By Tom Sloper

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Column #78

American (2003 NMJL card). A fifth player, Fiona, joined the group this week, as bettor. She witnessed a hand Esther would talk about for years. Esther had five jokers, but no hand.

Esther had four tiles towards 2468 #1 - but would need 2D 4D. Fiona could see that she might get those in the Charleston, but Esther couldn't know that. Esther chose to pass W 1B 3C and got 4B 9B 9D. She now had two pairs that didn't go together. And four hands, all even.

Esther couldn't contain her frustration. Fiona was having a good time, but the others were dying to know what was going on. Nora cleared her throat and drummed her fingers, rolling her eyes ceilingward to encourage Ester to pass something.

Due to the pairs situation, Esther decided to forget about the 2468 family. She passed 2D 4D 4B, preserving the Like #s with nines and Run #6. Both hands needed one more soap to complete a pair.

Incredibly, she got more nines in the next pass. Now she could definitely go for like numbers. Not wanting to lose the 8D just yet, she blindpassed 2b 4b, and warned the others she might stop. She got 9C F.

Run #6 had to be eliminated from the running. 8D was superfluous. She stopped the Charleston, and offered just one. She got 4B.

Care to guess who Fiona bet on? Care to guess who won? Oh, never mind. How about guessing which hand Esther won on?

Would you believe, after six turns, Esther had not only not picked anything, but nothing went out she could call either! On the 8th pick, she got G. What would you do at this point? - Which tile did Esther throw? (See answer at bottom.)

This being mah-jongg, it's natural enough that the next few discards were all nines (now that Esther couldn't call). And, naturally, Esther picked F. In this case, if she'd gone the longer route rather than the shortcut, she'd be home by now. "Woulda, coulda, shoulda," she moaned as she threw yet another flower.

Then something monumental happened. Esther picked a Red. Until now, she had been waiting on a one-way call, and now she thought she saw an opportunity to make it a two-way call by throwing 9C.

As soon as she threw it, she realized her mistake. She did have two ways to go now, but she had one too many dragons in the hand. Her next pick was Soap. She put her head in her hands and just let out a moan. And threw G.

Immediately, Nora threw another Soap. The wall was down to nine stacks... Then Wesley threw the same tile Esther had discarded a few turns earlier. "Nine Crak."

"Maj!" Like Numbers #2. And Esther let loose with such a flood of kvetching as has never been heard before. Fiona backed up her testimony with an eye witness account.

Moral of the story: When you have many jokers, don't go for hands that need pairs that you don't have. You might get lucky, but you might not. And wouldn't that be a waste of all those jokers.

Answer - The choices were to throw F or a dragon (Wh or G). Throwing F sets the hand, waiting for Wh. Throwing Wh or G leaves the hand still two away. Esther threw F.

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Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.