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SLOPER ON MAH-JONGG

By Tom Sloper
March 12, 2017

Column #666

American Mah Jongg (2016 NMJL card). In about two weeks, American players will have a new card from the National Mah Jongg League, and I'll have something to write about in these columns again! In the meantime, it's time to settle an issue discussed incompletely in a previous column. I wrote in December 2010 (column #476), in response to an email from Judith O.:

'Suppose after arranging the tiles on the rack, before any passing, a dealer discovers that the self dealt hand is already a Mah Jongg??!!??!!! Does the "Mah Jongg trumps all" rule apply, or (gulp) must the hand be broken for the first *compulsory* Charleston...?'

This rare event is called "Heavenly Hand." Heavenly Hand is recognized and awarded maximum score in all the mah-jongg variants that I know of. But this special event wasn't mentioned in the 1984 rulebook, "Mah Jongg Made Easy." I knew that Heavenly Hand was recognized in the American game, though, because I got that information in a 2010 reply letter from Ruth Unger, the then president of the League. I only recently learned that the League revised the rulebook in 2013. The rule is on page 12. It states that the first right pass of the Charleston is mandatory, with the following "Exception: If East ... draws a Mah Jongg hand, the Charleston is waived." East wins instantly. That's Heavenly Hand. I usually get two questions about this...

1. How much should the winner be paid? Ruth Unger told me that Heavenly Hand is treated as self-pick (all other players pay the dealer double value).

2. But what if the hand was complete after the first right pass of the Charleston? It depends....

  1. If East doesn't have mah-jongg after the deal, she has to pass three tiles to the right.
  2. If her first right completes the hand, that's just too bad - she is required to pass three tiles across, even if it breaks up her hand.
  3. If she has a complete mah-jongg hand after the across, then she can blind pass three, stop the Charleston, refuse the courtesy, and declare mah-jongg.
  4. If East doesn't stop the Charleston, she must pass three tiles in the second left.
  5. If her second left completes the hand, that's just too bad - she is required to pass three tiles across, even if it breaks up her hand.
  6. If she has a complete mah-jongg hand after the second across, then she can blind pass three, refuse the courtesy, and declare mah-jongg.
  7. If she gets mah-jongg from the courtesy pass, then she doesn't have to discard. She has mah-jongg.

I think it's ironic that this "Heavenly Hand" column is column number 666! I swear that I didn't arrange it that way intentionally.



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See Tom Sloper's 2014 interview at sinovision.net:
http://video.sinovision.net/?id=24552&cid=122
http://video.sinovision.net/?id=24550&cid=122

Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book about the American game, including official rules not in the outdated official rulebook. AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the official rulebook from the NMJL (see FAQ 3).

Where to order the yearly NMJL card: Read FAQ 7i.


© 2017 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.