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Almost a year ago, I wrote about how glad I finally was to achieve a San An Kou, or Three Concealed Triples, in mahjong. It is a hand where you manage to draw three sets of 3-of-a-kinds all on your own. When I first got the San An Kou, it felt like an eternity before I was able to achieve one. What I didn’t know was that getting its beefier older sibling would take a lot longer.
This is Suu An Kou, or Four Concealed Triples, and is highlighted in Saki episode 10, where perennial newbie Senoo Kaori mistakenly refers to it as a “Riichi Tsumo Toi Toi (All Pungs as the subs put it),”a hand which would be worth significantly less if you took her words literally. Like the Kokushi Musou and the Sho Suushi, it is a Yakuman and therefore one of the strongest hands in mahjong, possessing enough killing power to end the game in one shot. It is also significantly more powerful than the San An Kou, and to give you a basic idea of the sheer disparity, you could get six San An Kou in a single game and it still might not be worth as much as a single Suu An Kou.
Oh Kaori, this is why Sub and I made you our mascot for our mahjong panel.
Like all Yakuman, it is an exceedingly rare hand, and what I’ve begun to find interesting about Yakuman in general is that they can often be rare for entirely different reasons. While the Kokushi Musou is difficult to obtain because it is a hand that cannot be anything but a Kokushi, and the Sho Suushi similarly rare because the tiles in it are always valuable to someone at the table (and thus there is a very good chance that someone will hold onto them), the prospective Suu An Kou seeker faces yet another issue, one that I would simply call “temptation.”
Imagine that there was a 0.1% chance for you to win $1,000,000, no questions asked. So of course you take the opportunity, but as you move closer and closer to that cold million, another sign pops up: “Go for $100,000 instead and your chances of gaining a cash prize go up to 50%!” Then another flashes in giant neon letters, “$200,000, 25% chance to win!” Similar deals continue to pop up over and over again and try as you might, you can’t seem to block them out of your mind. What should you do?
In a situation like that, I wouldn’t look down on anyone who settles for less. Hell, I would probably abandon the million myself, but that’s essentially the obstacle that stands in the path of those who seek the Four Concealed Triples. Along the way to getting that Yakuman, you are continuously enticed by hands that, while not nearly as majestic as the Suu An Kou, can still be quite good, and to ignore those hands is almost as insane as ignoring a 50% chance to get 100 grand for a 0.1% chance at a million. Here, the biggest obstacle is that you are constantly being steered away by appeals to your rationality and common sense, and when your aim is to take huge risks, that is perhaps the most dire threat of all.
Of course, the probabilities I’ve given are in no way accurate to actual mahjong, but I think they give you a fair picture of it. Call it embellishment for dramatic effect.