MAHJONG STRATEGY

Basics   Making MahJong   Sample Hands   Tactics   Glossary
Here's a sample hand. Suppose your wind is North, the prevailing wind is East, and you are dealt the following:

You draw a 4 of characters, giving you a good chance for a chow in that suit. You should discard the South wind, keeping open your options in the other suits. (Since you are North, the North wind can become valuable to you even if you simply pair it, so you should hold onto it awhile.)

Next you draw a 7 of bamboos. What should you discard? The 1 of circles is a good choice (the North wind would be a reasonable alternative). On the following turn, you draw a red dragon from the wall, giving you a valuable concealed pong of honors. Now it's time to let go of the North wind, as you still don't want to commit yourself in the bamboo suit. If you should draw a 4 of bamboos, the 5 or 8 would be expendable; but if you should draw a 9 of bamboos, you would discard a 4.

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Now your hand looks like this:

Next you draw a 5 of characters, completing a chow. Should you discard a 4 of bamboos, hoping to get either a 3 of bamboos or another 6 of bamboos to complete a chow? Or should you discard the 8 of bamboos, hoping to draw another 4 of bamboos or 2 of circles? If you discard a 4 of bamboos, seven tiles can give you a chow, compared with the four tiles that will help you if you discard the 8; but these odds are offset by the scoring value of making a pong, and so the decision is a close one. As is often the case in MahJong, the correct choice depends on what you think the other players are collecting, what tiles you think they are more likely to discard, and how close you think others are to going MahJong.

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Here's a slightly different deal from the one dealt above:

This time you are starting with so many bamboos that you should be ambitious and aim for a one-suit hand with honors, which will double your score. Suppose you draw a 4 of characters, as before; this time, you discard the 2 of circles. Next turn, you draw the 7 of bamboos and discard the South wind. On the following turn, you draw a red dragon--and now it's time to toss one of the characters. You choose to discard the 3, leaving you with this hand:

Your hand would be very valuable if you could pair the North Wind and group all of your bamboos into sets. At this point you should be considering the various ways of grouping your bamboos, and you should also be thinking ahead about what to do if certain discards appear. If an opponent discards a 4 of bamboos, should you claim it to make a pong? Probably so, although you'd regret this if you next drew a 9 of bamboos. You should also be thinking about what to do if your right-hand opponent discards a bamboo: Which bamboos should you claim to make a chow? Most bamboo discards are worthwhile claiming with your hand, but note that claiming a 2 or 8 to make a chow would disrupt the rest of your bamboo suit and make it harder to go MahJong. It's important to try to work out these kinds of decisions in advance.

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