The Winds & "the Oya"
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Building a Hand - The Basics
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The Winds and the Oya
Table WindA game of mahjong is divided into rounds. One Wind is predominant for each round of play and is called the Table Wind. The round continues until each player has had a turn as the Oya or "Parent" player. When every player has completed a turn as Oya a new round of play commences and another Wind is allocated "Table Wind". The choice of Table Wind is not random but follows in sequence:
Establishing the OyaDuring the course of a round of Mahjong each player has a turn as the Oya, or Parent Player. The role of Oya (Senior Player, a.k.a. Parent, Eldest Player, Table Boss, Teacher according to your whim) is important because the Oya always starts the round and opens play. Moreover, the Oya winss a 50% Bonus each time he completes a hand.
After the walls have been built the player in the temporary-East seat rolls a die and, starting with himself, he counts round anticlockwise from player to player. The selected player rolls the die again and repeats the procedure. This time, the selected player becomes the Oya.
Allocating the WindsThe Oya is always allocated the East Wind.
The player to the right of the Oya is allocated the South Wind, and the third player is allocated the West Wind. These players continue to play under the Winds that were allotted to them until the Oya changes.
Double WindsIn any given round of play one player will be allotted the same Wind as the current Table Wind. In that case he is referred to as "Double East" or "Double South" (or "Double West") and if he collects a set of this particular Wind it is counted twice in the scoring.
Changing the OyaWhen a Ko, or Junior Player (i.e. one of the players who is not the Oya), completes a hand the role of Oya passes to the right.
In hands with no winner during the East round, the current Oya may retain his role of Oya only if he is Tenpai - waiting for one more tile to go out - or if no player is Tenpai. Otherwise the role of Oya passes to the right.
However, in the South round of play the procedure is slightly different. The role of Oya only passes to the next player when a Ko player completes a hand. In other words, when nobody is able to complete a hand the current Oya retains his role as Oya even if his hand was No-Tenpai.1 The same applies if a West round is played. In other words, the East round is always stricter on the Oya than the other rounds.
Changing the Allocated WindsWhen there is a change of Oya the Winds change accordingly:
The Tachioya (Starting Boss) and the East/South TesseraThe first player to become Oya is referred to more correctly as "Tachioya", or "Starting Boss", because he opens the first round of play which continues until all the players have received and lost the title of Oya.
The Tachioya takes the plastic tessera with East on one side and South on the other and places it to his right in the corner of the table with East upwards. This indicates that the Table Wind is East.
The tessera also serves to indicate who the Tachioya is and where play started. It remains in that same corner of the table for the duration of the game (i.e. for all three rounds). This is because the Tachioya of the East Round will also be the first Oya for the South and the West rounds of the game.
At the beginning of the South round the Oya turns over the East/South tessera so that the South side is uppermost.
At the beginning of the West round the Oya turns over the East/South tessera so that the East side is uppermost. It is to be hoped that the players will remember that they have already played the East and the South round and that therefore they are in the West round.
Breaking the WallThe Oya rolls the die to determine which wall is to be broken and where in the wall the break is to be made. Beginning with himself, the Oya counts round each player anticlockwise according to the number on the die to arrive at the player whose wall is to be broken. That player then breaks his wall by countingfrom the right-hand end of his wall leftwards, tile by tile according to the number shown on the die which the Oya threw to the to arrive at the point where the break is to be made and makes a break in the wall by separating the counted tiles from the ones further to the left that were not counted. (Point "C" in the photo below.)
In the photo above, the Oya has thrown a 4 (A). Beginning with himself he counts round, anticlockwise four places, East-South-West-East. As the count came back around to the Oya (the East player), he breaks the East wall (the one in front of him, i.e. the one that he built).
As he threw a 4 (A), the Oya now counts four tiles (B) in from the right hand end of the East Wall (the East/South corner) and makes a small gap in the wall so as to separate the fourth from the fifth tile.
(C) Finally, the Oya counts back five anti-clockwise from the gap he has made in the wall and turns over the fifth tile - i.e. the end tile on the South wall in this example - so that it is face up in the wall.
The tile that the Oya turns over is the Mekuri-pai. It indicates which tile will be the extra Bonus tile (Dora) for the game. In the Three-Player game the Mekuri Pai is always the fifth tile back from the break in the wall. It indicates which tile is to be the Bonus tile.