Reading a player’s hand

“I swear, I can read a player’s hand.” Well, it’s easier said than done.
Consider a player who is on the offensive. That player might meld a prime chow or two (a prime chow is a chow of 123, 456, or 789). What advantages do prime chows offer? They are flexible. They can be used in many different combinations. “I melded a chow to build a Mixed Straight, but I ended up finishing with a Pure Straight.” That’s hardly on uncommon occurrence. Now, surely if the player himself isn’t even sure of what combination(s) he’s going to finish with, how can you be expected to read it?

However, once a player melds a non-prime chow, things begin to change. You can start reading his hand now. Why? Because now you can start a process of elimination. Figure 1 shows a player’s melded chows and discards.

Figure 1

chow chow


First he melded a prime chow of . Then a non-prime chow of . This reveals quite a bit. You know that a will complete Mixed Shifted Chows. Granted, he could be going for a Pure Straight or Mixed Triple Chow, but the probability of those combinations is less (and there are too many such lesser possibilities to make a useful prediction). The tiles that you should consider dangerous are those that complete (in this case, the in the discard makes and the dangerous tiles).

Figure 2

chow chow chow

Next we will introduce the concept of “disaster avoidance.” Figure 2 shows a hand that has a revealed Pure Straight for a minimum of 16 points. The remaining tiles could be just about anything, and if you give up the winning tile, you’ll pay a fair price. In such cases, you should toss the safest of tiles --- tiles in that player’s discard pile, or tiles that have been very recently discarded.

Figure 2

chow chow pung

But in Figure 3, the player’s melds do not add up to 8 points. This reveals a few things about his remaining tiles. It’s impossible to create a Mixed Triple Chow or Mixed Shifted Chows with only 4 tiles left. This hand could only be All Types or Little Three Dragons. Now you know that the dangerous tiles are bamboos and honors. Although he may have Little Three Dragons, throwing a bamboo cannot result in a devastatingly large loss of points. Don’t be afraid to challenge this player with a dangerous discard if you’re sitting on a hand that scores enough points to take the risk.