4-10 More to the game than prime chows
Prime chows (chows of 123, 456, or 789) are extremely useful, because they can be used to build a wide variety of chow-based hands. But remember: in some situations, you must be brave and meld sets other than prime chows. Many players are willing to meld a set as long as it immediately gives them an 8-point or more combination, but have a hard time melding sets when the finishing combination is still several steps away. Such players are concerned about not having enough backup plans for when the primary plan fails.
However, don't forget that there are always the last-resort escape hatches provided by Melded Hand (6 pts.) and Last Tile (4 pts.). When you first play, try melding sets aggressively without concern for failure. By doing so, you will learn which patterns work and which do not.
Let's look at an example of smart melding. In Figure 1, you are one away from making ready. But you are not in an enviable position: even if you get or you won't be able to finish, even if you pick your tile yourself.
But you have an unusual escape hatch. Try melding a pung of (Figure 2).
Now you are close to a Double Pung. But even with All Simples (2 pts.) + Double Pung (2 pts.), you're still will not have reached the needed 8 points. Next, try to meld a pung of eitheror (Figures 3 and 4, respectively). Now you need only make sure you have enough points.
In Figure 3, you have All Simples (2 pts.) + Double Pung (2 pts.) + Tile Hog (2 pts.). If you pick , you'll add Mixed Double Chow (1 pt.) + Self-drawn (1 pt.) for a total of 8 points. In Figure 4, you are still several points away. But what if you meld a chow by claiming ? You will end up making ready with Middle Tiles as shown in Figure 5.
chow pung pung
As you can see, claiming the pung of gave you some incredible options. When building your hand, the most important thing to remember is this: never fixate on a single combination. You must keep your mind open to a range of possibilities.