Using Paifu Sheets to Improve Your Group’s Play

One of the things that I believe clubs may have trouble doing is getting players from the point in which they can play mahjong to where they can hold their own at the table. To that extent I have implemented something used when I attended the JPML Crash Course earlier this year.

What is it? It’s their paifu sheet.

Our club using the paifu sheets to record a hand.

Basically, it’s the analog version of looking at the history of any given hand. Each person records the state of the game (E-1-0), where the player is sitting (West), and the dora. Then each hand is recorded from start to finish, including all draws, discards and called tiles by the player the recorder is tracking until the hand concludes.

Once the hand is over, we then recreate the starting haipai of each player and all their subsequent draws. We then go back through the hand and stop periodically where there is something interesting to talk about.

In my opinion this accomplishes several things:

First the players at the table get the benefit of having their hands analyzed to determine what they could have done better at each step along the way. It also gives the chance for everyone involved (not just the teachers, but other players as well) to give input.

Second, it allows for multiple opinions. Since no two people play alike, they can have different ideas of where a hand is to go. While this may sound like it’s counterproductive, it’s actually the opposite. Flexibility in mahjong is a must, and in order for one to become good it’s generally better to either have multiple ideas of what your hand could be, or to have the ability on the snap of the fingers (or more probably the declaration of riichi), what your hand could pivot to become.

Somewhat corollary to the first two, it allows learning to happen on an exponential scale. What I mean by that is that all 4 players get to learn concepts from all 4 hands, not just their own. And then that allows them to perhaps chime in as they get a better handle of strategy in general to help those still struggling.

It’s not just the beginners who could be playing either while the more experienced players record. You could easily have it the other way around, where the novices record while the veteran players play. Then they can see what goes on in the mind of someone who is taking everything into account. And, it’s quite possible that the beginner will point out something that the veteran missed. There’s always the opportunity to learn, and it can come from the unlikeliest of places.

Finally, the players aren’t the only ones learning. Those that are recording need to be able to express concepts and strategies to the players, which means having a good grasp of the concepts themselves. So if they don’t already have that locked down, this would be a great way to drill those into their subconscious. For instance, not just suji, but aida-yon-ken, ura suji and matagi suji.

Only caveat to all this is to make sure you’re not devolving into multiple conversations at the table as the pair of recorders and players talk about their individual hand. Make sure everyone is reminded that this is for everyone, not just the player who played the hand in question.

Our modified version of JPML’s Paifu Sheet

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