So, as Travis eluded to in his post on the “C” Table, I wanted to give my perspective on the game I played as it was an interesting, yet mostly frustrating game. Until the end of course. Hopefully this will give some insight as to what I was thinking at the time. I don’t remember all of it of course, since it was several months back, but I will try to comment on what I can.
Going into the table, I first got to see the other two tables play before us. The “A” Table was considerably nervous and committed a couple of errors at the table. The “B” Table settled me down a bit, especially seeing Kinyan take over the game as she did (though looking at the video again I didn’t realize it was until the 2nd half of the game that she shut things down as she normally does.
That left my table, and I realized that all three of my opponents were from the same club. With such familiarity, I probably needed to be a little more observational going into the first couple of hands just to see how they interacted with each other. Being North meant that I didn’t have to waste my dealership doing so. In addition, I actually wanted to avoid using my “Saki power” (FWIW), and actually play normal mahjong for the pros to see. Especially Setokuma-pro who became my favorite after playing him in WRC back in 2017.
East 1 – North (All square)
Ugh, what a starting haipai to get right out of the gates.
No completed mentsu, 2 pairs, and a whole bunch of outside tiles. I would normally look at this and immediately mark this as a candidate for chanta, but didn’t want to play strangely out of the block. So off the Chun went.
Fast forward to turn 4, and now my shape looks like this,
By this point the direction is clear, the only hand I could really go for is the 1-2-3 sanshoku doujyun (三色同順 ). It’s pretty bare, but for now it’ll have to do. Off the East goes.
Nothing effectively changes until turn 7 where I draw the third 1-man and feel pretty happy about that. If I’m really lucky, I can draw one of the 2 remaining 9-pin, possibly ditch the 5-6 pin and go for junchan. Needless to say I was unaware of what Tom had build for himself in the meantime, being 1 away from suuankou tenpai already. Of course as happy as I was to have drawn the 2-man, finishing one of my sanshoku blocks, Tom draws right into suuankou tenpai, on the 3-sou that I need no less.
On the very next draw, I’m not sure what I recall at the time, but the 8-pin discard is probably a good sign. Despite being able to perhaps hide my sanshoku by calling the 8-pin, my hand is way too far away from entertaining getting tenpai. So why then that discard? If I had to fathom a guess, it’s probably because seeing Tom’s discards (3 middle tiles including the dora and then the 8-pin) probably got my senses up that something was up at the table. Combine that with my goal of just observing things early on, and it’s possible I’m preparing to abandon the hand if I need to.
By the time Greg calls the south on turn 11, I’ve basically given up the hand and focus goes to not paying in. Turns out, everyone else wound up being tenpai so I was right not to pursue.
East 2 – West (Even, 2nd trailing by 3600)
4 pairs?! Really??! I told myself I wasn’t going to play the nonsense games I normally do, and yet for my second hand I’m already more than halfway to chiitoitsu. There was a possibility to call the west that Greg discarded on turn 2, but I decided perhaps it was too early on turn 2 to consider accelerating for a cheap hand, so I stayed quiet and decided to play for the chiitoitsu. Just this once (or so I thought). Then this happens on turn 4:
Well, chiitoitsu it is. Allon gives me a chance to go for toitoi when he discards the haku on turn 7, and it could be double yakuhai, toitoi for a mangan. But the two 5 pairs give me pause in being able to complete the hand. Better to not call and bail if necessary to continue to feel out the table. Allon’s riichi a turn later probably had me kicking myself for not calling and breaking the flow (it didn’t seem all that good anyways). Good news was that I had some safe tiles to discard at this point, so I could futz around if I wanted to continue chasing my hand. Drawing the dora immediately afterwards did not help things in terms of push-pull, but I could discard the chun and defer the decision at least.
I didn’t have to wait for long though, as Tom would call my next discard and pay into Allon. Fine by me.
East 3 – South (Even, 3rd trailing by 3600)
God, another terrible starting hand. Outside of chanta of course. This is what I’m going to have to work with at this table? I’m trying to show what I’m learning, and yet the tiles are pushing me to play off the walls. Holding the 5-man dora prevents me from going completely off the rails right on the first discard, but if the tiles come that way, I’m going to have to push for another unorthodox hand.
The problem sometimes is that not playing as free as you would like also means that you’re essentially tying one hand behind your back. Put another way, trying to do two things as once generally means that you fail to do either thing. Turn 4 comes around:
My head is hurting at this point. I’ve just drawn a second dora, I have three pairs, so chiitoitsu isn’t even a thought at this point – yet the hand is still messed up. I cannot call to fix this situation, and all my waits are inside waits. Just perfect. In fact, the best thing that can happen at this point is probably chiitoitsu. Assuming I can get to tenpai in the shortest time possible, at best I’m on a shanpon (double pair) wait. Worst case, I still have an inside wait for what probably would be riichi, dora 2. I could hope to draw a second haku, but decide it’s just better to discard it.
Two turns later, with the same hand as we left off I draw the 5-pin. I should be happy about this as at least one of my inside waits turns into effectively a two-sided wait. Instead I drop the 1-pin, for reasons I’m not sure about. Objectively, the 6-sou would be the most efficient as it’s by itself. Nothing discarded seems dangerous either. It could just be I’m desperate to turn this hand into something useful, that I’m willing to endure bad waits to do so. The 9-man discard the turn after probably hints that I’m flailing to turn this into a callable hand to take advantage of the dora.
Just about this time, Setokuma-pro is talking about the fact that I have 6 blocks in my hand. According to him, for JPML rules (no uradora, no ippatsu, no kan dora) 6 blocks is good. For WRC, he believes it better having 5 blocks.
I’m basically hoping the 1-2-3 man shuntsu I have somehow turns into 2-3-4, and then the pair of 9-sou can disappear into a tanyao, dora 2 hand.
Turn 9 has me drawing an 8-man that if I decided on keeping 5 blocks would have put me iishanten (one away from tenpai). But again it would have been on an inside wait, so I’m not terribly sad I didn’t go in that direction.
Turn 10 rolls around, and I draw the 3rd chun (that I can see). At this point I must have gotten the sense to not be pushing for the hand and to break up my hand, so that’s probably why the 5-pin got discarded. Turns out I was right as Tom would declare riichi on the very next go-around. Lucky for me, defending was pretty easy the rest of the way out, though the game did decide to throw me iishanten for another chiitoitsu hand on Turn 17, though it really didn’t cross my mind. Unfortunately for me, everyone else was able to dodge and get tenpai, much to my detriment.
East 3, Bonus 1 – South (-3000, 3rd trailing by 7600)
Another far from ideal starting haipai. Sure, I have the two hatsu’s and a dora, but the hand is pretty broken otherwise.
By turn 4 I had a decision to make:
Needless to say, both Setokuma and Ogasahara-pro were surprised to see me discard the hatsu here. But really this is almost a no-brainer. While keeping the pair of hatsu seems like a quick way to a win, I have to hope someone gets around to discarding one soon, or I could wind up not being able to have my hand accept more tiles moving forward. Consider it an opportunity cost.
Unfortunately instead of drawing into more possibilities it instead turns out like this on Turn 8:
How the heck did it wind up like this? I have 4 pairs now and almost all inside waits for my shuntsu! The 7-8 sou are actually the weakest part of the hand as the 9 does my little good at this point. One could have argued I drop the 8-sou first, but what I probably figured at the time was to get rid of the more central (and what would be more dangerous tile first). The East draw the very next turn probably spooked me and if I wasn’t going for chiitoitsu before, I wound up going for it at that point.
Except for one little thing…
At the time my inclination was to figure out what tile I was going to discard next. The thing was, before my draw I had decided it was going to be the 6-man. Unfortunately, I failed to recognize that it was the 6-man I had just paired up, so I discarded the 6-man out of my hand. It wasn’t until after I went to move my draw into the space vacated that I realized the mistake I had made.
Once that error was made I basically was abandoning the hand. Discarding a made pair when going for chiitoitsu, especially after having discarded the pair of hatsu earlier (which was the right decision at the time), effectively makes the hand dead on arrival. Greg would take advantage of my mistake and win the hand a couple of turns later off of Allon.
In hindsight, if I had managed to keep the pair of 6-man I would have drawn a 2-man on my next turn, putting myself tenpai for chiitoitsu waiting on probably the dora. But also, this result for this hand turned out to be very fortuitous.
East 4 – East (-3000, 3rd trailing by 10900)
THIS IS MY STARTING HAIPAI FOR MY DEALERSHIP??!!
This is beyond awful. No yaku, no completed mentsu, no dora. What exactly am I supposed to do with this trailing by so much?
Somehow by turn 4 I’m iishanten, but it’s for a nothing hand. I could push riichi if I managed to be tenpai, but with no dora it would be a bit disconcerting to do so.
I’m continuing to be desperate to build any kind of decent hand and by turn 9 something starts to take shape:
This 8-sou comes right after discarding one of my two 9-sou I had held in my hand. I’m hoping at this point I can draw around my two isolated tiles, the 6-man and the 4-sou. Sure, the 6-man is sitting near the 8-man, but I felt more comfortable at this point discarding the two terminal tiles instead.
What I get instead is a possible suji setup with the 9-sou, 4-sou discard back to back. If I draw 2-5 pin, I can consider declaring riichi in the hopes that the 7-sou gets dropped. Perhaps working against that, and perhaps why I was willing to drop the 4-sou outright was that very few souzu had been discarded leaving me to think the suit was sitting in their hands leaving my drawing prospects slimmer than normal.
Two turns later, I draw back the 9-sou and I think I get spooked here. I spend a lot of time thinking what to discard, and I think at this point I’m deciding whether to just abandon the hand. Even on a tenpai this hand is cheap and could easily pay into a more expensive one should I declare riichi.
The feeling is proven out when Tom declares riichi and Allon pons the dora Tom discards. With a riichi to my right and dora 3 to my left, there is no path to stopping either with a quick hand. Allon goes on to tsumo a mangan, and it’s not looking good.
That look and my subsequent reaction reflects a couple of things:
- I realize I have about 33 minutes left in this hanchan
- I have effectively done nothing despite my best efforts
- I’m really pissed off at this point
At this point I’m ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done, even as ridiculous as it might end up becoming. It is the typical anime “I’m not going to have it end like this!” reaction to the situation.
South 1 – North (-7000 points, last trailing by 15000)
Not exactly the hand you’re hoping for when you’re trying to turn it around… yet somehow by turn 7 it turns into something resembling useful
I am somehow iishanten for a possible sanshoku hand. However, Allon has already called twice and has to be assumed to be in tenpai (which he is). Blech.
And not even a couple of turns later, Tom pays into Allon’s 3-6-9 wait putting me out of last (though not of my own doing really…).
South 2 – West (-7000 points, 3rd trailing by 17000)
3 pairs, at least 3 useless tiles (1-sou, 1-pin and the North), and I have to pray I can draw around the 4-sou and 5-pin to make this hand usable.
Except that on Turn 2, I pair up my 1-sou.
Screw it all, chiitoitsu it is. Now, if I was serious about it, the 5-pin should have gone, but perhaps to not draw suspicion, I wanted to discard something normal.
Remember when I said if you’re not going for it all-out, you’re tying a hand behind your back? Well my next 4 draws (and subsequent discards) were:
Well, like I said, when it generally goes sideways like this, my general feeling is completing the hand becomes a near impossibility.
My next two draws throw my plan for chiitoitsu into a bit of a tail spin:
This is far from ideal as I’m iishanten, but really hoping to draw my inside 2-man and wait for 2-5 sou, even if the 2-sou is the dora. It’s not ideal, but if this is my path to winning a hand, so be it.
On the very next draw, the ultimate decision has to be made:
At this point the commentary stops to focus on my hand. Ogasahara asks what should I be doing here, discarding the 1-man? Setokuma then responds something about chiitoitsu or suuankou or the like. Suuankou? That’s a bit of a stretch here.
It’s at this point the editors pick up on me again, moving to the shot of me as my eyes dart around. Did you notice?
So efficiency-wise, the 1-man is the right decision. There is a possibility this could turn into a riichi, iipeikou, dora 1 hand. Setokuma points this out after my discard, much to his and Ogasahara’s surprise. In fact he makes it a point to say “面白い” (omoshiroi = interesting) several times.
It’s not a lot, but it’s something, and I would be looking for a bunch of tiles to get me to tenpai:
So why then did I discard the 5-man?
Simple. In those couple of seconds of me darting my eyes around the table, I surmised that all the 2 and 5-man tiles were sitting in everyone else’s hands and that waiting for either was a fool’s errand. In that case, I would have to commit to chiitoitsu, and if I were to surmise what to discard, the 5-man that was in everyone else’s hands would be the one to go.
So, was I right?
That means that the 5-man I had in hand (and subsequently discarded) was in fact the only live 2 or 5 man I could have ever had in the hand! Sure enough on my next draw:
Both Setokuma and Ogasahara are shocked to see this work out as well as it did, to the point that Setokuma’s first reaction was to say “天才” (tensai = genius). Ogasahara calls me “カッコイイ” (kakkoii = cool).
(Needless to say, I will never forget that my favorite pro called one of my plays genius)
Now, I was tenpai, but waiting on a tile next to the dora (I forget the term this is). If I were to declare riichi, with my discard pile, it is highly unlikely the 3-sou will come out. The 5-sou I subsequently draw would be worse, so it’s immediately discarded. As expected someone who has loose tiles near the dora (that being Tom) discards the 3-sou and I finally rack up my first win, albeit small.
South 3 – South (-5400 points, 3rd trailing by 15400)
There’s still a large gap to overcome, but for once I’m feeling like things might be going my way.
The haipai is not great, but if it’s good for one thing, it’s honitsu. Ogasahara seems to zoom in on chiitoitsu, and why wouldn’t you considering what’s happened to me throughout this game?
That’s 4 pairs already. I could certainly start opening my hand by calling Greg’s 2nd turn haku discard, but it’s too early to be calling tiles which will almost certainly be identified as a honitsu hand looking for pinzu. Setokuma also rightly points out that if I draw the wrong pinzu tiles, it could just end up being yakuhai, honitsu, and not nearly enough to make a difference, especially with time winding down. Despite that, on turn 4 I draw my third haku and the honitsu is on with my side of the table looking like:
The quick 3-pin tsumogiri is intentional to try and perhaps deflect and give the impression that this is not a honitsu hand. Unfortunately for me, Allon finds himself iishanten already by turn 5, and not for any old hand either, but a possible tanyao, pinfu, sanshoku, dora 1. As dealer!!
Worse yet, my draws stall out after drawing the third haku. And about the time Allon apparently commits to the sanshoku, I pair up my East and the race is on.
Except I short circuited myself by getting distracted.
Immediately after drawing it, I realized I could be iishanten if I got any of the following:
And so I discarded the hatsu.
…only to draw another the very next go-around.
At that point I internally beat myself up for getting distracted in the first place, and it was likely at this point that (a) someone would discard what could have been my potential winning tile (9-pin hell wait) and/or (b) someone else was going to win the hand. Sure enough, Allon gets his tenpai, but only for tanyao, dora 1. Greg pays into it, extending Allon’s lead.
South 3, Bonus 1 – South (-5400 points, 3rd trailing by 19300)
Oh, bless your heart, what are you going to do with this? 4 pairs, an isolated dora…
There is literally only one thing this could be that could be fast enough.
While I would normally keep a 1-sou when going for chiitoitsu, Allon’s discard of it, prompted me to just to keep things normal for a little bit until it was time for me to go off the rails. Of course, failing to follow my methodology for chiitoitsu, I’m punished 2 turns later by drawing a 1-sou. That dampens the mood a little for me having failed to secure another pair. That feeling dissipates though when I draw the 7-man of all tiles to get to 5 pairs. Again, to keep things normal, the 9-man is discarded.
Come turn 6 though and I draw a South, of which I discarded one on Turn 2. So why keep it and discard the 8-sou? I can’t say for certain except for I perhaps made the executive decision that the 8-sou was not a good tile to wait on. Turns out there was only 1 live 8-sou left in the wall (maybe).
But things don’t look as good on my front. By the time I’ve drawn the 9-pin on Turn 9, I’ve discarded effectively 3 pairs, all of which could have gotten me tenpai.
Meanwhile unbeknownst to me, Tom has gotten tenpai on turn 10. Thankfully for me despite having no yaku, he decides not to riichi. That would turn out to be very helpful to me because 2 turns later:
With nothing to lose, and the pinzu tiles looking like they’re buried in people’s hands, I go for everything at this point and declare riichi. Assuming the only way I win is by tsumo (which on the dora wait it probably is), it puts my hand at either 12000 or 18000 points if I somehow hit uradora.
Tom immediately declares oikake riichi, putting me on edge. This wait is pretty awful, and it’s highly likely any pinzu not the dora could pay into Tom’s hand. So when I draw the 7-pin I’m ready to face my maker. Somehow, it passes and right about when the commentators determine that Tom’s wait is dead and I have two outs, I draw the dora and score the haneman. It’s not until after the points are settled that I realize that I’ve taken the lead going into all last.
South 4 – East (+7900 points, leading by 100!)
Whoops, I didn’t make my starting hand very clear for the camera there. Probably a bit too fired up after winning that last hand.
This haipai isn’t great, but by far it’s one of the better ones I’ve had. The 9-man on Turn 2 wasn’t ideal, but wasn’t terrible either. But the 8-pin on Turn 3 was the best draw possible, and by Turn 4 that 2-pin made this hand easy-peasy. No riichi, 3-6 sou was too obvious given the 2-7 sou discard. In fact you see me ready to draw my next tile not imagining that I would get paid off that quickly. And by 2nd place no less. I take the win, and build a large enough buffer to survive being noten next hand.
South 4, Bonus 1 – East (+10800 points, leading by 5900)
The only problem with all this is, it’s kind of like what you see in American football. One team takes the lead late with a score, but leaves too much time left on the clock. It would have been great to end it after time expired, but I had to bank the points first and foremost. But there was still 5 and a half minutes left…
Oh my, what to do with this haipai. Three pairs is not enough to consider chiitoitsu, so the next possible option is honitsu. That’s far from ideal since once I commit, it’s pretty plain to see. But it’s my only chance to close it out.
Fumbling the 9-sou draw did not help things. Now if I call, unless I have yakuhai, it’s a honitsu for sure. In fact, you see souzu discarded immediate after I failed to discard the 9-sou. The commentators noted I wasn’t smiling, and afterwards I was told I play with RBF (you can look that one up).
I hated the 6-pin draw on turn 6. That was my fourth pair, and chiitoitsu was certainly not the hand I wanted to go for. Not now. And yet it had to be part of my calculations now that I reached 4 pairs. Thankfully I would draw the third 7-sou the very next turn and chiitoitsu would be thrown out the window.
The implied honitsu on my part served several purposes. It slowed down everyone’s hand because they would either try to discard it quickly to avoid me call it, or to keep it and try to find a way to build around it. It also perhaps increased thinking time such that this for certain would be the final hand.
This kind of bore out. Greg’s 7-pin discard on turn 5 looks a bit suspect. Why not drop the 7-9 sou, especially with Allon having discarded 2 already? Is it because he thinks I might be put into a corner and discard it later? He certainly saw the 9-sou I drew. That discard would come back to haunt him several times.
Allon’s hand isn’t enough to overtake, unless he can stay closed and win off of me with yakuhai, chanta. By the time he draws the 7-man on turn 11, the dora East hasn’t been discarded. Would he still want to part with it? If not, then he’s going to find another way through. One of the other incomplete sets has to go then, so why not shoot for sanshoku as well by discarding the 1-3 man?
Tom was by far in the worst spot. Despite having 2 dora, his hand didn’t really point to anything…. except for maybe chiitoitsu. Which is why his discard of the 5-sou on turn 12 allowed me to put the pressure on by calling for the first time ever this game.
Tom gets his reprieve by drawing his 5th pair, but doesn’t see it and discards the 3-pin.
Greg gets his reprieve by drawing into tenpai for riichi, iipeikou, but it’s not enough without uradora, so he’s letting it go and discards the 5-pin either for chiitoitsu or if he’s lucky enough to draw the South – riichi, yakuhai, iipeikou, which if won off of Allon would be enough for 2nd thanks to the honba.
Allon unfortunately is stuck in limbo.
I, on the other hand get tenpai immediately with the 1-sou draw. The wait is thin though, just one 7-man and West live so far as I can tell.
Allon’s hand is the first to fold after drawing the 4-sou the same go-around. No chance he discards that. Tom calls the 8-man discard from Greg, but there’s no yaku.
That call though saves everyone as Allon draws the West I would have drawn had Tom not called the 8-man. Allon’s hand is dead already, so the West will never come out.
I don’t know what go-around this is, but right after Allon takes away one of my waits, I draw the 4-pin. I’m not really happy about this. I’m the only one who discarded the 4-pin earlier, and there’s enough 2-3 pins left outstanding that someone could be sitting on it, not to mention the fact that I have no idea where the dora is. There’s about 2-3 draws left, so I think I’ve done my job scaring everyone, so off the 9-sou goes.
Right afterwards, Greg confirms his iipeikou:
And declares riichi on the 4-pin. Had he discarded the 6-pin earlier instead of the 5-pin it’d be riichi, tsumo, iipeikou. Not enough for 2nd, so he’d have to hope for uradora. Instead with the other two 6-pin tiles in my discard pile, he’s confirmed for riichi, yakuhai, and maybe tsumo. Still not enough unless Allon discards into him, which seems unlikely. Instead Allon discards the 9-sou.
Which actually puts me in an interesting situation. Greg is tenpai and I don’t see dora. He could have a hand enough to overtake, and if I stay bailed, then I have no way to stop him. True, my wait is almost dead, but almost dead is better than nothing.
So what do I do? I chi!
I break the ippatsu, I get back into tenpai, and best of all, I discard a safe tile!
Two draws later, I have the haitei draw, and discard a safe tile, securing the win.
At this point I’m pretty much drained. So much so that I can’t really remember a whole lot of the hands, and my Japanese is all but shot. I managed a way to win, albeit lucky and Setokuma would say, but sometimes that’s how it all shakes out. I’ve easily been on the other side of the coin, so getting this win on camera is well worth it.