~ The following article is from “Mahjong Kai No 7” ~
There are many different local rules in mahjong. However, wherever you play in the country, almost all rule sets require a 1,000 point deposit for riichi. But what happens when you have no 1,000 point sticks? What do you do?
This 5,000 point stick is my riichi stick!
The other day, as I was browsing mahjong-related social media, a certain post caught my eye.
Its title was, “Please don’t do this.”
Their request, was that people “stop putting down 5,000 point sticks for riichi without saying anything.”
The post continued like this…
“How can you make point transactions in a way that uses up all your 1,000 point sticks, and then shamelessly use a 5,000 point stick for riichi without a word.”
“Then, when someone puts five 1,000 point sticks in front of you, you ignore them?”
As to why that person would not take the points, it is most likely because if they accidentally touch the reset button or disrupt the discards while taking the points, it will end in a chombo for them.
In other words, the poster’s main point is that “when you have no 1,000 point sticks and want to call riichi, you need to properly ask another player, ‘sorry, can you exchange with me?’ and place the 5,000 point stick in front of them.”
However from the word “shamelessly” in the original post, one can infer that the poster believes that running out of 1,000 point sticks in the first place is shameful.
Social media is made for many people to see, and these kinds of manner related posts tend to get many comments.
This particular one was no exception. Many people had a similar opinion as the original poster, and there were many comments along the lines of “Yeah! You should ask properly!” However, on the other hand, there were also comments here and there wondering “Is running out of 1,000 point sticks that bad?”
On social media, commenting as the minority can take courage.
There’s no guarantee that you will not be attacked for your opinion.
However, because there were other similar comments here and there, we may be able to infer that actually quite a large amount of the commenters felt similarly about running out of 1,000 point sticks.
Personally, I believe that you should always strive to save one or more 1,000 point sticks.
Exchanging is being considerate
This is a story from way back when. It was the first time that I went to a certain store in Tokyo that we’ll refer to as “A.”
In East 1 of the first hanchan, I ended up winning by tsumo for 4000 all. Thus, sixteen 1,000 point sticks ended up in my point box. One of the players was a staff member.
In the next round, all 3 of my opponents called riichi.
Unexpectedly, I became everyone’s banker and was quite busy.
Of course, the two elderly regular players placed their 5,000 point sticks in front of me without a word, and for some reason I ended up being the one attending to their needs.
I continued to offer point exchanges, “Would you like me to exchange with you?” However, the whole time I was quite nervous that they would snap back at me, saying “I’m going to win anyway so mind your own business,” or something along those lines.
In order to riichi, one needs to [1. Call riichi 2. Discard sideways 3. Deposit 1,000 points]. Interrupting these actions and causing another player to have to exchange points for you is rather brazen.
Of course the staff member at least asked politely…
What do you think about this situation? It’s quite troublesome, no?
Also, it’s a bit of a digression, but I see many people doing riichi and switching the order of requirement 1 and requirement 2.
Let’s make sure we don’t forget the basic principle of “Call before you move.”
Manners exist for a reason
Let’s return to the discussion.
When teaching a beginner mahjong player etiquette and manners, it is also important to teach them the reason for said manners. That way they can understand why they are there.
For example, telling them “Do not pass point sticks by hand, because the other players and referee cannot tell if the transaction was correct or not,” is a good way to do it.
Our issue this time, “you should always keep a 1,000 point stick,” would also be less of a problem if the reason was properly explained. At least, I think, the amount of people who say “who cares” would be reduced.
I believe that the main reason people do not exchange in advance is because they think “exchanging points is a pain…”
As I explained in my previous example of “A” in Tokyo, if point exchanges pile up, it can inhibit the flow of the game.
These types of players say, “If you have to pay with larger point sticks and get change back, it takes about as long as exchanging points before a riichi.”
That’s why they may simply pay the exact amount, without asking for change, even if they only have two 1,000 point sticks left and they have to pay 2,000.
Another problem concerning exchanges
However there is actually another reason, or rather, problem.
[By stopping the game to exchange points, you break your opponents’ train of thought.]
This is a problem that directly involves the integrity of the game…
Exchanging point sticks the moment riichi has been called is actually the worst.
Let’s imagine players of at least a certain level. They have gone beyond the realm of concentrating only on their own hand, and play reactively according to their opponents’ discards.
What would that level of player be thinking during a game?
In mahjong, you most likely have three enemies. Depending on the point situation, you may have unspoken alliances with two of them against the third.
Unless you are at the end of a game, in a high pressure situation like all last, you do not yet know which of the three is going to be the biggest threat. So, you observe all of them equally.
You do not know what yaku they are aiming for, or how their hand is progressing. Therefore, you work hard to collect and analyze the data you get from the beginning and middle game.
When one of your opponents makes a move, such as calling tiles or calling riichi, you must suddenly change your thought process.
If someone needs to exchange points during this important time, it interrupts this change in thinking, and takes away precious time.
Let’s give a more concrete example. Let’s imagine that just now, the person across from me called riichi with these discards.
I would like to be able to advance my thinking and deduce this much before my turn comes.
However, if the person who called riichi is out of 1,000 point sticks, I do not have the time to read these developments.
Even if I do not have enough 1,000 point sticks to help them exchange, I still check my point box and inform them that “I only have X point sticks, sorry, can anyone else exchange?”
Then, before I have time to think about the recent discards and put my thoughts together, my turn comes and I am put in a difficult position.
Even if it is not to the extent that I must stop the game to think, or the person who goes after me is not affected, I still feel as if I lost the ability to enjoy the intellectual aspects of the game to my heart’s content.
It is one of the conditions of having an intellectually satisfying game, where my opponents and I get to utilize our maximum mental capacity and knowledge. Games like these are the most satisfying for the player who wins, and the player who loses.
That is why I believe it’s every players’ duty to make sure they do not break another player’s concentration with unnecessary exchanges.
What do you think? Do you understand why you should have at least one 1,000 point stick now?
Although not as important as 1,000 point sticks, using up your 100 point sticks can also have a negative effect on the flow of the game.
As for 100 point sticks, every player should have as close to the same amount as possible. Good players will not neglect this aspect of the game.
That is all for this time. I hope you have a more fulfilling and fun mahjong life!
Author: Oogai, Hiromi
Profile: Born in 1960 and from Tokyo. With the 101 Kyogi-Renmei. The 22nd and 30th champion. After experiencing as a family-style restaurant manager, he fell in love with the competitive mahjong style and goes into the Pro Mahjong industry.
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Translator Chris Howard
Assistant language teacher and aspiring translator (Japanese to English, Korean to English) currently living in Osaka. Six years of casual mahjong experience. You can reach me on twitter at @CJHowardFL.