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By Tom Sloper
September 5, 2010

Column #465

American Mah Jongg (NMJL). Four yentas are playing at a mah jongg tournament. The director comes over and says, "So, ladies, is anything all right?"
One hears so much kvetching about tournaments, it's a wonder tournament organizers have the stomach to keep on holding them. What are some of the most common complaints? Not all are about the rules; some are about other players.

  • "Why don't they just use the NMJL scoring and rules?" - The official scoring and rules were designed for use in homes and recreation centers. Tournaments need a different system of scoring and rules.

  • "Every tournament uses different rules. It's so confusing!" - Yeah, well. The NMJL hasn't published tournament rules.

  • "It's a pain that everybody has to start and stop by a clock." - That's how a tournament has to work. All tournaments, even in China, Japan, and Europe. Deal with it.

  • "If you touch the wall tile, it's yours." - If the tournament director says that's the rule, then that's the rule at that tournament. Otherwise, the NMJL rule applies; you commit to taking the wall tile only if you lift or move the tile.

  • "I don't like the penalty for throwing to two or more exposures." - Whereas the official NMJL rules do not include any penalty for the discarder beyond the double payment, it's necessary and right that there should be a "hot tile" penalty in a tournament setting.

  • "Tournament rules are too strict! Like calling you dead if you rack a taken discard." - Tournament rules must be strict, in order to be fair to the majority. Racking a taken discard makes it possible to cheat; even so, not all tournaments prohibit this.

  • "Or calling you dead if you peek at the blind pass." - In my opinion, you should be called dead for doing that even if you're not at a tournament. There's a reason it's called a "blind pass," after all.

  • "She misnamed a discard. Doesn't she have to discard the tile whose name she said, if she has one and can?" - No. That is NOT the NMJL rule. Unless the tournament director says otherwise, the NMJL rule applies. I don't have any sympathy for a player who calls a tile without looking first.

  • "She shouldn't be allowed to play without the NMJL card in front of her." - Why? It intimidates you? Get over it. If someone has memorized the card, that's fine by me.

  • "Novices shouldn't compete; it ruins things for the rest of us." - Hey. You were a novice once. Give peace a chance.

  • "There are men playing here? I've never played with a man before!" - Okay, now you're just getting on my nerves.

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    Question or comment about this column? I often miss something; maybe you'll be the first one to spot it! Please be gentle. Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board.

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

    Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book in existence about the American game. 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). Linda Fisher's website is the only website that describes American rules:

    © 2010 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.