oh boy!

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or2az
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oh boy!

Postby or2az » Sat Sep 06, 2014 2:08 am

Heard a local rumor that there was mahjong being played on fridays in the community center in town so I decided to check it out.
Sure enough, as I walked in the room, there were 7 ladies playing chinese mahjong on 2 tables. (and 1 guy on the pool table).
"You play", they asked.
"Japanese", I replied.
"Can you play Chinese", they asked.
"No problem", I replied. (while I was thinking, "boy, am I glad they're not playing American style")
So, without much fanfare, I played my first game with real tiles and live people.
Didn't seem to matter much that there were flower tiles, no riichi, no dora, no furiten, no 1-yaku minimum, no defense, no real need to stay concealed, and no separate discard pools. It seemed pretty easy, but still enjoyable. I didn't even care if I won.

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Re: oh boy!

Postby Barticle » Sat Sep 06, 2014 9:44 am

Step 2: Teach them all riichi rules. :twisted:

This is great news. How did you get on with shuffling, wall-building, different yaku, scoring, etc?

Were they playing classical Chinese rules (very few yaku, each giving doubles) or the modern official ones (81 yaku, each worth points which are added)?

Are you going back for more? :)

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Re: oh boy!

Postby or2az » Sat Sep 06, 2014 4:43 pm

I guess they were playing classical Chinese rules. The first question I asked was how they managed to remember that multitude of scoring opportunities. The point listings were on a sheet of paper and there were not 81 of them. Only the winner got points and mostly it was like adding up the fu in "our" game. (20 pts for a win, 2 for a self pick, 2 for the wait except double sided, the 2-4-8-16-32 for the open and closed triplets and quads of the simples, honors, and terminals, plus the dragon and value wind stuff).
They only used the words pong, chow, and kong, not differentiating between pon, chi, and kan. "Mahjong" was called when you won, no ron or tsumo since nobody ever kept a hand concealed. The one thing I really noticed was that all 4 tiles of a concealed kong were kept face down so no one but the owner knew what tile it was. That was strange. Another thing was, for the supplemental kong tiles and to replace the flower tiles when drawn, there were only 12 tiles in the "dead wall", which wasn't really dead since they utilized all 144 tiles in the game.
I didn't think either of these were correct but what do I know.
I think I will go back next friday for a full match.
I never realized how much time it takes to shuffle and build the wall after every hand. (computer does it real fast!)

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Re: oh boy!

Postby Tom Sloper » Mon Sep 08, 2014 2:21 pm

or2az wrote:1. I guess they were playing classical Chinese rules.
Only the winner got points
2. and mostly it was like adding up the fu in "our" game. (20 pts for a win, 2 for a self pick, 2 for the wait except double sided, the 2-4-8-16-32 for the open and closed triplets and quads of the simples, honors, and terminals, plus the dragon and value wind stuff).
3. "Mahjong" was called when you won, no ron or tsumo since nobody ever kept a hand concealed.
4. for the supplemental kong tiles and to replace the flower tiles when drawn, there were only 12 tiles in the "dead wall", which wasn't really dead since they utilized all 144 tiles in the game.
5. I didn't think either of these were correct but what do I know.


1. In Classical, every player gets points.
2. Then it's simplified Classical.
3. That's the norm in all forms of mah-jongg except Japanese.
4. Then it's wrong to call it the "dead wall."
5. Anything a group decides to play by is correct for that group. If they go to a tournament, they'll have to adapt to the tournament's rules. If a player in that group goes to play with another group, she'll have to adapt to that group's rules.
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Re: oh boy!

Postby or2az » Tue Sep 09, 2014 2:03 am

Looks like you covered all the bases except for that kong.
This could be an idea for a new Perry Mason novel, "The case of the Face Down Concealed Kong Tiles".
A mahjong player is found murdered at the scene and there are tiles scattered all over the room. Was the kong genuine (since no one ever saw it) or was it some top secret information being passed along in code. Mason discovers that 4 tiles were unaccounted for, 9-dot :north :west 1-bam , and that they revealed an address where the exchange was to take place. 9 Northwest Byrd lane. The culprit is caught and the case solved.
Ok, so I'm not Erle Stanley Gardner!

Seriously, if the declarer does not win the hand, how would you know if everything is legitimate. The tiles won't be revealed.
Besides, another player might never be able to get his winning tile, and never know it. Will try to find out friday.

note: I read you're a hiker. In california?

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Re: oh boy!

Postby Tom Sloper » Tue Sep 09, 2014 2:24 am

or2az wrote:Looks like you covered all the bases except for that kong.
note: I read you're a hiker. In california?


The player must be prepareed to reveal the kong at the end of the hand upon request.
Haven't hiked in a while, my knees and feet, y'see.
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Re: oh boy!

Postby or2az » Sat Sep 13, 2014 1:54 am

well, I went back today for a 2nd helping of chinese mahjong with the ladies. We played 8 games (hands). Took 2-1/2 hours. I won 3 of them, two with a no points hand, which I guess is the chinese version of pinfu, except that it can be open. I think this is also called a chicken hand. (I hate chicken hands!) My other win was an open hand containing a pong of wind tiles, which wasn't even a value wind. Didn't get a lot of points for these but I didn't care.
Very hard to win with a big hand and winning concealed is just about impossible. I tried. So far, I have not seen any hand even close to ending in a draw. I guess with no defense and being able to claim everything, someone is bound to win.
The flowers seem to determine who gets a lot of points since they are 4 pts each and a double if they are your own flower.
( I assume 2 each of the 8 flowers corresponds to each of the seats).
For being purely luck based, and not even being part of the hand, I think they overvalue them, but hey, when in Rome............
This seems to be a very, very, simplified version of chinese mahjong, maybe because, it otherwise might take all day.
I did notice 1 unusual hand on their list. It was called a wriggly snake, a pair of ones, a run of 2-9 in the same suit, and one each of the 4 wind tiles. For obvious reasons, I think this one has to be concealed.
It was nice and enjoyable as a social thing but I think I'll stick with riichi.
Now all I have to do is find some players to teach the game to.
I did teach them that you chi for a chow, pon for a pung, and kan for a kong. No ron or tsumo though, just MAH-JONG!
Oh, by the way, the E-S-W-N mnemonic was "Eat Soy With Noodles", instead of that well known sports network. Oh Boy!

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Re: oh boy!

Postby Shirluban » Sat Sep 13, 2014 9:49 am

or2az wrote:The flowers seem to determine who gets a lot of points since they are 4 pts each and a double if they are your own flower.
( I assume 2 each of the 8 flowers corresponds to each of the seats).

Yes, the flower tiles are usually divided in two sets: flowers and seasons ; each numbered from 1 to 4 and linked to a wind/player.
1 <=> plum <=> spring <=> East
2 <=> orchid <=> summer <=> South
3 <=> chrysanthemum <=> autumn<=> West
4 <=> bamboo <=> winter <=> North
(The names are purely conventional since, beside bamboo, it's impossible to tell which one is what only by it's picture.)
In Chinese Classical, having any flower/season award 4 points, and having your own flower/season double you score in top of that.

or2az wrote:For being purely luck based, and not even being part of the hand, I think they overvalue them, but hey, when in Rome............

When I played Chinese Classical, the PC game had an ever better hand: 100 points for winning on 5 pin.
It easily turns a cheap hand into a monster, especially if you have your own flower...
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Re: oh boy!

Postby or2az » Sun Oct 05, 2014 12:52 am

Well, yesterday was my 5th (and last, for a while) try at chinese mahjong in a month with the ladies. We played about 12 hands and this time, I came out on top. Not a big deal.
I tried to play with riichi mentality, stay concealed, try for multiple yaku, and keep an eye on that jumbled mess of discards, but it was no use. It's just too much of a race to the finish. Ironically, the hand that put me ahead for good was a valid japanese hand win, sort of.
I had an open hand (naturally) of a pong of west winds, another pong of simples, two chows, and a pair of simples. I called "ron (pause) mahjong" (the word ron did actually leave my mouth) on a center wait . I was in the West seat.
Normally, that would be a 30 fu, 1-han win. However, I had 3 flowers, 2 of my own seat, no skill used whatsoever, and as Shirluban states above, that gave me 12 more points and 2 more doubles. The 28 points (before rounding) became 40 (three flowers) x2x2x2 (flower, flower, winds) or 320 points.
Overall, I found the experience enlightening. I learned how to do the things that the computer game quickly does for you, like shuffling, seating, breaking the wall, a bit of scoring, etc. What I didn't do is curse the computer when I discard that winning tile. That just wouldn't do!
The only thing I really, really didn't like was the practice of keeping all 4 tiles of a concealed kong face down. They thought it was completely logical. I didn't push it.

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Re: oh boy!

Postby or2az » Sat Jul 04, 2015 10:14 am

Oh Boy! Finally got to play my first 4-player japanese mahjong game with real people, a real set, and with an actual table and chairs. Only 3 of the ladies showed up today so I suggested trying japanese rules for fun and I would explain certain differences from their usual chinese game as we went along.
I started with the NO FLOWERS and the structure of the DEAD WALL, explaining dora and kan dora, also that concealed kongs are not all face-down tiles.
After a few turns using separate discards, I explained that YOU CAN NOT CLAIM A TILE FOR A WIN IF YOU HAVE PREVIOUSLY DISCARDED IT, as this will affect defense later in the game. I also explained the scoring system, ron vs tsumo, and the DISCARDER PAYS ALL principle, 25,000 points to start, and that those all important fu points in the chinese game are of minor importance here, since they are rounded up anyway, and that the major scoring is the doubles (yaku).
I stressed that in japanese mahjong, it's just as important not to lose, as it is to win.
Now the hard part. I was prepared with a list of 26 yaku with their order of occurrence and open/closed value. YOU MUST HAVE ONE OF THESE ITEMS ON THE PAPER FOR A VALID WIN, hopefully more than one, gave example of toi-toi, yakuhai, concealed self-draw win being 4 doubles.
Then explained RIICHI, advantages and disadvantages, and the defensive use of safe tiles. Thought I might have trouble with this but it went smoothly.
Lastly, explained the 3000 pts available in a drawn game, which unlike their chinese game, does occur frequently. WHY? , because here, the no-points hand (pinfu), which is much easier in the chinese game, and someone eventually wins with it, must be concealed in japanese mahjong, which allows more time to attain a higher value hand and by utilizing defensive play, a draw is sometimes inevitable.
Things I did not mention were red fives, the other intricate parts of furiten, abortive draws, and kong declaring during riichi.
Also didn't bring up the honba count or the 1000 pt riichi buy-in. Didn't want to make it too scary.
Overall, they seemed to enjoy the experience. Having to actually think about their moves was stimulating. We got to play a complete East round that went 7 games. The winner had 31,000 points. Didn't bother with that +/- stuff.
We had a couple of mixed triple chows, 2 tanyao, a chanta, some yakuhai, a last-tile ron, and I had a riichi tsumo iipeiko. Had a great time.

Any comments or future suggestions regarding the above will be appreciated.

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Re: oh boy!

Postby Scott Miller » Sun Jul 05, 2015 7:10 am

First off, that's great! It can be a challenge finding live players, so you've unlocked that achievement.

Even better that you've started teaching riichi! You've unlocked that achievement as well, earning you four gold coins.

Any comments or future suggestions regarding the above will be appreciated.


I imagine you were trying to keep it simple, so, I hate to criticize... but since you ask =)

I explained that YOU CAN NOT CLAIM A TILE FOR A WIN IF YOU HAVE PREVIOUSLY DISCARDED IT


Explaining it that way is such a common mistake. Try to clarify the furiten rule so that they learn it correctly:

explain that YOU CAN NOT CLAIM A TILE FOR A WIN IF ANY OF YOUR OWN DISCARDS COULD ALSO COMPLETE YOUR HAND

It's a critical distinction.

Imagine this hand:
white-dra white-dra 4-bam 4-bam 4-bam 5-bam 6-bam

If there is a 7-bam in your discard pool, you are furiten. You can't even win on a white-dra even though no such tile is in your discard pool.

Outside of that, scoring is what really sends riichi beginners for a loop. I teach a college course on mahjong, and that experience has taught me to ease beginners into the scoring this way... introduce the idea of yaku... and until they know the yaku well, for scoring just count the yaku. In other words, initially their score will just be single digits... "You have all simples, pinfu, and two dora. Congratulations, your hand is worth four yaku." (Don't confuse beginners with fan/han/yaku, keep it simple, they're all yaku for now, or if they are used to fan, then they are all just fan). That REALLY simplifies it so scoring is not so overwhelming, then when they are good at counting yaku, and good at not declaring mahjong with a yaku-less hand (computers won't let you chombo, but with live-tile beginners the chombo rate runs about 50% from my experience) ... you can say, "Now that you understand yaku, lets apply that yaku count to the actual scoring tables".

You already have a head start on that since your ladies understand fu points from the Chinese version, so maybe you're doing fine jumping right to the complex tables.

Teaching mahjong is almost more fun than playing. Good luck!

[edit to add]
P.S. Since you said the ladies already know chow/pung.... why does your scoring sheet use run/triplet? I'd keep it what they're already used to. :D
That's all. No more pickin'. You're doing great.
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Re: oh boy!

Postby or2az » Sun Jul 05, 2015 9:14 am

Hey Scott, thanks for your insight. I don't take your comments as criticism but more like suggestions and I welcome them.
I did want to keep it simple so I avoided the finer points of the furiten rule. These ladies have been playing chinese longer than I have been playing japanese and I didn't want to scare them off. I can remember what I went through when I posted my furiten questions. This one drove me nuts. viewtopic.php?f=5&t=51553&p=57271#p57256
Right now, I just want them to be willing to give japanese mahjong another shot and not retreat back to the chinese game.
As for that scoring sheet, I made that up anticipating that I would have to teach beginners from scratch about japanese mahjong. Finding experienced chinese players to try to convert was a bonus. Some of the other players are very set in their ways and won't even give up the flowers or display a concealed kong with the two middle tiles facing up.
And you're right. Teaching mahjong is almost more fun than playing, especially when you're playing with your students and get to see the results.
Oh, by the way, don't forget my gold coins!

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Re: oh boy!

Postby or2az » Sat Jul 25, 2015 3:21 am

We had enough for 2 tables this time, one chinese, and one japanese. Guess where I was sitting.

Today I brought along the scoring sticks to use instead of pencil and paper and to introduce the riichi buy-in.
After reviewing the advantages of riichi,
(1) It is a valid yaku which allows any 4 sets and a pair to be a winning hand
(2) possible bonus of ippatsu (except if somebody ruins it by calling)
(3) possible extra double for CSD, if you tsumo
(4) ura-dora gets turned over for possibly more doubles,

and the disadvantages,
(1) you can not change your hand, which means you might end up discarding a dangerous tile to someone else for the win. (did not mention kan calling during riichi if you don't change your waits, thought I'd hold off on that for a while, same for the honba count)

I then added that this IS NOT FREE. You must risk 1000 pts for the "privilege" of calling riichi. If you win, you get it back. If not, the stick stays on the table and goes to whomever wins the next hand. I added that the risk is usually worth it.

During the game, one of the ladies called riichi with 2 sticks on the table. She won with 40 fu 4 han, mangan, for 10,000 pts. She was very happy.

I also explained the difference between being one away from "winning" as opposed to being one away from a "complete hand".
This was a puzzler to me, way back when! viewtopic.php?f=5&t=53184
I briefly touched on that 1-4-7, 2-5-8 suji thing as I was defending against the riichi, but I need to say more on that as it is not always 100% reliable.

Overall, this was "one small step for riichi, one giant step for japanese mahjong". (this might sound familiar to some of you)

Any corrections, comments, or suggestions are welcome. Thanks.

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Re: oh boy!

Postby or2az » Sat Jul 16, 2016 3:23 am

What a difference a year makes.
Eight ladies showed up for mahjong today, 7 of which I had taught Riichi style, so 3 had to play Chinese on another table with the one that didn't know how (it was her set).
This felt really good since all I found down in Arizona were American mahjong players so I stayed away from the tables. Now all I have to do is refresh my memory on all those little things the video games do automatically and continue converting more from the chinese game. Here we go!

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Re: oh boy!

Postby or2az » Sat Sep 17, 2016 3:43 am

I am just teaching these ladies too well! There I was, with 1 more tile left to draw from the live wall, all pungs exposed, waiting for the chun. (dora is 6 dot, East 4, I'm South, 3 honba on the table)
4-bam 4-bam 4-bam 2-crak 2-crak 2-crak 9-bam 9-bam 9-bam 8-dot 8-dot 8-dot red-dra
I draw the 3-dot.
There are 2 of them already in the discard pool and only 1 red dragon, discarded early.
Someone might be holding a pair. I toss the 3-dot.
West calls RON! (more like a scream), and hits me with this.
:south :south :south 4-dot 5-dot 6-dot 5-dot 6-dot 7-dot 3-dot.... :west :west :west ... 3-dot
Haneman 6 han 40 fu 12,000 points. (plus honba)
Houtei raoyui, Honitsu, Yakuhai, Dora 2
Ouch! That Hurt!
No need to say where I ended up.

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How about "waiting for the chun"


Note: I would like to review the conditions for renchan (continuances) where the dealer remains as east in the next hand. The conditions are either a) only when east wins, b) when east wins or has a tenpai hand in a draw or c) when east wins or in any draw (even when dealer is no-ten).
In my video games, I use b) but in these live games, I use c), for simplicity, to keep it consistent with the honba, which I very recently introduced into the game. Any problems with this? (dealer win or any draw=add honba plus a renchan)
I'm aware that you can have it different in the east and south rounds but I'd rather avoid that right now.
Last edited by or2az on Sat Sep 17, 2016 7:34 am, edited 1 time in total.


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