Given the same starting hand, an expert and a beginner might discard the same tiles, but what sets them apart is the order in which they discard them. Tiles that seem equally useless at first glance may actually be quite different in value. If you can identify these differences and accurately compare the usefulness of tiles right from the beginning of a round, you can speed up your hand progression in every hand you play.
We’ll begin this series with a look at isolated honor tiles.
The fundamental principle is to discard starting from the tiles that you least want to get called. The basic discard order is therefore otakaze -> round wind -> dragons -> your seat wind. When discarding otakaze, start with the wind of the player to your right first, then proceed counter-clockwise. For example, if you were the north seat in the east round, the basic discard order would be:
If the player to your right pons his wind from someone other than you, your turn gets skipped, so you should discard his wind first to prevent that possibility. On the other hand, if the player to your left pons his wind, you’ll get another turn right away, so it’s no problem even if someone else discards his wind before you do.
The round wind, either east or south, comes next. To you, it has the same value as the dragons or your seat wind, but to the other player it’s worth double. For that reason, you should discard it early, when he’s less likely to have a pair.
Dragons have the same value to all players. If you have a pair or more of one dragon, the other dragons slightly gain value from shousangen/daisangen potential. If not, the order in which you discard dragons doesn’t really matter – hatsu is useful for ryuuiisou so you can either discard it first or last depending on how many souzu tiles you have, and some people speculate that the haku and chun are more eye-catching in the discard pond than hatsu and that affects their individual win rates, but it really isn’t a big deal either way. It’s more helpful to arbitrarily decide on your own dragon discard order, and then stick to it, so that you can free up some thinking time for more important things.
Your seat wind is discarded last. Because it’s useful only to you and not to the other players, it’s the safest tile to leave for last.
Naturally, this order is subject to change depending on the circumstances of the game. If an honor tile is the dora, or if your hand has potential for honitsu or chanta, then you should certainly consider adjusting your own discard order to match. One common reason to adjust your discard order is if the other players have already discarded certain honor tiles.
Matching other players’ discards (awase-uchi)
The following examples are taken from Saionji Yasuko’s book ブラコン女子大生の最短で強くなる麻雀 (Burakon Joshi Daisei no Saitan de Tsuyoku Naru Maajan).
If one haku had already been discarded, then which should you discard first between haku and hatsu? Haku is a safer tile to keep for later, but hatsu gives better odds of forming yakuhai.
The key here is to consider whether or not forming yakuhai will help your hand. In this case, your hand has a number of weak waits and will likely be quite slow without yakuhai, so you should start by discarding haku.
How about this hand?
With a hand like this, you’d be looking at riichi, tanyao, pinfu. Also note that you already have five blocks. Yakuhai are unnecessary here, so you should start by discarding hatsu as early as possible, before other players have a chance to call on it. Haku is less likely to get called on, so it’s safer to keep in the immediate term.
The lesson to remember here is to think about the shape of your hand, and its likely progression, right from the start of a round. If you know the direction in which you’re heading, you can make much more efficient decisions to reach your destination.