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By Tom Sloper
September 17, 2017

Column #689

American Mah Jongg (NMJL). Today I want to discuss a frequently-encountered type of player, brought up in a reader email this week. You've undoubtedly heard the adage, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." There's an awkward period a new player goes through after learning the rules and a bit of strategy, before she fully absorbs and appreciates the importance of etiquette (and before she has developed a refined strategic approach). Let's call her a Level Two player (a Level One player being a novice who knows she's a novice). The Level Two player is starting to appreciate the importance of paying attention to what she discards. That's all well and good, but if she has not yet learned about game etiquette, she can be a problem for the other players.

I got an email from Rosemary on September 12 about such a player. When it's her turn to discard, Rosemary's Level Two player scans the table, and when she sees two exposures on an opponent's rack, she holds up the game for everyone while she scans the card with a finger until she thinks she's found something. "Ah, I see it!!" she cries exultantly.

She may have found a possible hand, but is it really the hand the opponent is making? She hasn't yet reached the level of sophistication to realize that two exposures can sometimes indicate multiple hands. And worse, she doesn't realize that she's violating etiquette in two ways: first, by holding up the game, and second, by blurting out to everyone that there is something on someone's rack to defend against (calling undue attention to that player's rack). Maybe she's one of those over-sharing types, who thinks she has to share every tidbit of information with her entire circle of friends and acquaintances. Mah-jongg is not a game about sharing. In any case, she ought to just go with the flow of the game, paying her "tuition" until she graduates to Level Three.

I have written about problem player types before. I wrote about bossy "Yelda" in columns 387 (2008) and 416 (2009). I wrote about "Blurta," who blurts out information about other players' hands, in columns 467 (2010) and 654 (2016). And I've often answered questions about how to handle slow players who try everyone's patience by taking forever when it's their turn. I wrote about the psychology of slow players in column 621 (2014). Rosemary's Level Two player combines aspects of the latter two types.

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Join Johni Levene's popular Facebook group, "Mah Jongg, That's It!" for lively conversations about American mah-jongg and all things mah-jongg.

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 every player should have a copy of Mah Jongg Made Easy, the official rulebook of the National Mah Jongg League (see FAQ 3 for info on mah-jongg books).

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

© 2017 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.