare.

25 thoughts on “Playing Faster Mahjong

  1. Tenhou speedy tsumokiri advanced puro tip: Double click to discard the tile you picked up.
    Also, make use of the cruise control buttons.

    I’m also getting annoyed by slowpoke players in 7447 lately, which is the main reason why I almost only play fast speed in 7447 now.

  2. Amateur.
    A real fast player would feel the tile in the precise moment he draws it, and without the need to look at it, tsumokiri or deal a tile from inside the hand with the other hand.
    Tsumokiri’ng hakus would be a good start.

  3. Quite interesting to see such a topic on a mahjong blog. I would also like to give some advice to improve game speed:

    1. the “nakinashi” button. ALWAYS turn it on when it is clear that you are not going to call any tiles (e.g. bad hand with no honor pairs, or during betaori), and I do have a habit to turn the button on at the time I was dealt a hand. In advanced tables this is even more important because there is such a technique called “lag reading”, which is to read opponents tiles by analyzing the lags. The gametime can be shortened by 50% if all the players turn nakinashi on until they want to call tiles.
    2. Develop a habit to think during not only your turn but also other’s. For example, if you have a honitsu hand is like this: 2336678889m, you really need to think which man tiles you are going to call (in this example you should call 134678m but not 59m) and what to discard after calling. Try to plan it ahead. What I exactly mean is to make a good plan BEFORE those tiles come out, and make the best use of your time by thinking during your opponents’ turn. If your left hand player discard a 9m and you stop for 10 secs before drawing tiles, it is annoying, and also teach others something about your hand.

    Though, there are occasions that are critical and difficult so you may need more time. This is totally okay but please restrict those “choukou”(long thinking) to at most once per hand on average.

  4. I play tenhou with one hand on the Esc key. It’s a fast way to pass on callable tiles and to tsumokiri.

    I used to use the 鳴かない button a lot to correct “pon palace” type of bad habits when I was a beginner. Now I don’t need it for speed so much as I use it to prevent people from reading my hand when I pass. I can think of at least one good example where someone held tightly a Hatsu in late game after I visibly passed on one in early game. Another time someone on IRC correctly guessed I was making chiitoitsu after I passed a lot of ponnable tiles.

    I never liked the idea of lag reading, though, because it’s a habit that can’t easily be used in real Mahjong.

  5. It seems to me that tenhou uses some artificial lag with honor tiles even if nobody can pon those. Did anyone else notice that?

  6. Usually, at the start of a hand I’ll be a little slow and take an extra second or two on each draw. The real trick is to think about your hand during other people’s turns. Even if you’re working with straights and have tons of strangely patterned runs, you should be prepared for any tile drawn because you have been simulating them in your head. I don’t really mind slow play that much, the 5 second +10 second thing (I don’t even know what the time is, I never hit it before) is just fine.

  7. >The real trick is to think about your hand during other people’s turns.
    While watching other people’s discards – it’s important to know if it’s tsumokiri or not.

  8. How about when JRM stops being slow as fuck. 5 seconds per move because of the shitty client? I can finish books in the time that it takes to play through an entire hanchan.

  9. For those of you who find yourself needing an extra second to think on your first discard, I usually form a hierarchy of lone honors before I even see my hand, based on what the round wind and my position wind are, and what the dora is (if it’s an honor at all).

    In general, if I have a single one of a wind that is neither the round wind nor my position wind nor the dora, I’ll discard it without hesitation.
    Failing that, if I have a single one of my position wind (unless it’s also the round wind), I’ll discard that without hesitation.
    Lone dragons are next to go after that, then the round wind is on the bottom of the list.

    Also, I’ll usually do most of my thinking during other players’ turns. By the time my turn comes around, I’ll usually have decided what I’ll discard in most cases. Usually I’ll have one tile that I’ll most likely discard, save for a few unlikely cases for the tile I draw. If I’m playing a game with a double-click/tap system (Jan Ryu Mon or Mahjong Fight Club, for examples), I’ll click/tap that tile once, then as soon as I verify that the tile I drew isn’t one of the special cases in which I’d discard something else, I click/tap the tile a second time to discard it.

    During other players’ turns, I’ll also decide what tiles I’d chi or pon, and what tiles I’d pass on.

  10. I think I need to start playing on whatever servers you all are on, as you clearly don’t think too much at all when you play. @taiga, try feeling iisou, manzu, and hatsu when you pick them up. =P

  11. Meanwhile you’re reading pages between my turns and I’m winning games.
    Couldn’t care less about speed. I’m in no hurry to blow through game after game.
    I love mahjong but I’ve always hated the fast aspect of it.

    1. If you are unable to come up with an efficienct solution promptly, you are in no shape to claim victory, even if you sit during 30 seconds thinking about what to discard. I am happy with my results on a max of 5 seconds per discard.

      If you want to sit to look at shapes and find perfect optimization, do it like every other player: Sitting at home with a What Would You Discard or tesuji collection. Not during a match.

      What I’m saying applies to real life. Luckily enough, tenhou applies a time limit to snails, which I am very pleased with.

    2. The way this game works, if you cannot come up with the solution to a specific turn in 10 seconds, you will not find it even in 30 seconds or more, without using special programs (like those that calculate possible outcomes for you, like

      I can agree that 5 seconds per turn is too small, and really pressing, but probably if there would be 15 or 20 bonus seconds, it would be fine. Or just 10 seconds per turn with 5 seconds bonus time.

      But generally, “fast aspect” of mahjong does not come from wanting to deprive you of thinking and force you into making unefficient moves, but this fast aspect is derived from the common knowledge that extra time to think will NOT actually help you (unless its like 1 minue per turn or so, where you can really make calculations on paper and predict several outcomes and find the best solution).

  12. My friend had this terrible habit of snapping his fingers at people when he felt play became “too slow.” My solution was to draw my tile as slowly as possible and take upwards of 20-30 seconds to take my turn, with the permission of the rest of the table. I knew what I was doing with the tile the moment I had it in my hand, but he had to learn a lesson about patience.

    I personally play pretty fast — my turns take 5-8 seconds on the upper end unless my hand is an unreadable mess. But if I’m playing competitively and it creates a good enough disturbance for my opponent if I play slow, I will take all the time that’s allotted to me, just to crawl under the bastard’s skin. This kind of impatience is a weakness, and it’s an easy one to capitalize on.

    1. Then you have terrible manners, people. Not only are you unable to keep up a steady playing rhythm, you also delay the game on purpose. The guy might be an ass about it, but instead you are a full blown asshole.

    2. I plan on hosting a tournament in the future. If I caught you doing that, especially with an obvious shape and circumstance, you would be expelled at the first offense. The turn 14 excuse is understandable, but would still require a warning.

      tl;dr Fuck you if that’s what you think about mahjong.

    3. Also, there IS a time limit implied. The fact that there is no tsumo-giri countdown that will forcefully discard your rightmost tile within 10 seconds isn’t there doesn’t mean you can just there and waste everybody’s time. If the other players had half a brain, they would stand that bullshit for one draw. Maybe two. But the third time you tried to pull that crap, they would throw you out of the table. I recommend you never play Japanese mahjong in… well, Japan.

      1. That was a whole lot of not reading what I said.

        In the case of casual play, everyone got so flustered by the concept of intentional slow-rolling that they missed “with the permission of the rest of the table.” It’s a really simple process, really…
        “____ is being a douchebag. Anyone mind if I take my time?” “Sure, go ahead.”
        The person doing the snapping was behaving in a nonconstructive manner and needed to learn patience. After that game, he stopped snapping at people, and I stopped holding up play.

        As for competitive play, “all the time I’m alotted” is a really flexible amount of time that you can use to disrupt rhythm without disrupting play. If I “need a few more seconds” because I’m “contemplating a choice,” that’s on me, and judging by how bent-out-of-shape you guys are getting about the amount of time it takes to draw and discard, it wouldn’t take more than 3 or 4 seconds to shake you, which is hardly disruptive to game flow.

        1. >“with the permission of the rest of the table.”
          It just means you three were bullying the guy, in addition to slow-rolling and just plain being slow and awful. If I were him, I would have left you three playing sanma so you would “learn your lesson.”

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