By Tom Sloper

July 27, 2003

Column #104

American (2003 NMJL card). A student of mine asked me the other day, "Do you ever ignore the tiles you're dealt and try to force a hand?" I told her I'd never considered it. That was a spur-of-the-moment answer, that I have since come to rethink. Today's hand is an example of a time when Esther might have wished she'd done just that.

She had three pairs, and it was natural enough to want to use them all. Which one hand on the 2003 NMJL card uses all three of her pairs? Answer at bottom.

The rest of the Charleston didn't change her mind, and even brought in a couple of tiles towards the target hand.

Esther didn't have any jokers, and she wasn't picking any, either. A 4B went out but she couldn't call it. But at least she picked the last one. She would need to get at minimum one joker. But if she wanted to take the risky approach, she could call 2D or 3D in the meantime. What do I mean about that being the "risky approach," you ask? If she calls 2D or 3D, she risks others discarding 3C before she's ready. The pairs are always tricky that way.

After having gone through that thought process, she picked 3C anyway. Now she was sure she could call 2D or 3D. Or, for that matter, 2C or 3C, since she had pairs all around. Then she picked 2D. The craks would therefore be her pairs.

She discarded 9B. The only thing she could call at this point was 3D. And she'd have to pick a joker to complete the 4B kong.

Her next couple of picks were flowers, which she discarded. Flowers are a bit under-used in this year's card, and everybody else was throwing those too.

Esther's plan was ruined, though, when Wesley picked a joker and declared mah-jongg. He was doing the twos, eights, and dragons hand - and had four jokers!

Jokers can throw a monkey wrench into the best of plans. Especially in the hands of an opponent.

Answer: The only hand that could use two pairs of twos and a pair of threes is Run #4. 22 33 222 333 4444.

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Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.