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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.