Digital vs. Occult
- Created on Saturday, 08 May 2010 07:05
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 18:00
- Written by Björn Schulz
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What kind of mahjong player are you? German player Björn Schulz about tide in mahjong. 'What makes the older Japanese players believe in “tsuki”? Is it a lack of appreciation of statistics and probabilities or a weakness for the unknown?'
In Riichi Mahjong there are two types of styles. Digital is the mathematic one, playing with statistics and probabilities. Occult means believing in luck or the flow of the game, in Japanese called “nagare” or “tsuki”. There is one translation I really like: tide. The tide is rising and ebbing, like a game of mahjong. Sometimes you have luck and everything is going in your favour, but sometimes you have bad luck and nothing works the way it should. Which leads me to the question, what kind of player are you?
We can´t deny the fact luck is involved in mahjong. But how does it affect your kind of play?
First let’s get back to the Japanese players. Older pros often tend to be occult players, which means, taking decisions pending on their current state of luck. So when they have a winning streak, they use “nagare” to base their following strategy on it. They riichi with bad waits, like 4+6 for the 5, because they are lucky and believe this 5 will come now!
On the other hand there are the young guns playing with probabilities, laughing about the elder ones, because of their “nagare” decisions. Luck is involved in mahjong but over the long term it generally evens out.
So what makes the older Japanese players believe in “tsuki”? Is it a lack of appreciation of statistics and probabilities or a weakness for the unknown?
Maybe we should have a short look at poker. Strong players use probability and mathematics to base their decisions on, because like said before, luck evens out. Does that mean, digital is better then occult? Professional poker players earn a lot of money, so they have to be right, haven’t they? Logically everybody has to admit that, but why is there a concept of “nagare” with so many followers?
Let’s see an example:
You are in luck-mode, everything you do works fine. You are in the lead, now you make a small mistake and another player benefits from that. You're saying to yourself: Oh, just a small mistake, no problem with giving away those 2,000 points. I am still in a comfortable lead. But now IT happens. While trying to win the next hand it is getting even worse. The downward slide begins.
In this example, I guess everybody knows, IT is “tsuki”. Because you made the mistake, you lost “tsuki”. So we can consider there is something like special luck in mahjong. Does that mean you used up all your luck and you are destined to lose?
So when you are making decisions based on this, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. So what to do? Playing with probabilities! Okay, the higher the probability, the higher the chance to get that needed tile. Then you discard a certain tile and draw this one two times in a row. What are the probabilities for that??? It happens…
I personally think I’m neither digital nor occult. Maybe I should call myself a “digicult” player. If I’m lucky I try to use “nagare” to my vantage. But when it is gone I don’t force myself to get it back. So I return to good old probabilities and try to finish the game as good as I can.
My conclusion is: Listen to the flow of the game, but don’t forget to listen to your head!!!
So what kind of player are you???
Björn Schulz is a riichi mahjong player and lives in Germany. He is one of the organizers of the second European Riichi Mahjong Championship, coming summer in Hanover, Germany.