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Subject: Poll: How do you play the Mah Jong Card? rss

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Craig Duncan
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I'm fairly new to Tichu and I've been trying to figure out decent Mah Jong wish strategy, e.g. in the following post:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/6971500#6971500

That post suggested some types of play. In order to get a sense of how frequent these plays are among Tichu players, I have created the following poll. (This is my first stab ever at making a BGG poll; I hope the questions are worded clearly enough to make sense!)

This poll assumes clockwise play, and it assumes you have been dealt the Mah Jong card.

Of course, Tichu is very situational, so it will be hard to answer the poll without thinking to yourself "Well, it depends on X, or it depends on Y,...." But take the poll with a grain of salt and try answering anyway! I'm not sure we'll end up with anything useful, but it can't hurt to try!


Poll: How do you use the Mah Jong card?
1. I wish for the card that I passed to my left-hand opponent
always
almost always
usually
about as often as not
occasionally
almost never
never
2. I open the round by leading with the Mah Jong card
always
almost always
usually
about as often as not
occasionally
almost never
never
3. When I play the Mah Jong in a straight, I will wish for a card
always
almost always
usually
about as often as not
occasionally
almost never
never
4. I will pass the Mah Jong card to my partner
always
almost always
usually
about as often as not
occasionally
almost never
never
5. I will wish for a mid-range card (e.g. a 6, a 7, ...) in the hope of breaking up a straight that my opponent might have
always
almost always
usually
about as often as not
occasionally
almost never
never
6. If my left-hand opponent has called Grand Tichu (or has called regular Tichu before I play the Mah Jong card), then I will wish for an Ace
always
almost always
usually
about as often as not
occasionally
almost never
never
7. I will wish for an Ace even if there has been no Tichu/Grand Tichu call.
always
almost always
usually
about as often as not
occasionally
almost never
never
      87 answers
Poll created by cdunc123
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Mark Waenink
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Quote:
When I play the Mah Jong in a straight, I will wish for a card


We have been playing by the rule that you must.

 
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Paul Beasi
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kanoe wrote:
Quote:
When I play the Mah Jong in a straight, I will wish for a card


We have been playing by the rule that you must.



Then you are playing a variant, since you need not.
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Craig Duncan
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Thanks everyone, for taking part in the poll! There were more responses than I had expected (33 at the time of this writing).

It's interesting to me to look where the majority of responses fell for each question.

-------------------------------------------

1. I wish for the card that I passed to my left-hand opponent

67% of answers were greater than or equal to USUALLY


2. I open the round by leading with the Mah Jong card

70% of answers were greater than or equal to ALMOST ALWAYS


3. When I play the Mah Jong in a straight, I will wish for a card

61% of answers were less than or equal to ABOUT AS OFTEN AS NOT


4. I will pass the Mah Jong card to my partner

88% of answers were less than or equal to OCCASIONALLY


5. I will wish for a mid-range card (e.g. a 6, a 7, ...) in the hope of breaking up a straight that my opponent might have

90% of answers were less than or equal to OCCASIONALLY


6. If my left-hand opponent has called Grand Tichu (or has called regular Tichu before I play the Mah Jong card), then I will wish for an Ace

69% of answers were greater than or equal to USUALLY (though a significant minority -- 16% -- replied ALMOST NEVER).


7. I will wish for an Ace even if there has been no Tichu/Grand Tichu call.

73% of answers were less than or equal to ALMOST NEVER.


-----------------------

Most interesting to me was the lack of any kind of pattern of play regarding making a wish when the Mah Jong is played as part of a low straight (question #3). There is a wide variance in playing style in this regard (the distribution of answers is a bit of a double humped curve, with peaks at USUALLY and ALMOST NEVER).

So I'd be interested in hearing any thoughts you might have about whether to wish or not when playing the Mah Jong in a straight. What are the pros and cons as you see it?
 
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David desJardins
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Main advantages of wishing for a card when you lead a straight are that opponents might have to play a straight they don't want to play (e.g., just part of a longer straight, or requires using the phoenix), or have to play a bomb. Main disadvantage is that your partner might have to do one of these things. But you have two opponents, only one partner. Plus you may have a decent idea how much you care about hurting your partner's hand, just from the pass.
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Craig Duncan
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Nice, concise summary. Thanks, David.
 
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Robert
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cdunc123 wrote:
6. If my left-hand opponent has called Grand Tichu (or has called regular Tichu before I play the Mah Jong card), then I will wish for an Ace
69% of answers were greater than or equal to USUALLY (though a significant minority -- 16% -- replied ALMOST NEVER).

It's a solid wish, since it wastes an ace, but on the other hand, it's usually a free lead for the grand caller, and blocks your partner getting to play a lowish card, so I'm in an undecided phase as far as effectiveness.

Quote:
Most interesting to me was the lack of any kind of pattern of play regarding making a wish when the Mah Jong is played as part of a low straight (question #3). There is a wide variance in playing style in this regard (the distribution of answers is a bit of a double humped curve, with peaks at USUALLY and ALMOST NEVER).

There are two very distinct mindsets of people: those who are afraid of hitting their partner with the wish, and those who don't want to give up the Mah Jong's power.

I'd be interested in finding out if there's any correlation between those mindsets and experience levels, but I'm not surprised opinion is spread on that question.
 
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Eugene van der Pijll
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xethair wrote:
There are two very distinct mindsets of people: those who are afraid of hitting their partner with the wish, and those who don't want to give up the Mah Jong's power.

I'd be interested in finding out if there's any correlation between those mindsets and experience levels, but I'm not surprised opinion is spread on that question.


This is a graph of how often a player wished for the card he passed to the left, as a function of his win percentage in matches on BSW. (Only for hands where the MJ was played as a single.)

There is some correlation, but not much. I'm surprised that so few people are at the bottom or the top of the graph; most players seem to have a very mixed strategy.
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Aaron Fuegi
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Fwiw, if you could, I'd eliminate probably all cases where anyone called (Grand) Tichu before the pass as this is pretty sure to influence this decision.
 
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Eugene van der Pijll
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aarondf@bu.edu wrote:
Fwiw, if you could, I'd eliminate probably all cases where anyone called (Grand) Tichu before the pass as this is pretty sure to influence this decision.

I filtered out the GTs. I forgot about the small tichus before the pass, but there aren't too many of those.

I've put the exact criteria on the description page of the image.
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Edward
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Another cool graph would be a histogram of what people pass to their opponents, and then compare that to the histogram of what people wish for.
 
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Eugene van der Pijll
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theory wrote:
Another cool graph would be a histogram of what people pass to their opponents, and then compare that to the histogram of what people wish for.

Maybe later.

In the meanwhile, here's what players do if they start with a straight containing the MJ:


On average, better players make a wish more often, but the effect is small, and dwarfed by intra-group variation.
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Alex Rockwell
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I make a wish when I play the straight, except for 2 cases:
1) I am expecting my partner to Tichu. In this case I dont because I dont want to accidentally ruin them.

2) I have Tichued, played a long straight, and I am depending on my straight to hold up. I dont want to cause my partner to have to play on it, if they happen to be able to.

 
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Sean McCarthy
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3) I know or believe that my partner has the phoenix.
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Alex Rockwell
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SevenSpirits wrote:
3) I know or believe that my partner has the phoenix.


Ah yeah, that too.
 
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Greg Jones
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For a lot of the questions on the poll, my answer is conditional on whether I am calling Tichu and whether my partner has passed me a high card. In either case I assume they are not calling Tichu, and therefore there is less damage if I make an unsafe wish and break up their hand. So I answered "usually" or "occasionally", whereas if the questions distinguished whether I expect my partner to call Tichu, I would answer with more "almost always" and "almost never".

Another one you didn't mention which I think you should is wishing for an Ace when leading a straight. Bad idea if you have an Ace of your own; if nobody beats your straight you have to lead it. But if you don't, there are a couple possible benefits. You might force an opponent's Ace-high straight, possibly shorter than they wanted to play or including the Ace when they wanted to play the straight only to the King, and keep the Ace for a single. Two, you can lead a low pair or triple or full house or stairs, and force Aces to be played that were preferred to be played as singles. I don't know of anything more satisfying in Tichu than playing a 1 straight with an Ace wish, then 22233, and your opponent being forced to play TTTAA, which your partner grabs with a higher full house. Of course it might be your partner instead who's forced to play an Ace meld, so the risks are similar to a blind wish for a single.
 
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Greg Jones
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Main advantages of wishing for a card when you lead a straight are that opponents might have to play a straight they don't want to play (e.g., just part of a longer straight, or requires using the phoenix), or have to play a bomb. Main disadvantage is that your partner might have to do one of these things. But you have two opponents, only one partner. Plus you may have a decent idea how much you care about hurting your partner's hand, just from the pass.


And one of your opponent's plays first, so even if that opponent and your partner both have straights that the wish would require them to play, only your opponent must play theirs.
 
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David desJardins
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morningstar wrote:
And one of your opponent's plays first, so even if that opponent and your partner both have straights that the wish would require them to play, only your opponent must play theirs.


That seems like it's pretty much exactly offset by the fact that your partner plays before the other opponent.
 
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Eugene van der Pijll
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DaviddesJ wrote:
That seems like it's pretty much exactly offset by the fact that your partner plays before the other opponent.

Yes.

For example, if each other player has a 20% chance of having a higher straight, the probability of hitting the player after you is 20%. For your partner, it's 16%, and for other opponent it's 12.8%. So the total probability of hurting your opponents is almost exactly twice the probability of hurting your partner.

(This assumes that you can't guess if your partner or one of the opponents has the Phoenix, and that the probabilities of having a straight are independent between players. This last assumption is wrong amusingly often, especially for 11-card or higher straights.)
 
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David desJardins
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pijll wrote:
For example, if each other player has a 20% chance of having a higher straight, the probability of hitting the player after you is 20%. For your partner, it's 16%, and for other opponent it's 12.8%. So the total probability of hurting your opponents is almost exactly twice the probability of hurting your partner.


The last sentence is wrong, because "forcing your opponent to play" isn't the same as "hurting your opponent"; they might have wanted to play anyway, in which case you didn't hurt them at all. Usually your opponents *do* want to play on your straight, while more often your partner *doesn't* want to play on your straight, which is why the ratio (probability of hurting opponents)/(probability of hurting partner) tends to come out below 2:1.
 
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Eugene van der Pijll
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Good point.
 
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David Whitehouse
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DaviddesJ wrote:

The last sentence is wrong, because "forcing your opponent to play" isn't the same as "hurting your opponent"; they might have wanted to play anyway, in which case you didn't hurt them at all. Usually your opponents *do* want to play on your straight, while more often your partner *doesn't* want to play on your straight, which is why the ratio (probability of hurting opponents)/(probability of hurting partner) tends to come out below 2:1.


I would like to mention that while this notion:

"forcing your opponent to play" isn't the same as "hurting your opponent"; they might have wanted to play anyway

is pertinent, there's room for subdivision, making it possibly insignificant.

Here's why.

To stay on the same page, let's assume you're playing 1-5, and considering a wish.

If you wish for an Ace, and pull your opp's A-T, I submit it is more likely to hurt your opponent than help. I would be interested in other's opinions. In my experience, I haven't found too many hand combinations where I am comfortable playing A-T as a straight. I need that Ace (and possibly) King to get singleton leads.

If you wish for low/middleton card, this could help too (more often than not).

If your opp has a medium 5 card straight, he was going to play it anyway. But if he has a 6/7/8+ card straight, he may very well NOT want to play it as the singletons it would leave by breaking up his bigger straight is not worth playing over your straight.

I do not pretend to state these things as fact, but I do think these things could be significant to the dialogue.

Keep in mind, all of this was presupposing you're playing 1-5 and considering a wish. If you're playing a longer straight, now perhaps DaviddefJ's point is more valid, as your opp (potentially) playing over you is less likely to break up his straight, the longer the straight is.

I'm open to thoughts of course. I'm glad I found this thread as previously I was never wishing for cards when playing straights, for fear I would pull my opponent's straight. I'm still not sure, but I'm starting to see situations where it could help - especially pulling an opp's A-T - which seems to me like it could be really debilitating to his hand.
 
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