Tina’s Tactics #1: Defense and Knowing Your “Anpai” – Understanding Suji

Tina Koshimoto

Thank you again to DFW Mahjong for the wonderful tournament this past weekend. I was not able to defend my title, but I got some serious adrenaline rush with that suanko for sure! More so though, I especially enjoy how there is so much mahjong love, and everybody can’t seem to get enough playing.


In a discussion with fellow players, some have asked me to share riichi mahjong tips. There is a vast amount of riichi tips published in strategy books and mahjong websites, but I know that a majority of these resources are in Japanese and are not accessible for most of you. I thought it would be a fun idea to share some of these tips, since I know how frustrating it is for those wanting to improve.

I will try to share tips that I personally thought were helpful in my training. Please feel free to comment if you have any specific topics or questions that you’d like me to address.

I referred to the WRC book for the technical terms, but I learned riichi in its original language so I apologize in advance on the parts that I do not use accurate English terms.

This first one’s for Zac Leak!

When another players declares riichi, I will often scramble through my tiles to find an anpai in order to avoid dealing in to that player. An “Anpai 安牌” translates to “Safety Tiles”, meaning that it is a tile with little or no chance that the other players will declare a win on it.

The safest anpai is of course what a player has already discarded, because the furiten rule does not allow a player to call ron from another player on a tile that they already discarded. However, what do you do when you run out of these anpais? Then, you need to read the discarded tiles and determine the tiles that are at least less likely to be that player’s winning tile.

One way to do this is by reading suji. This is a useful tool when a player is tempai and has a chow with a two-sided wait (ryanmen wait); Example: 2-3, winning tiles 1 or 4.

The basic concept of suji revolves around 3 sets of number groups: 1-4-7; 2-5-8; and 3-6-9. Let’s go through some examples to determine how a suji works!

Omote-suji: translates to “front suji.” When a player has discarded the center number in the number group, the outside numbers are relatively safe. Let’s look at the 1-4-7 number group to better understand this idea. The center number in this group is 4. If a player discards 4s, this will mean that 1s and 7s is less likely to be that player’s winning tile.

Why is that? Because if the winning tile is 1s, that means that the player had a 2s 3s in his hand. This is a two-sided wait (1s and 4s), so declaring ron on a 1s while discarding a 4s would be a furiten. Same with 7s; if the player’s winning tile is a 7s, this means that the player had a 5s 6s. Declaring ron on a 7s while discarding a 4s would be a furiten.

This will not work of course if the player originally had 4s 8s 9s, and discarded 4s to wait on 7s, a penchan wait. The suji technique only applies to two-sided waits.
Naka-suji: translates to “center suji.” When a player discards the outer two number in the number group, the center number is relatively safe. Now let’s look at the 3-6-9 group. If a player discards a 3m, does that mean 6m is safe? If that the player has 4m and 5m, yes, because declaring ron on a 6m while discarding a 3m would be furiten. BUT WAIT! What if the player had a two-sided wait with 7m and 8m? You’ve just dealt into the other player, say goodbye to your points.

This is where the naka-suji is useful. What if the player had discarded 3m AND 9m? Then, the chances are that he is unlikely to be waiting with a 4m-5m or a 7m-8m chow. Ultimately, 6m becomes a relatively safer tile in this situation.

Naka-suji reading can be used also by looking at discards of multiple players at the same time. For example, you are in East and the South player (right of you) calls riichi and discards 2s. You immediately think of the 2-5-8 number group. However, as mentioned in the example above, this could possibly mean that 5s is safe, but you don’t know because he might be waiting with a 6s 7s.

Then, the West player (across from you) discards 8s. What a courageous move! The South player does not declare ron, and the 8s has now become anpai. By combining the fact the 2s and 8s are both anpais, you can now determine that the 5s is relatively safe, at least against the South player’s tempai.

Allow me to emphasize that reading suji only works with two-sided waits, but not tanki, shabo, kanchan, or penchan waits discussed above. To illustrate shabo in the last hypothetical, the South player who declared riichi could have  ②③④ 123 55 777 北北. Winning tiles are 5 and 北. The 2s discarded upon Riichi and the 8s discarded by the West player (or even by the South player himself) will not give you any hints on this hand’s wait. Some advanced players will use this as a trap to pull out the winning tile from you, so be aware!

I hope this was helpful. Happy Riichi!


DFWM 2018 Riichi Open – Day 1 Update

Day 1 of the 2018 Riichi Open featured some strong and early contenders for this year’s title. Of the 28 attending players (a mix of veteran and freshman players,) Tina Koshimoto, Jarid Earnest, and Gregory Chin set out strong scores in the first hanchans.

Tina landed a self drawn dealer yakuman in hanchan 2, a suu ankou (4 concealed pon), further solidifying her lead with a take of 56.3 points after uma.

Jarid and Gregory faltered a little in hanchan 4, but their earlier winnings kept them safely within the top 4. In a surprising development, newcomer Thomas Graham of DFWM, following a slow start and significant loss in hanchan 2, finished the day strongly and secured 4th place. It will be a tough climb, but if his game continues to earn positive points, he may be in a position to challenge for 2nd or 3rd place in his first ever riichi tournament.

Following the day’s events, fourteen participants attended a social event at 1 Hour to Escape in a large group room titled The Ruins. With this many intelligent, problem solving, individuals in one place, is it any surprise that they successfully solved the room with a time of 33:36, just 5 minutes shy of the house record?

Day 2 will feature an exciting round — hanchan 6 will feature a matchup between leader and returning champion Tina Koshimoto, Jarid Earnest, and newcomer Thomas Graham. Who will survive this clash of top players immediately preceding the top 8 cutoff for the semi-final match? But let us not forget returning finalist James Bragg, also finishing the day within the top 8, who has put up some good scores and may also have a shot at that final table.


2018 Riichi Open Registration Closed

Registration for the 2018 Riichi Open has officially closed!  Thanks to everyone who has registered – we’ll be sending out an update shortly with all the additional information you should need. DFW Mahjong looks forward to seeing all of you at the tourney in just two weeks!


2018 Open – Player Spotlight

Tina Koshimoto DFWM 2017 Champion

We are all very excited about next month’s Riichi Open Tournament! Players are registered from all corners of the United States and Canada. Returning to Dallas is last year’s DFWM 2017 Riichi Open Champion, Tina Koshimoto. Tina dropped into the 2017 tournament only a week before the event and showed up ready to win, and win she did! She bested three challenging players at the final table for the 2017 title and a seat at the 2017 World Riichi Championship in Las Vegas last October.

This year, Tina will be back and ready to defend her title! Here are a few questions we asked our champion.

DFWM: What is your favorite place to travel and why?

TK: Paris, France and Montreal, Canada, because I love visiting places with great food and beautiful art. It’s hard to pick a favorite since I enjoy traveling in general, but I tend to choose countries in Europe because of their deep roots in art history.

DFWM: What’s the last book you really enjoyed?

TK: A recent one that I enjoyed is Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami. I appreciated how the main character Tsukuru, lacking personality at first blush, gradually discovers his own “colors” as the story develops.

DFWM: What is your favorite dish?

TK: I can never get enough Japanese food. One of my favorite dishes is Shimesaba – cured mackerel.

DFWM: How did you first learn to play mahjong and how long have you been playing?

TK: I first started playing as a child with my family. It wasn’t “real” mahjong back then though, since I didn’t truly understand the rules and I had someone look over my hand as a I played. I only started playing regularly when I moved to Houston in 2013.

DFWM: What keeps you coming back to the mahjong table?

TK: Each and every game is a unique battle and the logic behind the game is intellectually stimulating. However, what I enjoy more is how mahjong bonds people, especially in a casual setting where the players can talk during the game. It’s a rare setting for 4 people to sit and chat face-to-face for hours, but mahjong seems to make this happen easily. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to become friends with great people through this game.

DFWM: What does your opening draw have to look like to consider kosushi musou (thirteen orphans)?

TK: I look for 4 or 5 of the 7 honour tiles. These tiles are often discarded early on or called on for Yakuhai, so I find them more difficult to collect by draws.

East 4, East Seat
28,900 pt / 2nd place / 1,500 pt to 1st

M-4 5 7 7, S-5 6 7, P-2 4 6 7, Red Red
Draw – 2p

TK:I would discard P4. Here, since I’m in the East Seat and can play again if I win or at least get a tenpai, fast speed would be my priority over a better hand. Thus, the reds are important to keep to Pon for a Yakuhai hand. When I look at the tiles with this in mind, there is either a Yakuhai only or a potential Sanshoku with 567s. The P4 seems to be “floating”, because it wouldn’t connect with a P5 since I’d like to use it as P567 for a potential Sanshoku. It may be useful after a draw or chi of P3 to create a P234, but this is a lesser chance compared to M4577 and P67 that have a wider acceptance. Furthermore, a P234 will destroy the potential Sanshoku. Therefore, I would discard P4 and prefer to keep the P2 as pairs, then see how the M457 tiles may develop.

Thank you, Tina, for answering our questions and we are eager to see you again at the DFW Mahjong 2018 Riichi Open!

Important dates and few reminders

There is still space remaining in the DFW Mahjong 2018 Riichi Open, but here’s a couple of important dates and reminders:

3/17/2018 – Cutoff for cancellation refunds.

3/26/2018 – Hotel room block closes – if you plan to make use of the block we have secured, please do so before this date.

3/31/2018 – Event registration closes.

(I’m aware the cancellation period is scheduled before cutoff – this is to assure that DFW Mahjong doesn’t make any final commitments based on attendance and suddenly finds itself lacking funds to meet them.)

For anyone that hasn’t attended a tournament before, or has and could use a few best-practices, here are some reminders and suggestions.

  • Bring a small pocket bottle of hand sanitizer.
  • Have something to write with.
  • Have a closed container for water – you’ll get thirsty at the table and it will be an exciting couple of days.
  • A quick snack to eat between hanchan will keep your energy and focus up.
  • Have some kind of pain reliever available just in case.
  • Make sure you know how you’re getting around.
  • It may not be cold outside, but bring an extra layer in case the AC is cold inside! A fitted sweater or jacket works great – coats with bulky sleeves will knock over tiles.
  • Make sure you understand the rules being used. We are followng WRC Tournament rules for this event.

Have any best practices to add? Comment here or on social media!

Riichi Open Registration – Thank you, and a soft cap.

Registration for the 2018 Riichi Open is still under way, and the community response has been excellent! New participant registrations continue to stream in weekly and we have already exceeded the 16 players from last year. The 2018 Riichi Open is going to be a tougher tournament! So a huge THANK YOU goes out to the participants that have already jumped in and plan to join us this year.

It’s a good problem to have, but we have put a soft cap at 32 players for the event, with a possible expansion to 36 if there is enough demand. This is partially to assure that there is enough space in the convention room and also that the event remains managable given our current resources.

But, we aren’t there yet! There is still room so get your registration in right away so you don’t miss out! It’s going to be an amazing tournament!