Total Pageviews

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I haven't gotten my new card yet 
But my friend Luisa did, and she let me look!  Actually, I snatched the card away and ran to my room to compare it to last year's card.  And since I am down with a cold on this sunny Sunday I feel it is my duty to inform those who are patiently waiting of what is in store.  Some has changed and some remains the same, so take out your 2012 card and follow along:

The four hands in this section are substantially similar to 2012.  The values of the first two hands are x25 as opposed to x30.  This may be because instead of 2012, which requires a pair of 2's, 2013 are all singles and   the probabilities are greater.  The first hand changes from four norths and four souths to one north, two easts and three wests.  The second hand changes from four ones and four twos to four ones and four threes.  The third hand is the same except it's a 13 instead of a 12, so you no longer need the joker in the kong.  The value dropped from 35 to 30.  The last hand in 2012 is gone (sniff, sniff, I really liked that hand, it was a real challenge) It is replaced by FFFF DDD 2013 DDD.  This hand is easier than the 2012 hand, but it is still closed.  You can use jokers like crazy, and it's ANY dragons, which means its inherently swappable with FFFF DDDD DD DDDD which is still on the card, or FF DDDD NEWS DDDD.  This should be fun.

Second hand down is gone.  The third hand down and the fourth hand down are still on the card.  The pung/kong pattern of the fourth hand has changed.  Instead of 222 444 6666 8888 it is now 222 4444 666 8888, so it has gone from being a pung, pung, kong, kong to a pung/kong, pung/kong.  This change was also made in consecutive run (111 2222 333 4444), odds (1-3-3-5 and 5-7-7-9) and 3-6-9.  The first hand is gone, replaced by pair/pung/DDDD/pung/pair.  This also shows up in odds, but not 3-6-9.  2s and 8s with dragons is out, and the last hand has switched from a pair of dragons to a pair of flowers, giving us six 2468 hands instead of seven.

There are two hands in like numbers.  The flowers/numbers pattern has switched, instead of a kong of flowers and a pair of numbers, it's three kongs of numbers and a pair of flowers.  The 2011 dragons with like numbers is back - but, oh, no, it's CLOSED.  Hang on to those dragons!

Eleven hands have switched to seven hands with a twist - the pair is in the middle instead at the end.

Don't look for the 135 or 579 quints hand - they're out.  1-2-3 remains as does 1223 with quints matching pairs.  Flower Dragon Number is now Wind Dragon Number, which I always thought it was until I realized I was holding winds for nothing.  The value has gone up from 40 to 45, maybe because there are eight flowers and four winds?

The pattern has changed on the classic hand back to pair/pung/kong/pung/pair.  This change was made in odds as well.  (Translation:  This means you need a pair of ones and a pair of fives instead of a pair of ones and a pair of twos, etc.)  No more 1-2-1-2-3, sorry to say.  The last hand doesn't really make up for it; 111 222 111 222 DD, it's closed and worth 30.  Hands that are the same:  Flowers-1-2-Dragons and Flowers 1-2-3 in three suits.  1-2-3-4 is still there with a changed pattern as mentioned above; pung/kong/pung/kong.
Good news - the "sandwich" hand is back!  1111 22 22 22 3333 - The pairs are "sandwiched" between the kongs in a consecutive run.  Thanks, League!

I've always suspected the League favored odd numbers. They certainly give us more odd numbered hands than any other, although that could be because there are five odd numbers.  (I favor evens and 369s, so count on me to pass you a seven.)  The first two hands are there but with a different pattern (pair of ones and pair of nines; pung/kong/pung/kong)  Third hand changes from pair of flowers pair of dragons to four flowers no dragons.  There is a pair/pung/DDDD/pung/pair hand, which I like.  One and Nines with Dragons is out, replaced by a "sandwich" hand - a kong of ones and a kong of nines with pairs of 3, 5 and 7 in the middle in a second suit.  It's a tough hand, worth 30.  The five pairs and a kong hands (worth only 30!) remain, but the last hand has reverted back to 1-3-5/1-3-5 in two suits or 5-7-9/5-7-9 in two suits.

First hand the same.  The second two "sandwich" hands are out.  Hmmm...why did they seem so hard when the consecutive run sandwich hand seems much easier???  They are replaced by the old favorite:  Kongs of norths and souths with TWO PUNGS OF ODDS IN ONE SUIT.  Remember, folks, YOU NEED TWO JOKERS FOR THIS HAND BUT YOU CAN CALL THE PUNGS SEPARATELY.  And of course Kongs of East/West with two pungs of identical evens.  The Winds with kong of flowers in the middle has changed to a pair of flowers, kongs of north and south and pairs of east and west.  This seems HARD - three pairs, an open hand, worth thirty.  So why is a CLOSED HAND WITH FIVE PAIRS (see 1/3/5) also worth thirty????  Must defer to wisdom of the League........

Is it me or does it always seem like 3-6-9 hands get short shrift?  No matter.  First hand same; second hand changes pattern: pung/kong/pung/kong.  Third hand -- hey, something new!  333 666 9999 9999.  Okay, I'll take that.  (I like 9s.  My favorite tile is a 9 crak in case you want to know).  The third and fourth hand on the 2012 card are the same.  The last two hands are gone, replaced by, hey, A CLOSED HAND WITH FIVE PAIRS AND A KONG worth 30, same pattern as the 1-3-5 hand.

Winds and pairs the same.  Seven consecutive pairs changes to pair of flowers, five consecutive pairs with pair of matching dragons.  Odd numbered pairs hand is 1/3/5/7/9 pairs followed by pairs of any like odd.  We've seen that one before.  Even pairs hand is pair of flowers, pairs of evens followed by pairs of any like evens.  My all-time favorite, flowers with consecutive numbered pairs (FF 1122 1122 1122)!! Yay!  And, of course, the BIG HAND for 2013.

So there you have it, and if you haven't gotten your card yet, you soon will - hopefully this preview will whet your appetite.  Now I have to unlock the door before Luisa bangs it down...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Taking a Chance

A risk assessment chart

Mahjongg is full of risks.  How long do you hold that flower?  Can I throw the 5 bam or will it give her mahjongg?  Should I play the open hand or the closed?  Because decisions need to be made quickly it is important to have a risk assessment strategy.  

You will first need to determine your risk tolerance.  To do so, imagine the following scenarios:
  1. Ann threw a five dot but called it a five bam.  Jane called for the five bam.  Ann said, "Sorry, it's a five dot, my mistake."  The play continues.  You pick a five bam.  Knowing Jane needs it, do you throw it?
  2. You are set to mahj and you pick a flower.  There are no flowers on the table.  There are two picks left and Arlene has four three craks and four four craks exposed.  Throw or break up your hand?
  3. You are two away from the big hand.  You pick a joker.  You decide to keep it and throw out a tile you don't need.  Then you pick another joker.  Do you switch or stay the course?
Fortunately we are not hedge fund managers dealing with billions of dollars.  Our stakes are small, but there are many factors to take into account within a short period of time, and the difference between winning and losing may be your willingness to take a risk.

The chart above depicts a strategy for weighing risk.  Ask yourself:  What is the likelihood (that I will pick what I need, that someone needs this tile, that no one will call this).  Then, what is the impact (if I throw in to two exposures, if I keep this tile, if I break up my hand).  The answers will guide you.

In the first scenario, the risk-averse player will hang on to that five bam.  There is a near certainty that Jane needs it. But this sort of thinking omits taking impact into consideration.  Yes, Jane needs it, but are you risking your own hand?  Get rid of it quick!  The impact of throwing the tile may be minimal if it is needed for exposure.  The likelihood of her needing it for mahj may be low.  An objective assessment must be made to overcome the fear of giving Jane the advantage.  While there cannot be certainty that she doesn't need it for mahj, a comfort zone can be established by making an objective evaluation.  How many tiles are left?  Did Jane put other tiles in her hand?  How strong is your hand? Was Jane really angry about the error or mildly upset?  This information will allow you to determine whether to take the chance.  Would I throw it?  Yes, especially if it's early on.  Even though there is a near certainty, there is a minimal impact.

The second scenario is a little more dangerous.  This year (2012) four three craks and four four craks can signify two hands - one with flowers and one without. We know Arlene didn't throw flowers because none are on the table.  She may need them, she may not.  What do the others have exposed?  No flowers on the table means that all flowers are in hands - can you assess who may be set for a flower?  Are the others holding flowers because they think YOU are playing flowers?  All of these considerations will race through your mind - but don't wait too long because you will get a reputation for holding up the game. In this situation you will need to assess your own odds. There is a high likelihood that someone needs the flower, but  someone may need it for exposure or someone for mahj.  There is also a possibility that no one will need it, or that someone will need it but be unable to call.  That's a lower likelihood, I think.   If there are only two picks left, the likelihood of it being needed is increased and the likelihood of you getting what you need is decreased.  However, you may cling to the belief that the last South is lingering in the wall. Maybe it is, but what is the likelihood if it being thrown, or of you picking it? Is it more likely that you will get your tile or that someone will mahj on the flower?  Human nature being what it is, some will keep the flower and some will throw it.   Some may throw it recklessly hoping no one needs it but others may throw it confidently based on information they have gleaned throughout the game, information that helps gauge the likelihood.  It may be that other exposures point to strong competition for flowers; certain players are complaining that their hand is crappy, someone has gone dead and would likely have flowers.  There are countless pieces of information that aid in this decision and allow one to make a more informed decision.  But to some, no flowers on the table screams HOT TILE!!!!!!!  The knee jerk reaction is to keep it and no one can say they are wrong or yell at them for throwing hot.

The last scenario is not for the faint of heart.  Being two away from the big hand is plenty awesome.  I've been there and I know.  My usual rule is if I'm playing a singles and pairs hand and I pick two jokers I switch.  BUT if there's even the slimmest, slightest possibility of achieving that blissful nirvana-like experience of winning the big one, I go for it, especially if one of the tiles I need is a flower, because we all know there are eight flowers and maybe, just maybe someone will take a risk and throw one after I get set.  The poker face comes in handy here - you don't want anyone to see how excited you are or it may add to their pool of information.  Mahj players are not mind readers but body language is another story.

So there you have mahjongg risk assessment in a nutshell.  If only the same rules applied to my 401(K)!

Happy mahj!
Counting down till the new card!