xGeo's Mahjong Blog

Experiences with Japanese Mahjong

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End of Summer Update

Just writing an update on how mahjong was over the summer…


It’s rare for me to be able to find people to play mahjong with in person. It’s even more rare that I meet people in real life that play Japanese mahjong. This summer I was lucky enough to play mahjong with actual tiles multiple times. First there was the USPML in New York City. Although the organization is small and relatively recent, it has regular members and the organizers seem quite dedicated. Then there were the sessions organized by myself with friends from school. Of course, I was the one who introduced them to Japanese mahjong. My friends aren’t as obsessed with mahjong as I am (or as skilled or knowledgable), but hey what beats playing mahjong with friends on a lazy summer’s day?

On a side note, I recently met a few people at school that know how to play mahjong! But they only know “Chinese mahjong.” I say that with quotation marks because most people that “know how to play mahjong” only play Chinese-style without scoring. This is the case with most people that I know. None of them (including myself) really understands the Chinese mahjong scoring system(s). Unfortunately I haven’t found a good English resource on the topic. Nevertheless knowing the basics of mahjong makes it easier to teach them Japanese rules. I still haven’t gotten the time to write the How to Play section yet. Hopefully I’ll be able to start it and add to it bit by bit over time.


In the main lobby, ranking up was especially a struggle this summer. Early on in the summer, I fell to about 30/800 and was about to get deranked from 2 Dan to 1 Dan. But I made it back to 400/800 which is where I started. I think that the combination of playing more, watching pros, and re-reading some articles helped me bounce back. Also I started playing in joukyu (the second lobby) instead of ippan (the first lobby). I didn’t realize there was a lobby between ippan and tokujou (which is for 4 Dan R1800). As far as I know joukyu is for 1 Kyu and up. As always on Tenhou, my goal is to rank up. 3 Dan here I come! Not that it really matters or anything but I always look at the overall ranking and currently I am in the 30,000’s and I was in the 60,000’s at the beginning of the summer. Not a great ranking but I see that as an achievement.

In other news, I’m still playing with fkmtkrazy every Saturday (3pm Pacific time if you’re interested). There I finally made it near the top where all the regular players are at. Hopefully things continue to on an upward trend there.

Wow that was a long post! Thanks for reading! I’ll make another post when I think of something or when I start writing the how to play section.



Two Things to Consider


I recently played two hanchans on Tenhou that taught me some tough lessons. Having memorized the yaku and getting a feel for the game, I now have the play style of going for “mentanpin” (menzen tanyao pinfu) all the time. I’ve started watching some JPML (Japanese Mahjong League) matches on YouTube¬†https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqHDeUer8bgaqswSuFP7FxQ and from what I’ve gathered riichi and pinfu are the foundation of Japanese mahjong. However these two hanchans recently showed me that I was being too narrow-minded.

Number 1

Kokushi Musou aka the 13 Orphans

This hand is a yakuman and contains one copy of the 13 terminals and honors plus a duplicate of any. Although this hand is rare, it does happen occasionally often when least expected. Recently I dealt into a Kokushi by playing a pei around the 14th turn. For me who was thinking pinfu constantly, this was even more surprising. Now I always look for the signs of Kokushi in the discards. Kokushi can usually be identified by a lack of terminal and honors played early on. The discards should have an abundance of middle tiles like 4,5,6. Usually a Kokushi tile will flow out somewhere in the middle, but in rare cases one will not and the Kokushi will be harder to detect. If the dora is not a Kokushi tile, dealing a dora is usually a strong indication of going for a big hand. Just remember: Kokushi Musou happens and you should never dismiss it as a possibility.

For some statistics on Kokushi Musou, check out Umaikeiki’s article here.


Number 2

Nagashi Mangan


Nagashi Mangan is worth mangan and is achieved by having your discard pile contains only terminal and honors when there is a draw game and no one has called any of your discards. In the game above, I started South seat. If you watch East 2, the player across from me got a Nagashi Mangan. I was very surprised by this because 1. I didn’t know that Tenhou had Nagashi and 2. I hadn’t even considered Nagashi in the realm of possibilities. Unfortunately I was dealer and riichi’d so I had to pay the dealer penalty and couldn’t have done anything even if I had noticed. Once again, you should always keep Nagashi Mangan in mind because it does happen. Some general advice I have is that the last row of discards is very dangerous since it is likely that players have reached tenpai at that point. If you are folding/bailing, then you should watch the discards closely and discard safe tiles. However as I painfully learned, keep an eye out for Nagashi.