5-03 Seven Pairs, or All Pungs?
Seven Pairs scores 24 points. That's more points than for Mixed Triple Chow and Pure Straight, and the same number of points as Pure Flush. Although Seven Pairs is not easily completed, nor is it the fastest of combinations, you must take advantage of its high scoring potential and adjust your strategy accordingly.
One decision that you must face is when to break up Seven Pairs and make a commitment to All Pungs.
In Figure 1, you have 5 pairs, which is one away from making ready on Seven Pairs. But even at this point you face two problems. You cannot meld anything to build your hand, and there are only three tile types that will make you ready. "Seven Pairs is one step farther from completion than you think" --- this is a famous Japanese mahjong saying. It illustrates the fact that, even when you are, for example, 2 tiles away from making ready on Seven Pairs, it is equivalent to being 3 tiles away from making ready with other types of combinations. This is because with other combinations, there are many more tiles which will bring your hand closer to ready. Seven Pairs is, comparatively, a very slow combination.
In this case, we should consider the hand in Figure 1 to be not 1 but 2 tiles away from making ready. If you were to build All Pungs, you would be 3 tiles away from making ready. Therefore, you are closer to finishing Seven Pairs (roughly speaking: 2 tiles away versus 3).
How about Figure 2? If you go for Seven Pairs, you are approximately 3 tiles away (strictly speaking, 2 tiles away, but add 1 to adjust for difficulty). If you go for All Pungs, you are 3 tiles away. In this case, and considering the ease of melding the pairs that you have in your hand, you should probably build All Pungs.
The first hand might become All Types. The second, Outside Hand.
With the hands shown in Figure 3, you should certainly meld sets. You are equally distant from completing your hand whether you go for All Pungs or Seven Pairs, but by melding the first hand you can also build All Types (6 pts.), and by melding the second hand you can simultaneously shoot for All Terminals and Honors (32 pts.) and Outside Hand (4 pts). In the first example, you are 2 tiles away from making ready on All Types, which is preferable to being (the equivalent of) 3 tiles away making ready with Seven Pairs.