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Monday, December 30, 2013

Knowing When to Stop

 I think I was texting when I decided to stop the passing...

This is sort of a sad story, but it turned out well in the end.  Every experienced player knows that there is occasionally a moment in mahjongg when you hope that you don't get your tile.  It is that moment when, after giving the matter some deliberation, you have decided not to stop the passing and to do a second left.  As soon as you have made the pass you realize with a sinking feeling that you have made a mistake.  Perhaps the story is best told in pictures.  (The hands have been recreated - in the heat of the game I wasn't thinking about Facebook...)

I was so happy - I picked up my tiles and there were three jokers!  After the first left I was in pretty good shape.  I should have stopped it there as there were some solid possibilities - the consecutive run with two dragons, the "sandwich hand" with pairs of fives in the middle, or maybe even a quint. 
But no, I HAD to pass.  My reasoning was that I might possibly get my hand in better shape.  So here is what I passed on the second left.

Looks good, right?  Only three away from being set?  Only as soon as I passed I whispered to myself, "Oh, crap, now I have to do a must across.  What if I get a tile I need?  Please don't pass me anything good..."
And here's what I got on my second left -
Yes, my neighbor passed me not one, but TWO tiles that I needed in the hand, leaving me with only ONE tile to pass on the second "must" across.  ARGH!!!  It was agonizing, but I decided to pass the two four craks and the eight dot.  Why?  Well, I thought I might get the five dot back or the six bam and then I could go for the sandwich hand.  While it didn't quite happen quite the way I wanted, I did get a six bam back, and this is how I started the game.
I knew I wasn't going to see those four craks again, so I just had to let them go.  {twang lonesome blues guitar}  And I never saw a five dot again, either, though I eagerly anticipated one at every pick.
But, I did get lucky.  I let the first six bam go by but picking another four bam allowed me to call and expose a quint of four bams.  Then I called the next five bam to go out, exchanged the soap for another joker, picked a six bam and then called for mahj.

So in spite of myself and with luck the hand worked out.  But looking back, I question whether continuing to pass was the correct thing to do.  I could have easily called the four bam and six bam and hoped to pick in a five bam and/or five dot to set me and not have had to sweat it out.  But, I suppose, that's the draw of the game - something always unexpected!

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