|By Tom Sloper
March 22, 2015
...Continued from column 630.
3. High vs. Low. The most powerful section of the card is Consecutive Runs, which is precisely why it's in the center of the card. Consecutive hands are usually just three or four consecutive numbers. Count the high numbers (5-9), count the low numbers (1-5). You can also count the middle numbers (4-6) if you want to be thorough. If you see a large preponderance of highs (for instance), then you can just go for Consecutives, and you know what to pass. Remember: simple elimination.
4. Odd vs. Even. The second most powerful section is Odds (13579, just beneath Consec. on the card). Chances are, you have more odds than evens (there are 5 odd numbers between 1 and 9, and there are only 4 even numbers). But maybe you have more evens. If so, go for Evens; if not, go for Odds.
That's it? After you've gone through the Four Steps, you may have identified a direction. If you have, you can choose three tiles to pass. Or maybe you have identified many possible hands. If so, you can choose three tiles to pass, based on several factors:
a. Tile count. Have you identified too many possibilities? Eliminate the weakest ones, based on simple tile count. It's a bad idea to have more than three possibilities, and it's a better idea to have two or fewer. Eliminate distractors.
b. Likelihood -- does the target hand require a pair that you don't have? If so, it's not likely you'll be able to make it. Along these lines, consider concealment; if one of your possibilities is a concealed hand, that'll be harder to make. So if you have an equal number of tiles towards a concealed hand and towards an exposed hand, lean to the exposed hand. What about jokers? If you have none, look at Singles & Pairs. If you have several jokers, pretend S&P doesn't even exist, and check out Quints.
c. "Red herrings" - sometimes you may discover that the pair you thought was your key is actually pretty friendless. It's interfering with your ability to think clearly. Eliminate it; break it up.
After you've been playing for a while, you'll get better at the Charleston. The American game is the hardest form of mah-jongg to learn, and the Charleston is the hardest part of that, so don't beat yourself up. You've got a steep learning curve ahead of you. You have to "pay tuition" for a while, but you'll get there. And remember: the point of the Charleston is elimination.
The Four Steps Strategy was updated, revised in June 2019. See column 725.
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