By Tom Sloper

August 3, 2003

Column #107

American mah-jongg (2003 NMJL card). Today I played in a tournament in West Hills, California. The following hand is typical of how the tournament went for me. I was East.

The best thing in the hand was a pair of West. It wasn't enough to plan to go for any Winds hand, and with that joker, I didn't want to try for a Singles hand. I could try for an all even numbers hand or 369. For starters, I passed 1D 5D W to the right. After the Charleston, I had a direction.

My first discard was soap. I couldn't call anything until about halfway through the wall. I punged 2D. Then my next pick was a joker and I discarded 1D. Then some jokers started getting thrown out (called "same"). My regular games let out with loud group groans whenever that happens, but tournament players seem to play things a little closer to the vest. So little verbal comment greeted the joker discards. Not that I wasn't doing my own internal groaning. Then I got a chance at 8B.

I could call either 4D or 6C - and of course a joker would be nice - then I could discard 3C and be ready for mah-jongg. So naturally, North chose this moment to go mah-jongg (on a discard from West) - Like Numbers, fives & dragons.

In my role as table scorekeeper, I noted the score: 30 points for North, 0 points for the rest of us (tournament scoring).

That's pretty much the way the tournament went for me today, and that's pretty much the way tournaments usually go for me. I've decided that next time I'll drop my usual conservative habits. I mean, it's a tournament. Go for the bigger hands! Old habits suck anyway.

The tournament was run by Mah Jongg Fun - http://www.geocities.com/jnachenberg.rm/index.html. There are frequent tourneys in Southern California; other mah-jongg tournament hotbeds are Florida, NYC, and the Baltimore-Washington DC area. See FAQ 4a, and email me if you have more info to add.

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Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.