Haipai 「配牌」 are the first thirteen tiles dealt to a player's hand. In other words, these tiles compose the start hand. In the case for the dealer, this would be fourteen as the dealer is required to take the first draw before discarding. To speed up the process, the dealer is allowed to take the initial draw as the tiles are dealt. Given these tiles, players are given the task to best manage the hand either by attempting to bring the hand to tenpai and/or defending the hand by avoiding dealing into another player's hand (ron).
Assessing a haipai
Once the tiles are dealt, players have the task of assessing their staring hand. If a player so chooses, the tiles may be arranged and organized. However, by any means, a player is not required to do so. An organized hand is simply easier to look at and assess; though some players have the ability to perform this task with a jumbled hand.
Upon receiving the haipai, players must consider various things:
- Is tenpai reasonably attainable?
- If so, what is the best and most efficient way to attain tenpai?
- Is the hand already in tenpai (or, for the dealer, is the hand already complete)?
- Which yaku are the most viable?
- Should the hand remain closed, or is open play the best option?
- What is the current round and score?
Naturally, the eventual tile draws and discard may dictate changes to this initial assessment. It is up to the player to maintain awareness and change along with the tiles themselves.
Tenhou, chiihou, and renhou
Under three instances, it is possible for a player to win a hand before ever discarding from the wall. In the case for renhou, the hand wins before ever taking a drawn tile. In these cases, the haipai is already at tenpai; and the hand won upon the first draw or discard.
- Haipai in Japanese Wikipedia