Read Hon Itsu Hands like a Pro

Many of you may still remember the tips for identifying Hon Itsu.

This time I'd like to talk a little more about reads on Hon Itsu. Needless to say, it's one of the most important yaku in the game. It's a high threat - low risk yaku, easy to build and usually high scoring; it's hard to deal with for other players and very safe to aim for thanks to all the word tiles you hoard from early on.

1. If someone is aiming for Hon Itsu and they take a while thinking before discarding a word tile, it means they're noten.

More specifically, it means they're counting and comparing the word tiles in their hand. If you still have a tile in the suit of their Hon Itsu that you're considering whether to discard or not, now is the time.

2. On the other hand, if they discard word tiles without even doubting for a second, highly suspect tenpai!

Or at least, good shape 1 shanten. Now is not a good time to discard that tile in the Hon Itsu suit that you have hanging around your hand...!

3. If they discard everything from the right (or left if left-handed) side of their hand, highly suspect Hon Itsu. At the same time, discarding a Dora ryanmen or other equally good taatsu (like edge tile pairs after having ponned yakuhai), highly suspect Hon Itsu. We've discussed this in the previous Hon Itsu article, but it's good to bring it up again.

4. (Given the same number of discarded tiles) If they discard Guest Wind tiles (otakaze) after Yakuhai, highly suspect Chin Itsu instead. It means their hand has enough one suit tiles to go for Chin Itsu that they don't need to pile up word tiles anymore; instead of keeping the Yakuhai tiles that would give them 1 extra han, they're discarding in safety order... grim sign! Suspect Chin Itsu.

5. When the Dora is Yakuhai, usually the person going for Hon Itsu has no Dora pair. Getting a pon on the Dora is already Mangan, so it's usually inefficient to make your hand harder to win and trying to get Hon Itsu. Usually the person with a Dora Yakuhai pair will go for a hand that's more straightforward and easier to win. Be careful though when the dora is a Guest Wind, because on the other hand it might make people even more inclined to aim for Hon Itsu in order to use it.

6. If they seem to be doing math, it's a cheap Hon Itsu. If they seem to be counting... they're most likely counting the fu and trying to remember the value for the hand. Since a 4 han mangan doesn't require any counting usually, you can probably assume that their Hon Itsu is 6400 points at most (but usually 2600~5200 points). You can use this very same read on people going for Toi Toi. (However, of course, you cannot use it against people who don't even try to score their own hands...)

7. Identify the Hon Itsu early: pay attention to their mopai. Mopai is trying to blindly tell the tile you draw before even looking at it by touching the face of the tile with your thumb. It's bad manners, but a lot of people do it; some are really good at it. You can use this to your advantage. For example, no matter how good you are blind-reading your tiles, Manzu tiles are very difficult to tell apart from each other, so you'll always need to double check... that is, unless, you don't need ANY Manzu tiles at all! If someone discards Manzu tiles without even looking at them, that's a strong hint. In the same way, some Pinzu tiles are hard to tell apart from each other (especially 678), 6 and 9 in Souzu are very similar and if someone blind-discards a 9, you can tell they don't need the 6. These cases where people are basically telling you they don't need any middle tiles of a certain suit, can strongly hint at Hon Itsu early on.

Many of these tips are from Suzuki Yu (Saikouisen pro) himself. Did you know some of them? Were some of these helpful? Reply and comment here with your own tips as well.

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