Application of Block Theory – Part 2

So you’ve got five blocks now, the right number of blocks to form a winning hand, but you’re still not tenpai yet. What do you do? Does it even matter? It certainly does – read on to find out more.

Five blocks
  • 1. Followup tiles

    These are tiles that strengthen one of your blocks, such as the in

    The shape waits on to form a complete block.

    Some additional things to note:

    • If you have a choice between different followup tiles, keep the one that strengthens your weakest block. For example, with the following hand

      you should discard the rather than . This is because waits on six tiles as opposed to four for , which is a 50% increase in speed. On the other hand, waits on ten tiles as opposed to eight for , which is only a 25% increase.

      Remember that your weakest block will become the bottleneck of your hand.

    • Consider whether or not you can incorporate dora or akadora. For example, with the following hand

      you should discard instead of to ensure that you can make use of the .

  • 2a. Safe tiles

    If you can’t strengthen one of your blocks, the next best thing to do is to hold onto tiles that will be safe to discard later. The safer the better – ideally this would be a tile that all three other players have already discarded, or more commonly an honor tile that has been discarded at least once or twice. If neither is available, prioritise holding onto tiles that are at least safe against the dealer, since dealing into them hurts the most.

    Holding a safe tile provides you with several benefits. The most obvious benefit is that if another player happens to declare riichi before you, you can safely avoid their ippatsu and buy some time to decide whether you should defend or if you can keep attacking. The second benefit is that, if you get to tenpai first and declare riichi by discarding the safe tile, you can avoid giving useful information to your opponents who may be wary of suji traps or matagi suji.

    A caveat – notice that safe tiles are ranked 2a. If your hand already has good shapes, with your blocks clearly defined and unlikely to change, or if it’s getting late in the round and other players are likely to be nearing tenpai (i.e. about the tenth turn and onward) then you should keep safe tiles. If not…

  • 2b. Floating tiles

    If it’s still early in the round and you have two or more weak blocks, then you should consider holding onto floating tiles in the hope that you can switch out one of your weak blocks for a stronger one. For example, with this hand

    the penchan is weak and likely to become a bottleneck. In this case, you should hold onto so you can switch the penchan for a stronger wait.

    Naturally, the same ranking for floating tiles described in part one of this series still applies.

  • 3. Tiles that are both useless and dangerous

    This shouldn’t need any explanation. If you’re not going to use them and they’re not safe to hold onto, then just get rid of these ticking timebombs as soon as you can. This isn’t quite sakigiri, but when people talk about sakigiri being useful, they’re probably talking about this.

Quiz time!

It’s time to test your knowledge! Take a look at the following hands and pick the best discards according to the rules set out in these articles. Post your answers in the comments!

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