By Tom Sloper

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Column #99

American (2003 NMJL card). Fiona had a bettor's-eye view of the action, and she enjoyed it. She bet on Nora, so that's the hand she (surreptitiously) paid the most attention to.

Nora's deal had three pairs: 6C, 4D, and E. A mess, right? Not really. Of course Nora would ideally want to use all three of her pairs. Since she couldn't do that, she knew she had to give one of them up. And it wasn't a difficult choice.

Fiona could see that every player had exactly one joker. After the first left, Nora had advanced her hand by a whole one tile.

There were several possibilities with this, um, mess...

... and none of them good, apparently. Nora tried to keep multiple possibilities open, but by the time the Charleston was over, she was still on the same hand, and had gotten only one more tile.

She could go for 2468 #6 with this, but if she targeted 2468 #3, she could call everything except the 8B. (But to take a 6C would mean using up her sole joker.)

Fiona could see that Wesley was working on East, West, Red, Green (#5 in the Winds section), but was six away. Sophia was working on Two, Eight, White, Green (she and Wesley were in one another's hair) - but was five away, and didn't have any flowers. Esther's hand might be a 369 hand, Fiona couldn't tell for sure. Wesley threw 4D and Nora called it for pung. She was now committed to 2468 #3.

On her next turn, Nora picked 3D and had an idea about changing her hand to 3456 (Runs #5). She hung onto the 3D for a while just as a backup plan. Within one turn around the table, two 8Bs went out, which made Nora just a little concerned about her Plan A hand. Then Sophia threw 2D, and Nora called it, exposing a natural 2D pung next to her 4D pung. The other players now knew which hand she was doing, but couldn't be sure which sixes and eights Nora needed. There were two each of the 6Bs, 8Cs, and 8Bs on the floor. Chances were that Nora wanted 6C and 8B, but nobody could be a hundred percent sure.

When Nora picked 4C, she moaned to the others, "I went the wrong way!" And she discarded it. But on a later pick, she got 6C. A couple turns later, Sophia threw 6C. "Call!"

At this point, everyone could see what Nora needed. Wesley had now changed his hand - instead of winds, he had three F, four R, a pair of some other number, and just one crak. Fiona figured he was doing the last Runs hand, and was four away. Sophia was closer to her two-eight-dragon hand (three away). And Esther was definitely doing a 369 hand, judging by the 9D pung exposure she made (with joker).

Nora got the joker from Esther's rack. Discarding 4B, she was now waiting for 8B or J. Fiona could account for seven jokers and three 8Bs, so the case joker and the case 8B were still in the wall. Surely nobody would discard it. But then Wesley picked a 5D, setting him for a sweet Quints hand.

He threw 8B, knowing full well Nora might win; of course she did. Wesley had weighed a possible 50-cent loss against a possible $1.60 or $2.40 win, and had decided it was worth the risk. Sophia and Esther were okay with the chance to get a fresh deal.

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* Monday's column (#100) is the last daily. Starting Tuesday, the column goes to a weekly format.

Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.