Puyo’s Guide to Calling Tiles – Part 1

This article is a translation of Puyo’s blog,¬†and is part 1 on his series about calling tiles.

Apart from push/fold judgment and tile efficiency technique, another area we can distinguish skilled players from unskilled players is in when they call tiles.

Beginners often don’t call when they should, just like they often call when they should keep their hand closed. First, I will cover the upsides of calling:

The advantage of calling is it increases our hand completion rate.

The advantage is that you can use tiles that you couldn’t use when keeping a closed hand. Since speed is the primary benefit, if your hand didn’t speed up after calling, then you probably made a bad call.

Other benefits can be removing another player’s ippatsu chance, or skipping someone’s draw. However these are really minor in comparison.

On the other hand, in riichi mahjong, which emphasizes maintaining a closed hand, calling has many downsides. Beginners should remember these:

  1. Lower hand value after calling

    A lot of yaku are downgraded or unavailable after calling. You also cannot riichi and lose the opportunity for ippatsu or ura-dora.

  2. Lower defense ability after calling

    You have fewer tiles in your hand after calling. This means it will be harder to defend with safe tiles against an opponent riichi, and you can’t store as many dangerous tiles in your hand. Lots of beginners forget about this aspect of calling.

  3. Easier for opponents to guess your yaku and waits

    Tanyao, flushes, chanta, etc. – these are all easy to see from the called melds. Opponents can also see what your waits are likely to be.

We can summarise this as follows:
Positives: Speed to tenpai increases
Negatives: Hand value decreased, ability to defend is decreased

This is fundamental knowledge for beginners to medium level players.

It looks like there are lots of disadvantages to calling, but with how most players play in modern mahjong, speed is the most important. This is why you see a high call percentage in high-level games – usually around 40% of hands.

In part 2 we’ll look into some example hands and how to consider the trade-offs presented when we have the ability to call tiles.

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