By Laurent Mahé, President of Magic Mahjong Social Pung.
If you’ve been playing mahjong for a while you’ve probably discovered two things. First, mahjong is not simply a game of chance. It involves using various strategies. Second, there are various styles of play that define certain players or that can be useful in certain situations. Here are a few playing styles and methods that you may find beneficial.
Aggressive: If you’re using an aggressive style—discarding any tiles that you don’t need without regard to other player’s needs—then you are playing to win right from the start. Of course, you could also be playing to lose from the start. If you do discard as many useless tiles as quickly as possible, then you should start to “chow” or “pung” your hand after six or seven tiles have been jettisoned.
Cautious: This type of play is defined by more careful consideration of what you are discarding. It’s useful if you are trying to garner a draw right from the start of a game. An example would be if you need five or less tiles but nothing seems to be coming your way. In this situation hold onto your wind and dragon tiles for a while, making sure you’re not the first one to give these up. Don’t try to “pung” or “chow” your hand, nor should you play with doubles.
Extremely Cautious: In a situation where you’re trying not to lose right from the start of the game and you require six or more tiles to make mahjong, you’ll want to discard very carefully. Playing in this manner allows you to buy some time and see if the luck of the draw turns in your favor. After four tile draws, you can start playing aggressively if you need three or less tiles for mahjong. Go for the win! If after four draws you need more than three tiles for mahjong, continue playing with caution, opening up your game perhaps a bit while maneuvering for a draw at the best.
These three playing styles can help you achieve the best possible results when you find yourself in specific situations. Utilize them to make the best use of the tiles you’ve been given.
Until next week, I’ll see you at the Mahjong table!