Gather in the Middle

Many hands are based on numerical biases. Upper Four and Lower Four each score 12 points. Upper Tiles, Middle Tiles, and Lower Tiles each score 24 points.

Although players tend to remember the hands that are built on the edges, namely Upper Four, Lower Four, Upper Tiles, and Lower Tiles, they often forget those built in the middle: All Fives and Middle Tiles. The reason is probably because tiles grouped in the middle tend to form into chows that extend outside of the range of these combinations, and players tend to first notice the more common combinations that are made possible by this flexibility. Before you notice a possible All Fives or Middle Tiles, you are likely to notice a nearly-completed Mixed Triple Chow or Mixed Shifted Chows.

Figure 1

Consider Figure 1. We'll discuss what tile to discard later. For now, take note of the possibilities. You could make Mixed Shifted Chows in the 345-456-567 range, or a 456 Mixed Triple Chow. But if you take a second look, you'll notice that all the tiles in the hand are between 4 and 6 --- a great opportunity to shoot for Middle Tiles. And since Middle Tiles scores 24 points compared with a measly 8 points for Mixed Triple Chow, you should certainly try for the former. A player who doesn't see the potential for Middle Tiles might keep the , but you know to discard it: by doing so, you can meld pungs of or or claim tiles , or to meld chows to make ready on a gigantic hand. Or, if you discard , you can claim one of the dots and create wait on tiles and (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Two ways you might make ready



A similar combination is All Fives. All the sets in your hand and your pair must include fives. For example, the hand in Figure 3.

Figure 3

gives you All Fives

You have a three-chance hand ( ), but only gives you All Fives. The fact that your pair must also be built with fives makes this a very difficult combination.

To build either of these combinations, you will need to have plenty of 5 tiles, hopefully in all three suits. You won't find too many opportunities to shoot for these combination, but when you get the right starting tiles, these two combinations are well worth the while.