I was back in New York recently for a short while, a period that just so happened to coincide with the latest instance of my favorite mahjong gathering, the USPML‘s monthly open play events. Bringing with me exotic cuisine from beyond the oceans, I played my first offline mahjong game in many months.
It was good to see many familiar faces and even some new ones, as well as to learn that the USPML has only gained in popularity since I last saw them. Where once we barely were able to get sixteen players to fill four tables, we now had somewhere like 6-8 tables. I even saw an enterprising older woman there, learning the game amongst us young Turks. I wondered if she had experience playing an American form of mahjong and decided to expand her horizons. If that’s the case, she is a better person than me, who has no experience with mahjong outside of Japanese-style and one bad game of Taiwanese mahjong on X-Box Live.
I can’t say whether or not I’ve made significant improvements in my mahjong, but I did end up winning both games I played that day. The first was a rough-and-tumble game where I managed to win here and there and gain a small lead going into the final round. The difference was about 4000 points, so a mangan tsumo or a direct hit with about a 3 yaku hand could’ve knocked me off my perch, but I went for a quick, cheap, and most importantly closed hand. I purposely decided not to call reach as it would have made everyone overly defensive. In the end, I won with a simple pinfu.
The second game, I won a haneman and a mangan early on and held my lead by winning a large amount of cheap hands, many times with no yaku to speak of other than when I decided to reach. In a way it’s a dirty, yet effective way of playing. However, my victory is not the biggest story to come out of Game 2. That honor instead goes to my mahjong comrade, Dave aka Sub.
In an early round (it may have been the first), one of the players had called a closed kan. This was already dangerous, as it was a kan of the dora, but when this new dora indicator flipped over to reveal that it was a twin of a previous dora indicator, things got to a Washizu-level of bad. There, staring us all in the face was an 8-dora hand, an automatic Baiman, and who knew what else lurked within the the unrevealed tiles? Later on, we found out that this was a hand of much destructive power in more ways than one, as it not only turned out to be an 11-dora hand thanks to another kan that had been called, but that it was in position for a possible Yakuman, the Suu An Kou. But whether he got that standard Yakuman or not, the hand would’ve easily surpassed 13 dora, which would have given it equivalent power to a Yakuman. In other words, no matter how he would have won, he would have gained 32,000 points and potentially ended the game right there.
But Dave was a hero. Abandoning any notions of grandeur, he quickly called for some tiles. A few turns later, he won, and off the player with that amazing hand no less. Crisis averted. It was only after Dave’s smooth counter-offense that we realized how much danger we were really in. I may have won the game overall, but did I really?
See you guys around again. Playing has made me want to scope out the Dutch mahjong associations that I know exist.