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By Tom Sloper
October 13, 2013

No. #580

American Mah Jongg (2013 NMJL card). A tale of two joker wins. Player A is very close to mah-jongg; she's holding a 6C, and needs two 7Bs to win. Player B is also very close to mah-jongg; she's holding an F, and needs a 2D and a 4D. For both players, jokers would also fit the bill, but what's the chance of getting two jokers?

Player C is showing a kong of 5B with a joker, and just exposed a kong of F with a joker, discarding 6C. Player B holds her breath, hoping nobody has a spare F. Player D calls 6C, exposing a pung with a joker.

Player D discards 7B. Player A calls it. "I want that!" She takes the 7B, puts up her two 7Bs. Now she has a pung of 7B atop her rack. Then she says to player D, "let me have that joker, please." She redeems her 6C and adds the joker to her 7B pung. She exults, "and that's mah..." but is stopped by player D. "Hold on," D says. "You can't do that. You have to form the complete exposure when you take the discard." And D is right. Before a player can call a discard, she must be ready to pay the full price; she must make a complete exposure with the discarded tile, immediately. There is no "layaway plan" in mah-jongg; strictly cash on the barrelhead. Player A had not exposed her hand; she'd exposed only a pung of 7B (and is not permitted to take the pung back into the hand). The 7B exposure does not make her provably dead. She must put the joker into her hand. She's going to have to try to change her hand. To end her turn, she discards a tile (for the purposes of this column, it does not matter which tile she discards).

Now it's player B's turn. She picks a 5B. She happily gives her new 5B to player D in exchange for a joker, then hands her flower to player D for the other joker. "That's mah-jongg," she says, smiling.

The difference? Player A could not expose a kong on the layaway plan. Player B picked lucky, so didn't need to call a discard. Redeeming a joker does not require exposure of any part of the hand. This illustrates one important difference between win by discard and win by self-pick. Joker redemption comes with restrictions. Never forget: cash on the barrelhead. There's no layaway plan in mah-jongg.

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Question or comment about this column? I often, um... intentionally... "miss" something; maybe you'll be the first one to spot it! Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board.

Column #580

> From: Belinda
> Sent: Friday, October 18, 2013 2:29 PM
> Subject: Mah-Jongg Q+A
>My mah-jongg comment is:
>I think that another bit of information would be helpful in your Oct 13th strategy column. If Player A redeemed the joker first, then picked up the discard, it would appear that she would have a valid MJ as she would have the required tiles of 7 bams and jokers to make a kong.
>However, the rules state that you can only redeem a joker AFTER either drawing from the wall or calling for a discard. Therefore, she cannot redeem the joker, then pick up the 7 bam to make the kong and, as you stated, would not have MJ.
>Many players believe that the order in redeeming a joker does not matter, but this scenario shows that it does matter.

Okay, cool, Bee!
May the tiles be with you.
Tom Sloper

Creator of the weekly Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs -- donations appreciated.
Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
Los Angeles, California, USA
October 18, 2013

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