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By Tom Sloper
April 30, 2017

Column #672

American Mah Jongg (2017 NMJL card). Defense, by the numbers. The following exposures show atop opponents' racks. How do you defend?

1. No-brainer: Odds #5. Problem is, since the rest of the hand is pairs in one suit, she's not going to give you clues by means of exposures. So you have to be on the lookout for other clues as to which suit she's playing. If she discards 3B, let's say, that doesn't tell you that she's using craks; she might have a pair of 3B and this was an unneeded third. You need more clues than that. Look for key tiles. Check the discard floor; do you see 3B, 5B, 7B, 3C, 5C, or 7C? If so, how many? If you see more than two of any of those tiles, you know what suit she's playing (by elimination). Watch everything that goes down; another opponent might not know what Ms. Oner Niner is doing (some players are distracted by their own tiles), and might throw a hot tile. Watch what Oner Niner does. If she passes up a 7C, let's say, that may not tell you what suit she's doing, but her body language and poker face (or lack thereof) can reveal much. If one of her pairs goes dead, she might unconsciously express frustration or resignation.

2. Some folks might think Evens first, but when the numbers are within range, I always think Consec first. This could be Consec #2, the easiest and most flexible hand on the card... if this was last year's card. But it's a new year, so instead, this is Consec #4. Go ahead, check Evens, but nothing matches there. Hot tiles: 2D 3D and 3C; dots are key.

3. Check 369, of course... hmm, can't find anything... No. Think Consec first. This is Consec #2, the most powerful (the easiest and the most flexible) hand on the card. Spotting this hand can sometimes be a challenge (its ability to masquerade as something else gives it its power), but identifying the hot tiles for this hand is often easy. In this case, she clearly needs 4C and 5D.

4. Flowers and fours. Look for the "FFFF." Check Evens, Like Nos., Thirteens, and Consec. Evens: no, Like Numbers: no, Thirteens: yes, Consec: yes. Hot tiles: nines, ones, threes, sixes 5D, and soaps. Soaps are key, as well as ones and threes. Watch her plays.

5. Scan the card for DDDD. Check Like Nos., Consec, Odds, and W-D. Just one works out: Odds #3. Hot tiles are 3D 1B 3B; bams are key.

6. Check both Consec and Evens. Nothing matches in Consec, but Evens #2 fits (and nothing else does). The hot tiles are 2B and 8C. No key tiles (no pairs).

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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 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).

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

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