By Tom Sloper

Friday, May 30, 2003

Column #55

American (2003 NMJL card). Nina, Edna, Wilma, and Sol are new players. Actually, Wilma knew a little, having watched her mother play when she was a kid. Sol had two exposures up, both with jokers.

Edna, not noticing the 7D joker, threw. "Seven Dot." Wilma pounced. "Call!" She grabbed the 7D and exchanged it for Sol's joker. The others erupted.

Edna: "Shoot!"

Nina: "Oh! I wanted that!"

Sol: "No..."

Wilma, probably now set and wanting to get to the win, discarded. "North."

Sol: "... wait..."

Edna: "Maj!" She exposed her hand...

... and reached into the table for the North.

Sol: "... listen..." Wilma and Nina exposed their tiles, and began kvetching about how close they'd been. Edna put her hand out to get paid by everyone. But Sol put both his hands out across the table, palms down.

"Wait a minute, stop. This is all wrong. Wilma, you can't take a discarded tile just to redeem it for a joker."

Wilma: "Of course you can."

Edna: "You're just trying to get out of paying me. Come on, everybody fork it over!"

Sol: "Let's take a break and sort this out. Just bear with me for a few minutes, okay?"

Wilma and Edna were upset, but Nina distracted them with food while Sol took out his copy of the official NMJL rules, Mah-Jongg Made Easy. "Here it is," he announced finally. "Page 19, rule 5. Once a tile is discarded, it can't be taken to redeem a joker. 'Down is down.'"

Wilma objected, "Ridiculous. My mother's group did that all the time."

Sol turned to another page. "And there's a rule about mah-jongg being declared in error, and two players exposing their hands. Page 16. The erring declarer pays the player whose hand is still concealed. But in this case there was error upon error, starting from Wilma's taking the Seven Dot." Sol looked from face to face, making contact with each player. "We have two choices. We can try to make this thing work according to the rules, or we can just throw the hand in and move on."

They threw the hand in and had fun after that.

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Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.