By Tom Sloper

April 4, 2004

Column #156

American mah-jongg (2004 NMJL card). The group was all a-twitter about having the new card. The first couple of hands started slowly as the players had to think harder than usual during the Charleston, but it wasn't long before they were up to speed. A few turns into one game, Sophia had a three-way hand:

This could have been Consecutive Run #1, #2, or #4 (and all were equal).

She decided not to call anything and see what she picked in. As it turned out, Esther won the hand before Sophia picked much of anything. She had an even more interesting occurrence a few games later:

She would want to do one of the Like Numbers hands. Both were within reach. She decided she would call eights (for Like Numbers #1) if any were discarded. If she picked flowers or jokers, she could instead go for Like Numbers #2.

Nobody threw any eights. Then she picked a joker. Wesley threw a flower and Nora konged it - with one joker.

Soon, Sophia picked another joker, and threw out her last junk tile. Now she was waiting. She quickly ran through her options, and decided she could win on a flower or any eight.

When Esther threw 8B, Sophia pounced. "Maj!"

Esther and Sophia were reaching for their tiles to throw them in when Wesley stopped them: "Wait. Always check the hand first. And it's a new card."

As Sophia was putting up her tiles, she realized the error she'd made. She'd been wrong - she couldn't win on anything but a flower or joker.

Like Numbers #1 requires a pair of flowers, and she didn't have it. Like Numbers #2 required one of the eights to be a pair, and she didn't have that any more. She was dead. She put the tiles back on her rack.

It was a good thing Wesley had stopped the others from throwing in. Always check the hand first.

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© 2004 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.