Saki too moe? Try Akagi

Posted by meronpan on June 3, 2009

I’m waiting for this spurt of mahjong interest to wear off, but in the meantime I’m still obsessed ^^;  As such, here’s a post about 2 things – Akagi and a closer look at the scoring rules.  First off, Akagi.


Those looking for oppai, pettanko, nekomimi, bishoujo or whatever other moe need not apply.  We’re talking about old men, yakuza, gambling, thugs, and life & death situations mixed in with mahjong.

If that whets your appetite, I think you’ll be very pleased with the offerings of this series.  Focusing very heavily on the actual game play, I take back anything I ever said about Saki having a decent amount of mahjong play in it ^^;  Here we’ve got lots of strategy revolving around the opponents’ psyche, discarded tiles, choosing which tile to discard to maximize your potential waits without dealing into a ron… good stuff ^^


For a rough spoiler free overview, lessee… Basically it’s the story of Akagi, a young boy whose mahjong prowess exceeds all logic, and his epic matches against opponents ranging from yakuza thugs to insane billionaires.  If you like dark heroes, akagi may be up your alley.

I happened upon the series when the saki + akagi mashup videos started turning up on niconico ^^;  Glad I followed up and watched.  The series did seem to peter out towards the end (got a bit long winded and drawn out feeling) but overall a nice 26 episode offering for mahjong lovers.

If you happen upon a subbed version, the explanatory notes will likely be very useful… there’s a lot of jargon non-mahjong players will need to learn.


I don’t think there’s a single female character in the show ^^;  Just a buncha old dudes with prominently drawn noses.

The show comes from a manga, which I actually picked up over the weekend.


So!  If you love mahjong, check it out!  aaand, now onto some more details regarding the Japanese rules.

役 (yaku)

So assuming you know what constitutes a valid hand, now you need to know how to make your hand worth more points.  To do that, you need to make a yaku – a winning hand.

Yaku are worth 飜 (han) – the more  han, the more points, but the more difficult to create.  You can combine different types of yaku to get more han.  Covered in the last post, you already know one type of yaku – riichi.  When you declare riichi, your hand gains 1 han.

You can combine types of yaku to raise the amount of han your hand is worth.  For example (following images from wikipedia):

toitoiToitoi – everything in your hand is a 3 of a kind (excluding the necessary pair).  2 han, open or closed (open means you took an opponents’ discard to complete one of the three of a kinds (unless it was a ron)).


Sanankou – your hand contains three closed three of a kinds.  The fourth meld can be a run of 3 or three of a kind, and can be open.  2 han.

So now, let’s say you were working on a sanankou and had an open 3 of a kind for the 4th meld.  Then you’d have both toitoi and sanankou – and you get the hand values for both.  Now your hand is worth 4 han.  If you were able to declare riichi, it would normally add an additional han for 5.  However in this case, to declare riichi your hand would need to be closed… which would mean 4 concealed triplets… which would mean a yakuman (covered later, worth a lot more points) ^^;


There’s a ton of different hands worth anywhere from 1 to 6 han, and special hands worth even more.  Some of the yaku not based on hand composition include (ah quick note, I’m using the abbreviated names in this post):

自摸 – tsumo – on a closed hand, if you self draw your winning tile.  1 han.

一発 – ippatsu – when you obtain your winning tile within 1 round of declaring riichi (can be through ron or tsumo).  1 han.

海底 – haitei – when the winning tile is obtained from/after the last tile is drawn (after that, play would end for the round). 1 han.

嶺上 – rinshan – when you win from the extra tile drawn from a kan.  1 han.  Seems like saki’s favorite move :P

Some other common yaku (often combined with other yaku to make higher scoring hands):

tanyao断么 – tan’yao – all simples.  That is, no 1 or 9 tiles.  1 han.

tanyao dora

tanyao dora

(in the above shot, I believe the dora tile was 4 bamboo, hence the 5 bamboo in her hand gets the dora bonus.  see the next section for info on dora)

iipeikou一盃口 – iipeikou – two identical sequences.  This hand must be closed. 1 han.  In the above example, it’s the 3,3-4,4-5,5 (the first 6 tiles)

pinfu平和 – pinfu – all sequences.  This hand must be closed.  Also, it can’t be worth any fu points – so the pair can’t be a special tile, and you must be have a two-sided wait (i.e. a 3-4 waiting on 2 or 5.  Or a 6-7 waiting on 5 or 8.  Not valid if it was 1-2 and you needed 3 or 8-9 and you needed 7, nor 4-6 waiting on a 5.  It follows that you can’t be waiting to complete your pair either).  Pretty complicated for a crappy 1 han value ^^;;  Yet it’s definitely not as hard as it sounds, hence to low score.

It may seem like a lot, but if you watch/play/read enough you’ll get used to them.  Here’s a full list at wikipedia.  Oh yes, though before going on, I should mention chiitoi – it’s a special hand that breaks the regular rules – made up of 7 pairs.  Worth 2 han, it has it’s own special fu calculation, but I’ll leave that to you if you’re interested ^^;

ドラ (dora)

Dora play a big role in Japanese rules because they can be worth a ton of points.  I guess it makes sense because the Japanese rules are sometimes referred to as riichi/dora.

The dora tile is a tile that’s flipped over at the start of the round, as seen in the screenshot below (the green dragon & 4 dot).  If you hold the successor to the tile that is flipped over, each one you have in your hand adds 1 han.  So for example if you have a 7 dot dora, every 8 dot tile in your hand will give you an extra han.  If the dora tile is a 9, the successor is 1.  Winds go in clockwise order, dragons are white -> green -> red -> white

nodoka absentmindedly discards a chun which gets picked up (note dora tiles face up in the wall)

nodoka absentmindedly discards a chun which gets picked up (note dora tiles face up in the wall)

Add in the fact that you can have multiple dora tiles and you can see how your hand can quickly gain a large number of points.  Multiple dora tiles can be created by two things (that I know of ^^;)

-When the winning player had declared riichi.  When this happens the tile sitting underneath the dora tile becomes a new dora.  Only revealed after the round is over.

-When any player declares a kan a new dora tile is flipped over.  Therefore if someone makes a kan and the winner had riichi, now there will be 4 dora tiles (2 + the 2 underneath).  Because of this, you want to avoid making kans (and hence more doras) if you don’t think you’ll be able to win the round.

Calculating Points

So you’ve figured out your han value, now how do you start spewing out those seemingly random numbers at your opponents?  Unfortunately there’s another item to deal with first.  When your hand is worth 4 han or less, you must calculate 符 (fu).  Fu are another type of points with their own set of rules (yes, I know, whoever came up with this system was insane).  For example:

20 points for having a winning hand (i.e. you always get this)
10 points for winning by ron when your hand was closed
2 points for any dragon tile pair
2 points for any wind pair that matches your seat or the round (if your seat & round wind are the same, 4 points)
32 points for each closed 4 of a kind
4 points for an open 3 of a kind
0 points for a sequence

etc. (refer to a full list here)

Sooooo, now just apply the formula:

fu * 2 ^(2 + han)

So for 30 fu and a 3 han hand:

30 * 2 ^ (2 + 3) = 30 * 2 ^ (5) = 30 * 32 = 960

This is the value of your hand (let’s call it HV for short), which is then modified to determine how much the other players owe you.  Unfortunately even that is complicated:

-When you win by ron, the person that discarded the tile pays everything.  If the winner was the dealer, this value is 6HV, if the winner was not the dealer, it is 4HV.
-When you win by tsumo, the dealer has to pay more than everyone else.  Assuming the winner was not the dealer, everyone pays 1HV, and the dealer pays 2HV.  If the winner was the dealer, everyone pays the same amount, but they have to pay more than usual, 2HV.
-For a quick reference, the total amount  of points the winner receives will be approximately 6HV (dealer) or 4HV (non-dealer)

So without getting bogged down in the details, if you’re just trying to understand what’s going on, some key points are:

-When you’re the dealer, your wins are worth more
-Dealing into a ron means you have to pay that person a lot more points than if they had won by tsumo.
-When a non-dealer wins by tsumo, the dealer has to pay more than usual.

You might be wondering, how the heck do regular people play this game?  Well, they memorize the following table.  (taken from wikipedia.  sorry it may go off your screen if your resolution isn’t high enough):

Dealer Non-dealer
4 3 2 1 Han/
1 2 3 4
N/A 20 20 N/A 1300
11 600
30 30 1000
Mangan 7700
40 40 1300
Mangan 9600
50 50 1600
Mangan 11 600
60 60 2000
Mangan Mangan 6800
70 70 2300
Mangan Mangan

Dealer and Non-dealer refers to the person that won the hand.

The number on top is the value paid if it was a ron.

The numbers on bottom refer to how much each player pays in the event of a tsumo.  If there are two numbers, it’s non-dealer/dealer (which is why there’s only one number on bottom on the dealer side).  You can see the dealer pays about twice the amount of a non-dealer when it’s a non-dealer tsumo.

So for an example, let’s say you’re the dealer and you win with a tsumo, 50 fu, 1 han hand.  That corresponds to 2400 (800) in the table.  Since it was a tsumo, ignore the top number – everyone pays you the bottom number (800 a piece).  Now let’s say you’re not the dealer, and you win by tsumo, 40 fu, 3 han.  That’s 5200 (1300/2600) in the table.  Since it was a tsumo we look at (1300/2600) – the two other people who weren’t the dealer pay you 1300, and the dealer pays you 2600.

A version of this table is in saki ep 1…


The non-dealer section is on top, and the fu rows are divided in two – ron on top and tsumo on bottom.  Err here’s all the characters on the chart:

子 – non-dealer (lit. child)
親 – dealer (lit. parent)
飜 – han
府 – fu
跳満 – haneman (see below)
倍満 – baiman (see below)
ロン – ron
ツモ – tsumo

Still with me? You must really love mahjong! High five! *ahem* continuing on… (what, aren’t you curious about mangan? :P)

Mangan and Beyond

When the hand value is greater than 2000, you don’t have to worry about that table.  At this point you have at least a mangan hand.  The hand value is fixed at the limit — 2,000.  Using the rules from above, that means that if you discard into a dealer’s ron, you’re gonna pay 6HV = 6 * 2000 = 12,000. (non-dealer ron would be 4HV = 8,000)

To makes things more fun, it doesn’t stop there:

跳満 – haneman – 6-7 han – HV = 3000, so total points = 18,000/12,000 (dealer/non-dealer)

倍満 – baiman – 8-10 han – HV = 4000, payout of 24,000/16,000

3倍満 – sanbaiman – 11-12 han – HV = 6000, payout of 36,000/24,000

役満 – yakuman – special hands or 13+ han – HV = 8000, payout of 48,000/32,000

Remember, to calculate the actual payments for each player:

non-dealer tsumo: 1 HV for non-dealer, 2HV for dealer
dealer tsumo: 2HV for all
non-dealer ron: 4HV
dealer ron: 6HV


These are the neat rare hands as mentioned above.  They are worth the most points (and some are even worth double this amount).

Here’s a couple examples:

kokushi musou

国士無双 – kokushi musou – 1 & 9 from the three suits, one of each wind, one of each dragon, and a final tile that matches any to make the pair.  kokushi – distinguished person, musou – peerless, unparalleled.  If you complete the set and are only waiting on the pair to win, it’s a double yakuman.  Also referred to as the 13 orphans.


大四喜 – dai suu shii – 3 of a kind of all of the winds.  Double yakuman.  There’s a slightly easier version of this where you have 3 of a kind of 3 winds and a pair of the 4th.  That one is ‘only’ worth one yakuman.

There are many others like 3 of a kind of all the dragons (dai sangen) or 4 concealed triplets (suu ankou).

Regular games start each player at around 25,000 points or so, so you can see how these hands can easily turn the tides, or even end a session if realized by a ron (the session will end immediately if any player goes below 0 points)… which brings me to our next topic:

Final Score

So let’s say we’ve played through an entire session and we’ve got scores for everyone… what does that have to do with the much smaller numbers you may have seen? (i.e. +23, -5, +13, +/- 0 etc)  We’ve got yet ANOTHER scoring system on our hands.  Time to play a conversion game:

  1. Subtract 30,000 from your score
  2. If you won the round, add (30,000 – starting points) * 4 to that value.  Since starting points are generally 25,000, it’s 5,000 * 4 = 20,000.
  3. Divide by 1,000
  4. Sometimes there’s a bonus applied (i.e. a 10/5 spread would be +10 to 1st place, +5 to 2nd, -5 for 3rd, and -10 to forth)
  5. Convert the final numbers to money. (i.e. $1, $5, $100, etc. per point)

So now the following saki screenshot should make sense:

point tally

Let’s look at saki’s score:

-30,000 = 11,700 -> 12,000 (round)
+20,000 (first place) = 32,000
/ 1,000 = 32

woo hoo!  See!  Method to the madness.  One more for fun, let’s look at poor yuuki:

-30,000 = -29,600 -> -30,000
yuuki didn’t win, so we don’t add anything
/ 1,000 = -30

Now you can see why saki’s ability to get puramai (plus minus) zero session after session is amazing.  She purposely gets the hands whose point values will ensure that she ends up at 30,000.  (30,000 – 30,000 = 0, 0/1,000 = 0 final score).

Again… this is all just what I’ve learned as a beginner and not an official report by a pro, so if you see mistakes, please let me know ^^;


Wikipedia – Japanese Mahjong Scoring Rules and Japanese Mahjong Yaku

Japanese Mahjong Scoring

Sloperama – Why wouldn’t the computer let me declare mahjong?



12 Responses to “Saki too moe? Try Akagi”

  1. 0rion said

    Ha, you think the anime was drawn out? The Akagi mahjong is still ongoing, you know. Poor Akagi was in the Washizu mansion for like, 7 or 8 years worth of publication.

    Glad the series has earned itself a new convert, though. Every, mahjong fan or otherwise, should give Akagi a shot. While understanding the rules is helpful, it’s not necessary for just enjoying the series. =3

    • meronpan said

      i assume you mean the manga? yeah, noticed it was ongoing while looking into things, but wholllly crap the manga made that match uber long also?! personally that match was the least favorite of mine because it was so insane. they make it pretty clear how insane washizu is from the get go… then just beat it over your head over and over and over…. -_-;; all the preceding matches had such better pacing imo. perhaps i won’t follow the manga to completion after all ^^;;

      ah well, still a good series overall ^^

  2. phossil said

    is it possible to cheat in mahjong, like in poker for example??

    • meronpan said

      yeah, totally. there’s this one famous guy – 桜井 章一 (sakurai shouichi) who’s in some crazy vids on niconico demonstrating techniques.

      tsumikomi (i think?) is the technique of building up the wall so that you are dealt incredibly good hands. or so that you can use slight of hand tricks to substitute out tiles from the wall into your hand.  …or another technique involves swapping out your entire hand with something from the wall ^^; here’s the link if you have a niconico account

      the wall building ones can be avoided with automatic shuffling tables, but the switching up tiles already on the table depends on how vigilant your fellow players are :P

  3. Panther said

    Riichii mahjong sure is more confusing than normal convention international casual mahjong. They add too many things at once. But most of the scoring points and the types of winning hands are the same. I just play among friends so skip the points part and the dora and anything else to do with riichi mahjong.

    Most of the rules and everything else are the same so it is easy to grasp the rest of it once you are exposed like this to the riichi rules, but I sure as hell will not play by them lol.

    • meronpan said

      yeah, given the complexity of the japanese rules i’m not surprised the game is losing popularity (or was)… how the heck are you supposed to attract new players with rules like that? ^^;

      once you do understand all the rules, i think the complexity helps add to the strategy and make the game interesting. i suppose most will stick with simpler rules/rules they’re familiar with thou ^^;

  4. Oo more Mahjong rules. Thanks so much for writing these, now I don’t have to look them up myself!

  5. Nopy said

    Wow, there’s so many rules. Maybe it’ll be easier for me to learn if I watch Akagi?

  6. Aly-chan said

    Actually, the 2 fu for dragons and seat/prevalent winds only applies to pairs. Pons and kans of these tiles only give you fu for being a triplet or a quad of an honor tile.

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