Continuing our translations of Puyo’s blog posts, we have part 3 of his series about calling tiles.
In last last two articles we talked about calling fundamentals, now we will show some more situations to explain other aspects of judgement.
Calling judgement comes from two aspects:
- The tiles in your own hand
- The round situation
Your own hand
a) Effect of calling on hand value
Imagine you have these tiles:
The player to your left plays
This is a good hand with potential for tanyao, pinfu, ippeikou. With riichi it would be mangan with chances for haneman. After calling, it would be almost certainly 1000 points. The difference here between an open and closed hand is too big. Unless the situation is special (such as securing 1st in South 4), don’t call here.
Player to your left plays
A closed hand of tanyao, dora 3, riichi would have the same value as previously, but now calling will give us 7700 points too. If our left player discards , it would be silly to refuse the call.
Riichi mahjong emphasizes closed hands, and lots of yaku require it or have reduced han after calling, but dora crucially does not have this penalty for open hands. This means that if we have lots of yaku in hand, we lean towards not calling. But if we have 2 or more doras, we should seriously consider calling where possible (obviously while keeping a yaku).
b) Hand shape after calling
If someone plays or , of course we shouldn’t pon. After a pon, the shanten won’t be reduced, and we will have destroyed a ryanmen shape. We also lost a chance to draw a tile.
The main benefit of calling is to be faster, so our calls must make that happen. Of course, often even if shanten is not reduced, we may still have other reasons to call.
Calling pon on here is a common mistake from beginners.
is a good double ryanmen shape, and after pon it becomes a
kanchan with a single remaining
. This is bad.
Similarly, we shouldn’t chii . Please consider the huge difference compared to calling chi on
c) Chance to win after calling
We also need to consider our chance of winning after calling. If the chance is likely to drop, we may not want to call.
This is a commonly seen situation. If someone plays
, we need to wait.
After calling pon on , the hand is scattered, and it’s hard to win with it. With high shanten, it’s easy to get tiles that can advance your hand, so there is less urgency to call chii. If we don’t get good tiles later, we can consider folding, which becomes more difficult after we have called tiles. Once the hand is open, it’s not a case of just calling everything we can – it’s still important to consider the impact of further calls.
d) Which taatsu we call
In normal circumstances, if the preceding player plays , we would happily call. Although it’s only 2000 points, we would be left with a nice shape – perfect 1-shanten. However, if they play
etc, a call is less attractive.
Ultimately, it is easy to draw tiles to improve or complete our taatsu. Apart from , we can draw or which will help our shape a lot. This hand can likely be a closed tenpai with good final shape. Another reason not to call
is that if we do, there is a high chance it becomes a 2000 point kanchan tenpai. If someone riichis, that will be dangerous, as it is difficult to betaori with a tanyao hand.
Prioritise calling of bad shapes, in order to keep good shapes remaining in the hand
Generally speaking, the later the turn, the more you should call. In early turns, you can hope to draw the needed tiles yourself and improve your shape, but in later turns you don’t have this luxury.
When you are dealer, be more inclined to call, because renchan is good. As a dealer you gain more points for winning, and lose more points if your opponents tsumo, so there is an increased need to play aggressively.
c) Other player’s actions
When you see other players attack, and you are not tenpai, be more inclined to call and compete to be the first to win. A huge hand is useless if you can’t win. So if you see other players hands are developing quickly, you should speed up too.
d) Other times when you must go for speed
- Winning in the last round with a small gap to 2nd place
- In last place by a lot in south round, and you are the dealer
In these situations and similar circumstances, we must prioritise speed over value much more than we ordinarily would.
Shanten number and calling number
In joukyuu games, it’s easy to find hands like:
If you feel uncomfortable with these, it means your mahjong sense is quite good.
1000 point with 3 calls and kanchan shape, or a 2600 point mega tanki – if someone riichis or attacks with you, then you can no longer betaori and are forced into an unfavorable fight with a bad wait. The more you call, the more your defense drops. Therefore, the more you call, the higher value you must get from your hand.
The below are my personal cutoffs:
1000-2000 points: Must be tenpai after 3 calls, but try to avoid calling 3 times. With 2 calls or above, it should have a good shape.
3900, 5200 points: Must be tenpai after 3 calls. Should have a good shape after 3 calls
Mangan: If needed, can be hadaka tanki (tanki wait with only 1 tile left in hand)
Of course these are not 100% hard and fast rules, but with these guidelines, we can avoid calling excessively.
For example, after calling pon on :
This is a doraless 1000 points hand, if our left-hand player plays or , we shouldn’t call.
If we call, the hand will be bad shape, with a big chance we will need to call again. This doesn’t fit the guidelines for 1000 point hands. We will first draw tiles to see if there is improvement in souzu. If the hand looks like it is still bad after several more draws, we have kept the option to betaori. Ultimately, with 10 tiles in hand, the defense power is still ok.
However, if our left opponent plays , we can call. Afterwards, a pon on or will lead to a good shape tenpai. (Pon is easier since we can pon from all 3 players)
If were dora, we would have a 3900+ point hand. In this situation if our left player discards we can chii, because our value is bigger now.
A lot of people think that once they have called and opened their hand, they must continue to attack. But actually, if the hand develops badly (or not at all), then the ability to retreat becomes a good thing. Don’t think you must win every hand – this is extremely important in riichi mahjong! For beginners to improve, they must stop doing pons and chiis just because they are possible.