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By Tom Sloper
March 29, 2015

Column #632

American Mah Jongg (2015 NMJL card). The new card is here. As expected, this year it's blue. I know you want to hear about the hands, but there's big news on the back of the card. At least once a year, someone has always asked me why there are rules on the back of the card that say you can discard or claim flowers (excuse me: "Flowers"). Flowers used to be "wild" (they functioned the way jokers do now), but that went away when "BIG JOKERS" were introduced in 1960. The flower rules on the back of the card have been there to explain, ad infinitum, that a rule that died more than 50 years ago no longer applies! Finally, those rules are no longer wasting space on the back of the card. Some frequently-asked questions are now properly addressed on the back, and (surprisingly) there is now some blank space on the back.

One surprise is that all dragon pungs are exposable this year. Last year (and occasionally, in past years) dragon pungs were single-exposure giveaways. This year there are three exposable hands with dragon pungs; one in Consec., and two in 369. The only concealed dragon pung hand is the bottom hand in 2015. So if you see someone with an exposed dragon pung, you know she's doing either Consec. #4 or a 369 hand (#1 or #5). There is one "instant death" exposure on this card: WWW. If someone makes WWW this year, call her dead. W-D #5 is a concealed hand.

Another departure this year is that the most powerful hand on the card has moved. Instead of staying at its customary Consec. #2 position, it's now at the Consec. #5 position.

The quint hand that confused so many players in 2008, 2009, and 2011 through 2013 is back:

1123 11111 11111 (Any 3 Consec. Nos., Pr. Any No. in Run; Pr. & Quints Match)

If people would just read the parenthetical and think, they'd be able to figure it out; but I expect to get asked about this many times this year. I'd better put up a new FAQ 16 soon!

This year there are only two "4 pungs and a pair" hands (concealed, of course, because they'd be too easy otherwise): 2015 #5 and Evens #6. An oddity of this new card is that concealed hands with five pairs (the bottom two Odds hands and the bottom 369 hand) are worth only 30 cents.

Lastly, and leastly: The legal disclaimer on the "front" (all right, it's only the front when the card is folded; when unfolded, it's the rightmost pane of the back of the card) still says, confusingly, "The right to reproduce any part of this document is unlawful." I mean, how can a right be unlawful? The League really ought to have their lawyer (or at least an English major) help them rewrite that.

I'll be discussing other aspects of the new card in future columns, while discussing strategy of the Charleston and defense, etc.

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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 included in the 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).

See Tom Sloper's interview at

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

© 2015 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.