|By Tom Sloper
May 13, 2018
American Mah Jongg (2018 NMJL card). An opponent is showing two kongs. What is she doing? What are her hot tiles? What should you do?
1. Bizarre but true: there is no hand on the 2018 card that matches this. She cannot possibly make mah-jongg, and it would be senseless to let her continue picking and discarding; you should call her dead. I know, I know -- some of you intensely dislike the death rule. But letting her continue to pick and discard is a waste of tiles, given that the death rule exists.
2. It should be obvious that there is just one hand this player could be making: 2018 #1. Her hot tiles are 2C and soap. What should you do? The wisest thing to do* is to not discard her hot tiles.
3. Look for DDDD on the card. There are five hands: Evens, Any Like, Consec, W-D, and 369. Those 4Ds don't work with Evens, Consec, W-D, or 369. So she's doing Any Like #1. What are her hot tiles? F and 4B. Wisest course* is to not discard her hot tiles.
4. Look for flower kongs on the card (FFFF at left of a hand). This isn't W-D so it has to be Twelves ("Addition"). Her hot tiles are threes, ones, and twos in every suit. Could be difficult to defend against.
5. Could be Evens #4, Consec #5, or Consec#6. Hot tiles: 2C, 8C, G, soap, fives, and F. Wisest course of action*: don't discard any of those.
*I asterisked the phrase "wisest course" because of a question someone recently asked on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board: Paul A asked on May 9 what one should do when one picks another player's hot tile, yet is one away from mah-jongg oneself. I told Paul he has to figure that out for himself: "either you are going to pay 2x value..., or you might win, 4x value if by discard, 6x value if by self-pick. There is also a chance that another player might win, not from your discard (in which case you pay 1x value)," I told him. But this simple equation can lead to disharmony.
Other players (not only you) will also have to pay the winner, and they can get mad at you for discarding an obvious hot tile. If you base your strategy off that simple math, you may come out with a heavier purse than the others, but there may be repercussions. As I told Saretta on May 5 on the bulletin board,
"paying for the party" is not a League rule, but players may adopt a "pay for the party" rule to penalize "unwise" discards. The common wisdom when a player is showing multiple exposures is "don't discard her hot tiles." My answer to Paul addressed the math, but without taking the human factor into account.
A tip o' the Sloper hat to sharp-eyed readers Libby S and Beth P!
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Question or comment about this column? I often, um... intentionally... "miss" something; maybe you'll be the first one to spot it! Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board. If you want your full name to appear, let me know in a short sentence in the email (I'll omit that sentence when posting). Hit me with your best shot! Here's a comment on this column from the BB:
About today's column
>Sent: Sunday, May 13, 2018 10:13 PM
>Subject: Mah-Jongg Q+A
>My mah-jongg question or comment is:
>Hi again, just read your recent column where you talk about the human factor when discarding a hot tile. I have a tendency to discard a hot tile when I am one away and exposures and discards indicate my MJ tile is still out there and probably not being used in the other hands. But you are spot on when you say that others may not like it when one discards a hot tile!
>One of my very good friends was very annoyed with me when I discarded a very obvious hot tile with only about ten tiles left in the game. While holding my breath, I discarded anyway. Another player called it for a third exposure but not MJ. My friend berated me severely asking me why in the world would I do that, before I could say anything, the player who called it said, "Because she is one away!" The game continued and I picked the last tile, for MJ, self picked, jokerless! That's when I said "That's why!"
>Sweet! Probably won't ever happen again! The joys of MJ!
Sweet indeed! (^_^)
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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 every player should have a copy of Mah Jongg Made Easy, the official rulebook of the National Mah Jongg League (see FAQ 3 for info on mah-jongg books).
Where to order the yearly NMJL card: Read FAQ 7i.
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