By Tom Sloper

November 9, 2003

Column #135

American mah-jongg (2003 NMJL card). Right away, Esther saw one hand that she ought to target, but she wanted other options to pursue as well.

But for the moment, she couldn't think of any other hands to target besides the one. Which hand did Esther see? Answer below.

As the Charleston proceeded, she passed unwanted tiles, and that's exactly what she got in return. By the end of the second Charleston, she'd gotten nothing more than a 5C and an R.

She now had nine tiles. That wasn't too bad. But unfortunately, she didn't have a single joker. As a courtesy, she offered three unwanted tiles to her opposite - and got three in return. She was the dealer, so she threw one of them away. Soon, she picked a joker. One lousy joker - that was all she got for the next twelve picks.

Then Wesley discarded a joker. A group moan went up from the ladies.

The next few picks were just as lousy. Then Wesley discarded a second joker. The ladies sounded like they were ready to lynch him! Then a 6D went out. Esther moaned silently - she couldn't take it. Nora punged 9D with a joker.

Then Esther picked a second joker. When Wesley discarded 4D, Esther pounced. "Call!"

Discarding 2D, Esther was waiting for 6D or J. Mercifully, her next pick was 9D. Reaching over to Nora's rack, she exclaimed, "I'll take that pretty joker -- and that's mah-jongg!"

She said everyone owed her fifty because it was self-pick. Sophia questioned this - she figured Nora's joker was the crucial tile, thus only Nora should pay double. Wesley pulled out his ever-ready official rulebook, "Mah Jongg Made Easy," and read the rule to Sophia, who grudgingly paid up fifty.

Answer: The hand she saw right off the bat was Consecutive Runs #2: 4444 555 6666 DDD.

This column was revised on Nov. 10 thanks to a comment on the Q&A Bulletin Board from sharp-eyed reader Michael Chubak. Thanks, Michael! (^_^)

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Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.