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By Tom Sloper
December 14, 2014

Column #624

American Mah Jongg (2014 NMJL card). In the course of wrapping up two beginner classes this weekend, I've refined my Charleston strategy down to a new ordered set of steps:

Let's walk through those steps with some random deals.

1. No pairs, so no tiles to be friends with them. But is there a clear preponderance of tiles that are obvious friends with one another (a bunch of tiles all belonging to one particular family on the card)? The closest thing to tiles that are friends with one another would be the high bams (seeming to suggest Consec. #1). That's just four tiles, though; not enough to target that hand. Now count highs vs. lows: seven highs (counting the five), versus four lows (counting the five). No need to proceed with odds vs. evens. Pass lows and N.

2. Pair of fives. Do the fives have friends? Yes, how about 4C 6D 7D (leaning towards Consec. #2, most powerful hand on the card). Also keep 7D 9D (possible high Odds #2), and keep all fours and fives (possible Consec. #3). Discards pool: 1B 8B 8C S. Choose three.

3. Pair of sevens. Friends of sevens: fives, nines (vaguely Odds), and oh what the hey, keep the 6D too (potential high Consec.). Don't pass three winds; your discards pool also includes 1B and 3D.

4. Very rare: two pungs and a pair! Are all three sets friends with one another? No. Fours and eights are friendly, but there's only one measly other friendly eight. The fives and eights have no good friends. The fours and fives have none, either, but keep them anyway (seriously: two pungs!). Everything else but the joker can go into the discard pool (yes, that includes soap and 8C).

5. Twos and norths are not friendly with one another; forget N. What's friends with the twos? Answer: F 1B G (Consec. #5), 4D 6D (Evens). Pass 1C N W.

6. No pairs. Highs clearly outnumber lows. The passers are ones and twos (keep 4B and dragons for now, to see what might come in).

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Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book about the American game, including official rules not in the outdated official rulebook. 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).

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