Today’s episode is very special! Our guest is Scott Miller – a well known Mahjong writer & player. Scott’s website:
Just in case someone doesn’t know it yet (yeah, right xD)….
1. How did you start playing Riichi?
I came across Riichi Mahjong by chance, restoring an old arcade cabinet from the 80s that played it. After getting it working and playing it, the game had me hooked, so I did some more research on the game and there began my new hobby of mahjong.
2. What do you like the most about it?
I like Riichi Mahjong as a thinking person’s game. More than just collecting a winning hand before your opponents do, there’s something elegant about throwing away what could have been a winning hand, and having that be what is the path to winning the game overall. Each hand then becomes like an individual chess piece; some are sacrificed to mobilize others to victory.
3. How often do you play?
I play live about once a week with friends, and usually manage to squeeze in at least one game online everyday, not to mention the occasional binge.
4. Online or live Mahjong – which one do you prefer and why?
I prefer to play live, because that is the essence of game playing, getting together with others to socialize, interact, compete, and enjoy their company. Online play began as a way to simulate the live experience when live play wasn’t feasible, so in my mind, it will always come as secondary. Plus, online platforms prompt players too much, where they might not otherwise have noticed that a particular discard is a winning tile, and they also don’t allow for human error, like calling for a winning tile while furiten.
5. How do you practice/learn strategy & theory?
When I first started in Mahjong, there weren’t many resources readily available at the time, so I began mostly by self discovery. Over time, I was able to amass a decent collection of articles and books, as well as make more international friends who were invaluable in teaching me how to better my game.
6. Favorite Yakuman?
My favorite Yakuman is the Kazoe (counted) Yakuman, because that one, unlike most of the other others, which come more as a matter of luck, is a yakuman you can intentionally, purposefully, build. When you win with a kazoe yakuman, there is a great sense of satisfaction when looking at the hand and realizing you built that, one Fan at a time.
7. Any tournament achievements?
The first time I hit a Yakuman during an official tournament was during the 2014 Tile Boss Riichi tournaments in Amarillo, Texas, winning with a Shousuushii (Little Four Winds), later going on to take top in points for the tournament. I didn’t take first place for this competition because I recused myself from placing, since I was the tournament organizer, deferring to let others take the honors and trophies. The second time I hit a Yakuman during a tournament was during the 2016 Pacific Mahjong League tournament in San Francisco, finishing a hand with Suu Ankou (Four Concealed Pungs), and finishing the tournament as one of the top finalists. As far as the most adventurous tournament achievement, that would be my trip to Chengdu to represent the United States in the World Mahjong Champions League Tournament in 2016, meeting the author of the Chinese official rules of mahjong Mr. Xiaoquan Xing, which was a great honor. The same can be said of the privilege I enjoyed sitting at the mahjong table with the first Wolrd Riichi Champion Mr. Hiroshi Yamai, and the President of the Japanese Professional Mahjong League Mr. Shigekazu Moriyama, during my off-time while refereeing for the inaugural World Riichi Championship in Paris, 2014.
8. Biggest Mahjong related dream?
Considering most of my Mahjong adventures require lots of planning and logistics, rather it’s trying to coordinate all the complicated schedules of my local playing base to get everyone in one place at the same time, or having to coordinate air-travel, hotels, and vacation time to meet in places across the country like New York or California, or even to places even further away like Nepal, China, or Europe, my biggest Mahjong related dream would be to be able to walk down the street and, on a whim, casually enter a crowded Mahjong parlor, and play a perfectly spontaneous pick-up game in my own neighborhood. That would be a dream.
9. Quick tip for Mahjong beginners?
For beginners, the best tip is just to play lots of practice games, even if just against an AI in a simple flash program. Lots and lots of games.
Thank you, Scott Miller! That was a really great read 🙂
May Yakuman be with you!