Play-by-Play: Playing the Dora

It was the IORMC recently, and I have taken a hand from one of their games to review. It’s anonymized so feel free to pretend it had nothing to do with you. I liked the conditions of the hand. It’s not an uncommon scenario.

I didn’t check the results. I watched and noted down my thoughts directly into WordPress so it’s a little bit of a stream of consciousness. But it’s a good exercise for me to review whether my instincts are correct or not. Comments are on!

South 2. We’re not at the end of the game, but we are approaching it.

A has lost their second dealership unfortunately for them as they’re in fourth, but it’s not a low fourth. Turning this around is not impossible, and 3rd (Player B) is very close. Player B is the dealer so A needs to decide in the next 4-6 draws whether this is a hand worth pushing for or if it should be played safe. Initial draw isn’t a firm conclusion either way so wait and see.

B is in 3rd but 1st and 2nd are achievable. Draw is excellent, very close to tempai. Player B is also dealer so they will want to capitalize on this chance.

C is 2nd but ridiculously close to 1st. Player C does have a dealership ready but so does their closest rival in Player D. This isn’t a great starting draw. One red five and some nice shapes but a lot of shrapnel. Depending on how the hand plays out, they may want to take the chance that next hand (their dealership) will offer a better initial draw.

D is 1st but not comfortable at all. In a very similar position to Player C. Both are looking for the right point to strike. Player D does already have two dora in their hand, but that is balanced out against some awkward shapes and isolated tiles.

The advantage for both Player C and D is that there is still time in this game for them to consider whether this is the hand for them to do that on.

I love this play from Player D. That dora is going to be a pair. There’s no way they’re going to throw one if they draw an 8s and so they lock it in early. Retaining the South and Red could prove fruitful if they can collect another of either. There is an argument to clear out the East sooner rather than later but it’s still early days. I feel this is a nice strong play.

Player B is obviously reluctant to throw their East and a potential han so opts to clear out an edge wait. This is the sort of thing I would like to do. Either you manage to collect another East or, because it’s only of value to you, it could likely form a safe tile later.

Some unfortunate draws have happened for Player D. The 9p? What do we all think about that? I’m pro discarding that 9p. The head is already locked in as the 7s. Even if you collect another 7s, you can easily make those 8p a group of their own right and find another pair, or discard an 8p. Holding on to that 9p could have resulted in a very ugly wait. Consider:


You’re waiting on the 8p–three of which are in your hand! Or the 7s–the dora–which is unlikely to be thrown by another player. I think Player D is thinking to the future and planning their wait. Love that.

Player A has gotten stuck in a rut. I’d be close to considering this hand a fold, unless they can draw something good very, very soon.

Player B is just one away from ready. If that Green comes out, they should call and sit pretty for the win.

Player C is progressing slowly, but hopefully keeping a close eye on the table for signs that they should be taking a more defensive position.

Easy one, really for Player B. Takes the two-sided wait. If the other players are reading the discards, the 1m, 4m look dangerous, but this quickly in the hand and with so many draws, does it matter for East? Even if players go safe, they could very well draw it and if they don’t, everyone’s folded and they get to stay East.

This is the point where Players C, D, and A need to think about if they want to proceed with their hands. East is likely in tempai or one away at worst. Player C hasn’t really retained any safe tiles (apart from the 3p) so they may have to drive at it even if they don’t want to.

Player D can fold with those 8p. BUT They do have two dora still. A quick tempai is rarely an expensive tempai so Player D needs to balance risk with reward. They could discard the South and the Red. Or perhaps discard two 8p and risk a 78p wait in furiten (and four tiles of that wait already out of the game). If I were Player D, I would probably discard the honors.

Player A… Probably stuck with that 56s wait and a hope of a flush is gone. The bamboos look like too much of a risky throw on this table. They can discard those 9m, staying safe, and perhaps manoeuvring for a tanyao, pinfu…

These players are FAR braver than I. That 5p from Player A made me audibly wince. It has one shoulder suji of the 8p out and that is it. A central tile after a call like that is a bold move. I guess Player A has decided that if they can get this into a high scoring hand, it’s worth the risk of dealing in to their nearest competitor. But they don’t even know where the dora are… I think if this wasn’t their nearest competitor in a dealership, I may agree with the attitude. But this is a risky move, if you throw in, you’ve put them further from you.

Player C’s 8s throw was equally terrifying. The bamboo suit look fairly hot on this table and it’s right next to the conspicuously absent dora Perhaps they’ve judged that the player isn’t in tempai. Perhaps they’ve seen Player B play before and have some feeling I don’t have from this one hand. But Player C has a reason to push with two dora, tanyao and a potential riichi. This hand COULD secure them the first place so they must have judged that it was a risk worth taking.

Player D has thrown the 7p. I stared at this for a while. The South and the Red are potentially dangerous on all players and the South is double han for their nearest competitor (Player C) so holding onto them to wait for some more information is probably smart. 7p isn’t safe as such but looking at what is discarded, it’s safer than the 8s (before that 5s came down).

Now it really is Player A vs Player B. Player A has riichi, pinfu, ippeiko, and a potential dora. It’s certainly not a bad situation to be in, and calling riichi with a dragon throw is sublime.

And this is what I like about these types of hands; Riichi is a four player game, but every few hands or so, you have one of these breakout skirmishes between two players. Player B is unlikely to change direction and Player A is locked in even if they did want to change direction now.

Player C has been watching the table closely and visibly reacts to the riichi (in their discard pool) and decides to avoid an ippatsu and dance around while trying to keep themselves close to tempai.

These last few turns have been a gift to Player D. Not only have two safe tiles been revealed, but they have had some stonking draws.

Player B continues as they were with some lucky insta-discard safe tiles.

This is just a thing of true beauty. Not only has Player D upgraded a regular five for a red one, but they’ve also snatched anther dora!

So the question: Do we riichi?

It’s tricky.

Throw the 3m and you’re waiting on the 14s. With the 1s, you have no yaku so you could only tsumo. With the 4s, you have tanyao and could take a ron win as well.

There is already a riichi on the table and Player B hasn’t changed direction (possibly unlikely to!). A riichi would only be worth it to put pressure on Player C who looks like they may be trying to dodge the Player A riichi already.

We know no one else has the dora because Player D has all of them… Perhaps none of these other tempai are expensive or they’re hoping for a dora to boost their value? In which case, risking it all with a riichi for the four dora is worth it.

The other consideration is that Player D could lock in tanyao if they don’t riichi; if a 2m is thrown, call it and sit with a terrible (but movable) wait or perhaps even draw into another pair themselves.

I’m not entirely confident what I would do. I see merit in both riichi and dama. I think I would riichi, and not only because I like chasing riichi. Player C might fold against me, plus I think that either Player A or B could oblige me. Player B has not played safe since Player A’s riichi and I’m not sure they will even with my riichi call on the table.

Player D decides not to riichi…

Prediction proved right! Player B did oblige even without been locked into a riichi themselves. Would they have done the same if Player D had called riichi? I think they likely would. They’re East so naturally pushing. They’ve opened the hand, giving themselves less tiles to work with, and not flinched at the other riichi.

Player D gets a very tidy mangan and pushes themselves into a far more comfortable 1st place. This will lock the battle into two halves further for the next hand of this table. Player C vying for Player D’s place, and Player A and Player B fighting over third.

[Update 21st December 2019: Corrected 9p->9m in Player A’s hand. Thank you, John of the comments!

Update 24th December 2019: Corrected “…Players B, D, and A…” to “…Players C, D, and A…” Thanks Tinecro!]

6 Responses

  1. Vinnie says:

    Very interesting. Do you feel that head bump being in effect changes the decision at all. Dさん Is the left most player of all the tenpai.

    • Gemma says:

      Thanks for the question!

      If head bump was in effect here, I don’t think it would alter the decision for me. Considering headbump is generally more for defense rather than offense. Having decided to riichi against one definitely tempai and one likely tempai, I’m already all-in. Or at least I can’t think of a mechanism in which it would impact my decision!

  2. John says:

    “Player A… Probably stuck with that 56s wait and a hope of a flush is gone. The bamboos look like too much of a risky throw on this table. They can discard those 9p, staying safe, and perhaps manoeuvring for a tanyao, pinfu…”

    Shouldn’t 9p be 9m?

    • Gemma says:

      Hi John! Quite true! Many thanks for catching that and editing… Gem

  3. Tinecro says:

    What is it that makes you think that East is close to tenpai after the Green pon? The discards East, 3p and then 3m? A single call stills seems a bit far from tenpai to me, especially a dragon as East player.
    But I would be wary of a high value hand, would it involve a dora, more value tiles or/and a half flush, so from the point of view of D keeping these South and Red makes a lot of sense to me (until they’re discarded by A).

    In the same way, that 5p also doesn’t seem that dangerous, and probably not involved in an expensive hand (also these 3p and 8p discard makes it quite safe I think, beside toitoi maybe). I don’t know about the 8s. I wouldn’t assume East is tenpai but taking C’s hand as one away from tenpai it means the red 5m is probably going and taking it as two away wouldn’t justify the 8s push…

    Regarding the riichi, I think given the situation, if I were to push something like 3m then I’d want to riichi to make it worth. I am not sure how to estimate how much risk you take because you see these four dora but I think you want the best return on the risk taking. Also, I wouldn’t expect B or C to discard a 4s so I think riichi increases your chance of winning.

    Also, where you wrote “…Players B, D, and A need to think about…” I assume you meant C, D and A?

    • Gemma says:

      So this may be where JPML training may lead me on a merry dance… You tend not to get players opening their hands in the spheres I play with unless: it takes them to tempai, 1-shanten, they have a high scoring hand, or it incorporates a dora. (Of course, someone is always breaking those rules but non-brilliant pros like myself try to stick to those rules!)

      That said, online I do see more aggressive play so perhaps it’s not a great rule of thumb here. It’s a good opportunity perhaps to check my own echo chamber (tsumo chamber?).

      I can definitely see the argument for holding those honors. I wouldn’t throw a bamboo into it but I think with that fast East throw (a double value), it’s very unlikely to be a flush hand.

      That 5p would have felt very dangerous to myself. If the player held a 334p, they would discard the 1p early (as they have) and then throw a 3p out later (that second 3p is a tsumogiri but it’s not worth discounting for that alone). That would mean a wait for the 2-5 and I don’t see anything on the table that discounts that. The 5p is certainly not safe in a situation that Player A could have stayed safe and I’m not sure this is a hand I’d have pushed personally.

      And yes! Thank you for the correction. I’ve fixed the text.

      Thanks so much for the comment and making me think some more! 🙂