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Oogai Hiromi Pro's Mahjong Manner Lecture No.5

December 9th 2015

No. 5

~ The following article is from “Mahjong Kai No 8” ~

There are various kinds of problems that can come up, and the ways of dealing with them often vary depending on where you play.

This time, Oogai pro will identify problems that occur often.  Remember all of Oogai’s rulings and strive for good manners!

Manners have been written about several times here, but this time the discussion is about problems.  This article is about times when certain problems have come up and I’ve wondered, “What if we had a ruling like this..?”.


When enforcing proper manners, I would be grateful if you would pay attention to trying to prevent problems before they occur.

North player not having enough tiles at the start of a hand

It’s not a problem with the autotables that are popular today, but it’s still relevant for tables where you draw your tiles according to the dice roll.


Before, I’ve seen a hand ruled as unwinnable in this case, with the given reason being that the south player has already discarded.  This doesn’t sit well with me. When making a ruling on a problem, especially when that ruling results in a penalty for a player, we should pay attention to the magnitude of the mistake made by the player.


Even if it’s obvious who made the mistake, if it can be agreed that it was not only the fault of that single person, it can make sense to not give a penalty.


So, how about this case?


First, if the players comply with proper manners (or even the rule that) the dealer must wait for all players to finish drawing their tiles before making the first discard, this problem wouldn’t happen.  Therefore, I believe the dealer is also largely at fault for this problem.


Also, at the first draw the south player should be aware of something incorrect happening at the table, so we can’t really say that the south player who doesn’t care about the game progressing properly is free from blame.


Therefore, a ruling that the north player can’t win is clearly too harsh, and it is appropriate to either give the north player an extra tile from the wall, or disregard the round and redeal.


By interfering with the neighboring table and asserting this viewpoint, a harsh ruling was not applied in a sad manner there.


Naturally, in a situation where several turns had already passed before it was realized that the hand was short on tiles, it is not possible to determine if the problem occurred at the start of the round or later on, so the above would not apply.

Mistaken tsumo win with no spoken “tsumo” declaration

This problem of pulling a tile in and laying it face up as though it is a tsumo win can occur due to a mistake with moupai (determining the tile by feel without looking).  This most recent case was in Shinjuku.


After pulling the tile to the edge of the table face up, he boldly said “Sorry, I made a moupai mistake.”  The staff member ruled that whether or not he intended to tsumo was secondary, and answered “You didn’t say ‘tsumo’, right?  So there’s no penalty.”


Honestly, this is something you have to turn your head at.  Normally I just listen to the rulings given without saying anything, but at this time I instinctively ended up interrupting.


“With a ruling like that people who say nothing always benefit right?”


Now you might be thinking, “Jeez, you’re always butting into others’ affairs,” and, well, that’s just my personality.


“Well, that might be true but our rules are based off of what is spoken, so…” the staff member replied.  I’m an adult, so I didn’t make any more trouble.


However, a rule that punishes people who follow the basic principle of speaking before acting cannot be right.  For the rule that has become a trend lately, “the first (spoken) call between pon or chii gets priority”, having a rule based on what is spoken certainly makes sense. But, if all the rulings are created focused on what is easiest to do, there could be unforeseen consequences.


For the person to declare himself that he made an incorrect tsumo and yet still receive no penalty is quite a strange consequence.


At the shop that I managed in the past, the rule was “If the 3 other players all considered the motion to be declaring a tsumo incorrectly, then it would be counted as an incorrect tsumo.”  Especially when the 4th person who actually committed the incorrect tsumo agrees, this should be the most acceptable ruling.


In any case, it would be nice if the rule of “Speak first” would be followed more thoroughly.

Discovering an incorrect score after exchanging points

Mahjong generally follows the principle of double jeopardy.  Once points are exchanged and the round has advanced, corrections can’t be made.


Even so, the other day at the place I work, a player who had just been hit by a tsumo said “3000, 6000 huh” after a glance, and everyone, including the player who declared tsumo, figured that is what it was.


After starting the next round, I hear that the player who won realized it was actually a baiman hand and pointed that out, and they were unsure of what the ruling should be.  For better or worse, I was not there.


It definitely is questionable whether or not it would have been better to stubbornly stick to the double jeopardy rule, as in this case the blame is not only on the player who won.


The other player who declared the hand score surely had good intentions but as a result he did end up causing a problem, and the other two players were too lazy to check to make sure that the points they were paying were correct.  And it goes without saying that the person who won had the responsibility to state his own score.


Accounting for all of this, it seems my colleague requested that the players keep the points as they were at the beginning of the round, and if I were there I probably would have ruled the same thing.


It’s repeating something I’ve written before, but in mahjong, the players are simultaneously refereeing their own game.


In the event that someone wins, players judge

① If the hand is a winning hand

② If the hand is not furiten

③ If the declared score is correct


All players have the responsibility to do these things.  To add to that, players should also check that the exchange of points occurs correctly.


However, recently, I think there are too many players that have a tendency to want to progress with the game too quickly.


Maybe they’re thinking something like “It’s a pain to confirm what the winning hand is and it’s alright if I just pay the announced score. I just want to see my next hand as soon as possible,” as they seem to want to press the button to drop the tiles in before the points have even been exchanged.  I often see players like that.


Even when they win the hand, they do not give anyone time to confirm the winning hand and they just want to drop in their tiles.  As expected that is a situation where I would jump in and interrupt them.


Even if you have everyone confirm the winning hand and you wait until after the exchanged points are being placed in the points boxes, you would only lose 10 seconds.


After doing points there might be a problem if you become preoccupied with what the last hand was and you forget your first draw, or if you get rid of the discards and then say “I feel like that hand just now was furiten…”  In order to avoid those kinds of problems, I believe that those extra 10 seconds certainly are not a waste of time.


Maybe some unfortunate staff members are instructed to just make sure the game progresses rapidly by an inconsiderate boss, but we should not spare the necessary time to make sure the game progresses in a manner that everyone can accept.

Drawing a tile from the wrong spot and winning

Occasionally you will draw the wrong tile, and also win with that tile.  Of course, this also includes the case in which you discard that tile and deal in to another player’s hand.  You know that different places have their own various house rules, but this is likely the problem that has the most differing rulings.  Redrawing the correct tile with no penalty, being punished with a dead hand, and even in some cases being declared a chombo.


My point of view, which may be surprising, is that the win should stand.


As I said earlier, the players are also referees.  Players in this case must object as soon as the other player goes for the tile in the wrong spot.  You should not be giving your attention to other things like messages on your phone at the mahjong table.


If all three players fail in this duty, I believe it follows that there is nothing to do but accept the win and pay the points.


It’s quite a common problem to draw from the wrong spot on auto dealing tables, especially when a wall has few tiles left.  When this wall gets too far separated from the other wall, it’s easy for one of the last tiles to get lost from a player’s field of vision, so this is something to watch out for.


With that, that’s the end of this article.


May all your mahjong lives be prosperous.

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 Daniel Pascua

I am a top competitor in many games who goes by the nickname DdR_Dan. I have been playing mahjong for 4 years, almost all online on tenhou. My biggest accomplishment in mahjong is probably maintaining 6 dan or higher rank on tenhou for over 1400 consecutive games, and reaching 7 dan once. I also played in the IORMC for the US team 2016 and 2017.


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