Tina’s Tactics #3 – Knowing Your Play Style

May 28th 2018, Mr. Takeo Kojima, a Mahjong Legend also known as Mr. Mahjong, passed away at the age of 82. I was deeply saddened when I learned of this, as I studied his books greatly and thought of him as my Sensei.

When the news of his passing hit, Kojima-sensei’s fans from all over the world were moved by his loss and my feed was covered with videos of Sensei playing mahjong. Perhaps you saw one of the famous videos of him winning 九蓮宝燈 (Nine Gates) in an official league/tournament game. This is just one of the many Yakumans that Kojima-sensei won in his lifetime, as his playing style was set on winning the biggest hands. He thought of 1000 or 2000 point hands to be “boring”, and his book also discusses the mindset of always aiming for a Mangan or higher.

I wanted to take some time to talk about Kojima sensei and his playing style, not only to pay respect and to honour him, but also because I wanted to highlight the importance of establishing your own playing style.

There are different play styles and each mahjong player will have his or her own way based on personalities and preference. Are you the Occult type that believes in your luck and reads the Nagare at the table? Are you the more modern, Digital type that focus on tile efficiency and winning a faster hand? If you, like Kojima-sensei, know and have established your personal style already, great! However, most players including me are somewhere in between and are still trying to figure out what works best.

Where do we start?

So, we all want to be better, right? Sure, but where do we start? Some people eventually get an idea after playing enough games, but for someone like me who prefers to plan things out, I need at least a general idea on where I need improvement.

To do this, I found my player statistics on Tenhou to be useful. I believe most of the readers already play on or at least know of Tenhou so I won’t go into the details to introduce it, but if you are not familiar with it, I recommend you to read through Ch.1 of Riichi Book 1, written by Mr. Daina Chiba.

As described in Ch. 2 of the same book and on http://arcturus.su/wiki/Tenhou.net_ranking, Tenhou analyzes your playing and will provide certain data. I believe players can benefit from looking at these numbers, since it gives you a general idea about the strengths and weaknesses of your playing style, which can then give guidance on points that need improvement.

Working on Defense

I find 放銃率 (Houjuu ritsu) – Deal in rate % – to be especially important because if you are dealing in too much, then you can still place lower even if you were winning often.

Houjuu ritsu – 放銃率 – Deal in rate %
Low (defensive) 10~11%
Average 12~13%
High (aggressive) 14~15%

If your Houjuu ritsu is too high, you may want to take time to learn more about defense strategies and study Ori techniques. Defense is something I am also personally working on too, which is why my previous two articles focused so much on defense techniques.

Working on Tile Efficiency

For some, mahjong is all about winning and getting that adrenaline rush. 和了率 (Houra ritsu) – Hand win rate % is a good indicator on how often you are winning.

Houra ritsu – 和了率 – Hand win rate %
Low (defensive) 20~21%
Average 22~23%
High (aggressive) 24~25%

If your 和了率 is low, you should study more about tile efficiency and going into Tempai faster. If you come under this category, you should also look at your common tendencies in aiming for Tempai.

Fuuro ritsu – 副露率 – Call rate %
Low (Menzen-type) 28%
Average 35~36%
High (speed-type) 40%

Riichi ritsu – 立直率 – Riichi rate %
Low (speed-type) 14%
Average 16~18%
High (Menzen-type) 20%

Generally a higher Fuuro ritsu will lead to higher Houra ritsu because you can get to Tempai faster, but could also lead to higher Houjuu ritsu because you have less tiles in your hand and this can leave you defenseless against others’ Tempai.

On the other hand, a player with higher Riichi ritsu is taking time to build his/her hand. This could mean slower Tempai and thus lower Houra ritsu, but the winning hand are generally worth more. Menzen style allows more options when folding too, as the player can choose the discard from the entire 14 tiles.

Working on Hand Building

Lastly, some players who have a high Houra rate may still struggle placing higher against the other opponents because their winning hands are too cheap, or “boring” as Kojima-sensei would say. In other words, winning 4 or 5 hands of 1000 points may give you higher Houra rate, but cannot win against a single winning Mangan. 平均得点 or 平均和了点 (Average score) would be an indicator on how high you are scoring with your winning hands, but this includes uma and oka on Tenhou so it is not exactly raw data. Nonetheless, it can give you a general idea.

If you are facing this issue, take some time to study the different Yaku and work on tile efficiency with number of Hans in mind. If your Fuuro ritsu is on the higher end, consider thinking twice before calling Pon or Chi so that you can keep your hand Menzen, which gives you the option to Riichi and potentially more points.

Interesting Patterns

Page 40 of Chiba’s book looks at hand-performance statistics across the Tenhou players and shares how the deal-in rate steadily decreases as players move up the ranking. He emphasizes the importance of defensive skills, and I would like to second this.

If you look at the Tenhou rank players’ data shared on a blog by mahjong writer Makoto Fukuchi (http://fukuchi.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2015/03/post-a7cf.html), the average 和了率 (Houra ritsu, discussed below) is 20% and 放銃率 is 10.6%.

The same pattern applies offline too. Mondo TV provides the similar data on the Pros at http://www.mondotv.jp/…/mpl-of…/ranking/winning_tile_average, and when we look at the average rates of the 5 players with the most number of games, the average 和了率 is 20% and 放銃率 is 10.3%. Amazingly similar!

When we look at Kojima-sensei’s data in the Mondo TV database, his 和了率 is 18.22% and 放銃率 is 8.43%. Interestingly, even though he was known for his “flashy” play style, the numbers show how he was a defensive player. Again, this shows how defensive skills are crucial in mahjong, and aiming for larger hands is not an excuse to carelessly push all the time.

May his legacy live on and inspire many others to follow his path.




Yoroshiku onegai shimasu

 Yoroshiku onegai shimasu (よろしくおねがいします)

If you have ever played a hanchan of riichi mahjong with Japanese players or other traveled individuals, especially in formal play, you have likely seen players bow to each other at the table saying, “yoroshiku onegai shimasu,” before beginning the game. This formal opening is carried over from Japan, where social harmony is woven into the fabric of the culture. The words are a quintessential Japanese phrase that is difficult to directly translate to English, as the meaning implies a host of sentiment and manners that vary based on context. The general idea, in the context of mahjong, roughly translates to, “thank you for your time, nice to meet you, I am excited for our game, and will do my best.”

Not only does this show manners and respect towards your opponents, but it is also a promise to bring your best game to the table. I want to dig into this, as well as how it dovetails into good manners at the table.

An anecdote was recently related to me about a player who spent a good amount of time between their own turns chatting with others outside the game or was distracted by their phone. At the end of the hanchan, an opponent at the table said to them, “That was a good game. Too bad you missed it.” Nobody wants to compete for a victory that feels empty because an opponent phoned it in. What satisfaction is there in the challenge if other players, regardless of their skill level, didn’t make any effort to truly participate? Through either negligence or intent, that player is sending a message to the others which says, “you aren’t worth my time or effort”.

Respect at the mahjong table is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Four players convene in a common place at a given time, each armed with the sum of their own experience. Each offers and receives an opportunity to test their own skill against those of their opponents, as well as an chance to learn and improve. Poor sportsmanship, bad manners, or a half-hearted effort not only deprives ALL players of an opportunity to improve, but also cheapens the experience.

If you play mahjong, you owe it to yourself and those you play with to offer respect, good manners, and a strong effort.

The most immediate way to be respectful at the table is with your manners. There are a number of conventions in riichi mahjong intended to formalize manners:

Where possible, play with only one hand. There are extremes to this one (google games between Japanese pros and watch how they handle tiles) and players are going to vary in dexterity, but the spirit behind it is draw your tile and discard with one hand. This shows the table that you aren’t up to any possible shenanigans.

Play your discard before putting your drawn tile into your hand. The next player can’t start their turn until your discard hits the table. It is considered rude to make the whole table wait while you shuffle and rearrange tiles when this can easily happen while it is not your turn. Draw. Discard. Then sort.

Put away potential distractions. There is quite possibly nothing more frustrating to a player than consistently reminding someone that it is their turn, or repeatedly being asked, “what was your discard?” Putting a nose into a smartphone or holding a conversation on the side is not only distracting to other players, but says to the table, “this isn’t worth my attention.” Stow the phone and hold the conversation for a break. Use the time to look over your hand and consider possible discards. Speaking of which…

Know your potential discards. The shape of a hand can change quickly based on the draw, and sometimes a few extra moments are needed to consider this new information.  But if the table is consistently waiting on you to choose a discard after your draw, you aren’t using your time wisely and the rest of the table is paying for it. The time between your last discard and your next draw should be used to evaluate your hand and consider what you might discard if you drew x. You’ll generally have a better idea what you’re about, the game can proceed quickly, and you’re showing a healthy respect for the time of the other players.

Be gracious when winning or losing. Nothing says “poor sport” like storming away from a table having lost, or gloating over your victory having won. While it feels superb to win a hanchan, if everyone has brought their best game to the table, then everyone walks away with something valuable.

Thank your opponents for a game well played. Win or lose, if everyone played their best, everyone had the opportunity to learn something. Thank the table for the challenge and opportunity.

What other conventions in manners do you know and use at the table?


Spring at the Garden

Spring at the Garden

DFWM is returning to the Japanese Garden at the Fort Worth Botanical Garden this weekend for their Spring Festival. Fall was our first visit and we had a great time meeting and teaching everyone that stopped to see us. We look forward to another successful weekend.

Fort Worth Botanical Garden
Japanese Garden
3300 Japanese Garden Ln
Fort Worth, TX 761076

April 28 & 29  10am – 5pm

Admission: Adults $12, Children 4-12 $4

Tina’s Tactics #2: Defense and Knowing your Kikenhai – Reading Suji From a Different Angle

Tina Koshimoto

Last post I shared some tips on reading suji, and received a surprising amount of positive feedback. Thank you to those that took time to read it, and I’m happy to know that these tips are helping your gameplay.

I am back to share some additional information. I got feedback that I should cover techniques that have not yet been discussed in the limited resources already available in English, so I am going through them to figure out what information would be fresh and new.

However, I expect this to take time, so please be patient. If there are any topics that you feel needs more coverage, I would appreciate suggestions.

Meanwhile, I will dive further into the topic of suji.

If you remember the last posting, the suji number groupings were 1-4-7, 2-5-8, and 3-6-9.

By reading Omote-suji (Front Suji) and Naka-Suji (Center Suji), you now know how to look for anpais. However, it is all too common that your hands do not have any anpais, or you have a good hand and you do not want to fold.

Out of the many not-safe-tiles (which are essentially everything other than anpais) it is important to know which tiles are more likely to be the other player’s winning tile. If the tile that you wish to discard is highly likely to be the winning tile, you may want to reconsider the option to fold.

Today I am sharing some additional ways to utilize suji to find kikenhais 危険牌– Danger tiles. Note that this skill again assumes that the other player has a two-sided wait (ryanmen.) This technique is useful and worth studying, but it is a theoretical concept and should not be heavily relied on in your playing.

Ura-suji: translates to “Back Suji”. When a player discards a number tile, the neighboring number and its suji is dangerous. For example, if a player discards a 1p, the 2p (following number) and 5p (suji of 2p in the 2-5-8 grouping) are dangerous.

How do we know? Let’s look at the tiles from the player’s perspective. If you had a 1p-3p (kanchan wait), then drew a 4p, you would discard the 1p and hold a 3p-4p for a better wait. Now you have a two-sided wait on 2p and 5p, the ura-suji of the discarded 1p.

This pattern applies all across the number tiles, but discards higher than 5 should look at the lower neighbor. If the discard was a 8m, the 7m (next of discard) and 4m (suji of 7m in the 1-4-7 grouping) are dangerous. From the player’s point-of-view, if you had a 6m-8m, then drew a 5m, you would discard 8m and change this into a two-sided wait. As a result you have 5m-6m and the winning tiles are 4m and 7m.

Discard ura-suji

1    2 & 5
2    3 & 6
3    4 & 7
4    5 & 8
5    1, 4, 6, & 9
6    2 & 5
7    3 & 6
8    4 & 7
9    5 & 8

These skills are most applicable towards the tiles discarded on or a few turns before riichi (or dama tenpai if you can tell!), because the players are more likely to start organizing the tile groups into a preferred two-sided wait as they get closer to tempai.

For several reasons, I find it alarming when a person discards a 5. First, it has the most kikenhais: 1, 4, 6, 9. Why so many? Because the discarded 5 does not give away whether the player is holding the lower numbers or higher numbers.

For example, the player may have had 3-5, then drew a 2. He discards 5, resulting in a 2-3 two-sided wait for a 1 or 4. He also could have had a 5-7, then drew a 8. He discards 5, resulting in 7-8 two-sided wait for a 6 or 9. This is virtually impossible to tell, and I will need to look for more hints.

Second, WHEN the 5 is discarded will provide different information. Generally, the center tile 5 connects easily with others and is a tile that most people hold on to in the beginning. If the 5 is discarded in the beginning, there is a high chance that the player is or is close to tempai, and the 2-3 or 7-8 wait is ready in place. Given the possibility of chanta and an extra han, the 1 or 9 tile will need to be handled with care.

On the other hand, if the 5 is discarded in the middle or towards the end of the game, there is a high chance that the matagi-suji 3-6 and 4-7 are dangerous. As discussed above, people are more likely to hold longer on to a 5. Thus, it is common for the hand to develop into the shape of 455 or 556. Then later, at tempai, the 5 is discarded for a 4-5 or 5-6 two-sided wait.

During a recent game review with LAPOM Riichi Mahjong Group らぽん, I believe Nima mentioned that one of the pros shared this idea in a video. I forgot the pro’s name and don’t know where to find this video, but if someone can locate it maybe I can help translate that part of the discussion.

Matagi-suji is a topic I haven’t covered, but is available for reading at the following website: https://osamuko.com/umaikeiki-defense-guide-betaori-and-su…/

If it needs to be discussed more in depth, I’d be happy to.

I hope this helps. Happy Riichi!