See more Sloperama
Read more columns


By Tom Sloper
June 1, 2014

Column #607

American Mah Jongg (NMJL). Today I want to explain some phrases I use in my American defense strategy columns, so that I don't have to explain them repeatedly (either in-column, or on the Q&A bulletin board in response to reader queries). I've already written column 423 to explain the term "joker bait," and column 604 to explain "the most powerful hand on the card." Today I want to explain and illustrate the terms "key tile" and "dead on the table."

Let's consider a couple of examples.

1. On the 2014 card, this hand can only be Evens #1: 22 44 666 888 DDDD. The hot tiles are 2D 4D and soap. 2D and 4D are "key tiles," since both are pairs and therefore may not be made with jokers. Because jokers may not be used, the player cannot make the hand without two of each tile. Since you know that the player is constrained in this manner, you can look for information on the table. Let's say you see another player subsequently expose a pung or kong of 2D atop her rack, for instance.

This exposure gives you key information: you know that the player with exposed sixes and eights will never be able to make her hand. You can call her dead, and you do not have to defend against that player anymore. Same thing if you see three or more 4Ds visible anywhere on the table, such as among discards - when you see three or more key tiles visible among exposures or discards, that's what I call "dead on the table." Of course, if those three key tiles are in your own hand, you still have key information, but you can't call your opponent dead (since nobody else can see the proof).

2. On the 2014 card, this hand could be either Consec. #1 or #6: 11 22 333 444 5555 or 33 44 333 444 5555. And for the latter hand, there are two ways the hand could be completed (with bams as the pairs, or with dots as the pairs). Accordingly, there are six key tiles: 1C 2C 3B 3D 4B 4D. If any one of those pairs is "dead on the table" (you know now what that means), or is present in your own hand, you know one of her possible directions is blocked off. Let's say you see three 4Bs exposed.

This tells you that the player with the exposed threes and fours has only four key tiles left: 1C 2C 3D 4D. And then if, say, 1C also goes "dead on the table," you know only one hand remains possible for her to make.

Click the entries in the header frame, above, to read other columns. Can't see a header frame because you're viewing this column in full screen? Tap  this icon to see the list of columns with nav frame. Anytime you want to get rid of nav frames, you can just tap a  mobile icon.

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.

If you appreciate the free information on this site, your donation would be gratefully accepted,
and would help keep this site running as a free service. Thank you!


Where to order the yearly NMJL card: Read FAQ 7i.

Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book in existence about the American game. AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the official rulebook from the NMJL (see FAQ 3). Linda Fisher's website is the only website that describes American rules:

© 2014 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.