By Tom Sloper

June 27, 2004

Column #168

American mah-jongg (2004 NMJL card). As the last hand of the evening began, Wesley felt that his luck had turned. His coin purse had gotten down to 45¢, but then he'd won the previous hand. Esther rolled snake-eyes. "Ooh, doubles!" "We'll go out with a bang, then," Wesley commented. The group occasionally played "double dice" when they didn't have a fifth acting as bettor. Double dice would earn the winner double payment from everyone.

He got no jokers in the deal, but he had a hand. Fives, sevens, and nines (13579 #7). Not long into the game, he picked the fourth 9C. Jokerless.

To make a long story short, Esther konged 4D and Sophia punged F. Shortly, Sophia punged W.

She discarded N. When on her next turn she threw J, everybody knew exactly what she needed: E.

Wesley picked J, shaking his head in disbelief. No jokers all evening, and now this? Threw 1B, punged by Esther. Showing kong of 4D and pung of 1B, it was clear what Esther was making.

Wesley was hoping he didn't get E, 2B, or 3D. But, the next time Esther picked, she moaned in dismay with a look at Sophia's rack. She threw some other tile in her hand (not the just-picked tile). Not hard to figure out what she'd picked.

When Wesley picked, it was his turn to moan. A 2nd joker! "Tell me about it," Esther sympathized. Taking the cue from Esther, cagily racked that joker and threw the other one, saying, "same."

Esther's next pick was another groaner. She discarded a joker. On his next pick, Wesley got his 5B. Throwing the other joker, he just needed 9B. Esther had thrown one; Wesley figured if she had another or picked another, she'd throw it. And that's just what she did. Picking from the wall, she practically screamed - the 3rd E pick in a row. She discarded 9B. Wesley held a hand up to stop the game, and displayed his tiles.

Esther couldn't believe it. "I thought you were throwing your hand like I was! I gave it to you?"

30¢ hand, double double (jokerless, double dice) - $1.20 for Sophia and Nora, $2.40 for Esther. All's well that ends well. For Wesley, anyway.

In the postmortem, Sophia discussed the lesson she'd learned. She might have won but for the way she'd played her hand. It'd been too obvious what she needed. Should have thrown N earlier.

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