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By Tom Sloper

November 21, 2004

Column #189

American mah-jongg (2004 NMJL card). Today's column is a fictionalized account intended to illustrate how not to handle rule disputes. Here but for the existence of the NMJL rulebook, Mah Jongg Made Easy, and my own FAQ #9 (at, might go you.

Wesley had called in his apologies and was replaced by a temporary sit-in player. Let's call her Wynona. Nora, this night's hostess, had met Wynona through a friend. Wynona said she'd been playing mah-jongg for many years in another city where she'd previously lived.

The playing was uneventful for a couple of hours, until Sophia discarded W. Esther said, "I want that." She exposed a pair of jokers and took the W.

Wynona objected, "That's no good." Esther, in the process of discarding a tile, stopped in mid-motion. "What do you mean?"

Wynona said, "You didn't have any wests in your hand. You can't call it."

Esther replied, "What on earth are you talking about? This is a perfectly good exposure. Are you calling me dead?"

Wynona stood her ground. "You have to have a natural before you can call. You only had jokers. It's an illegal exposure. I'm not saying you're dead, I'm just saying you have to put it back and pick from the wall instead."

Esther looked to her friends for backup, but Nora was busily studying her card and Sophia just raised an eyebrow. "There's no such rule. It's not in the book." Her eyes scanned the area and she remembered that Wesley was the keeper of the official rulebook - and he wasn't here this evening.

Wynona insisted, "It's a rule. It's always been the rule. Just put it back so we can play."

Esther asked Nora and Sophia, "Have you ever heard of this rule?"

Nora, caught in the middle between her regular player and her friend's friend, had to side with Esther. "I never heard of it." Sophia chickened out. "I don't know. Wesley's the one who always looked up the rules in the book."

Wynona retorted, "Book? Who needs a book? The rules are handed down and you're supposed to know them. Now are we playing or not? Put it back!"

Well, I hate to go into further detail about how the conversation progressed from there. Suffice it to say that regrettable words were said. Wynona's unbending attitude hadn't won her any friends. She left in a huff (which is not a type of automobile) and was never invited back.

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© 2004 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.