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Sunday, December 5, 2010


Risk-taking counts for much in mahjongg.  How do you know when the odds are in your favor?  Do you take a chance and throw to an obvious hand? 
For example, last night, Brenda had exposed:  777 888 9999 in cracks.  Obvious hand, right?  But she needs two pairs, 55 and 66 to complete the hand.   One 5 crak was on the table and one 6 crak was on the table.
I, of course was sitting set when I picked a five crak.  Ack!  Rats!  Do I throw it and take a chance or do I break up my hand?  There isn't a lot of time to make a decision.  She could be set, she might not be set.  She did need two pairs, but which one?  Brenda, of course, was sitting like Buddha, not giving any indication of what the real story was, which is how it should be.
So I folded.  I kept the 5 crak and threw out a tile that I needed in my hand.  I did not want to take the risk, even though I was set.
I once played with a lady who yelled at you if you threw to an obvious hand.  "Were you set?  Were you set?" she would say.  If you weren't, heaven help you. 
Some games have a table rule where if you throw to an obvious hand and the player calls for mahjongg, you must pay for everyone at the table.  Others say you must pay for everyone at the table out of your own pocket, not your mahjongg purse.  The idea is that you must be punished for making a move that costs everyone, not just you.  At tournaments, throwing to a hand like that might cost you as much as 35 points.
But suppose you were set for a quint hand or a high-scoring jokerless hand, or a singles and pairs?  Would you take the risk?
Last night Rena took the risk.  After I picked and kept the 5 crak, Rena nonchalantly threw a 6 crak, slyly pretending that it was no big deal.  Arlene and I gasped.  How could she?!  But she did. Maybe she knew something that we didn't.  And Brenda didn't call for mahj.  So I concluded that she must need the 5 crak, and was glad I broke up my hand, until I picked ANOTHER 5 crak.  Hmm.  One on the table and two in my hand.  She could still be set.  I had already broken, so I held it.  The game ended as a wall game.  All right, better than losing.  At tournaments everyone gets 10 points for a wall game.
And Brenda, she wasn't set at all.  She needed a six AND a five.
And the lady who would yell at you if you threw to an obvious hand?  She would often take the risk.

Sometimes there are little "tells" that let you know if someone is set.  That is for another blog post.

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