By Tom Sloper

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Column #35

Chinese Official (CMCR). Novice mah-jongg players, especially those who have played rummy, tend to jump every time a discard can be taken. This usually results in a ruined hand. Once the hand has been committed with an exposure, its possibilities become so constrained that it becomes difficult to complete. Skilled players don't expose until they have a plan that has good prospects for success.

Although Earl won a very big hand today, it came about because of indecision more than such skilled and knowledgeable patience.

Earl's deal could go a couple of different ways.

With two pairs and a pung, he could go for all pungs. Maybe even All Types - but he'd need a lot more winds and dragons for that one. For starters, he threw 1B. Soon he picked 9D and 6C.

He was thinking Seven Pairs now, and threw 1C. When he picked 4C, he stopped thinking about Seven Pairs and went back to pungs.

He threw E, picked 6C, and threw 3C.

And now he was waiting. 9D or 8B would give him an all-pung hand.

Fairly new to the Chinese Mahjong Contest Rules (and who isn't?), he hadn't completely memorized the scoring chart. Because he had learned that the high-scoring hands were extremely difficult to obtain, he'd focused his attention on the low-scoring hand elements.

He needed a minimum of eight points to qualify for mah-jongg, and as he added things up, he calculated that he would have to self-pick the final tile. With All Pungs (6) and No Honors (1), he figured he couldn't go out on a discard. And then he picked 9D. When he turned over his tiles, the brouhaha from the others told him he'd hit it big.

Earl had been unwilling to commit to a hand too soon. In the end, that resulted in a high score.

Click the entries in the header frame, above, to read other columns.

Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.