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By Tom Sloper
March Forth, 2018

Column #698

American Mah Jongg (2018 NMJL card). The 2018 card is not with us yet. It's coming in 3-4 weeks; I can practically hear the mounting anticipation. I just thought maybe I would share my tips for adapting to the new card, when it comes.

  • Take both the new card and the old card to a table (no tiles just yet). Have a notepad handy for making observations.
  • Put the two cards open flat on the table, the older card closer to the center of the table (farther from you), and the new card nearer you.
  • Start at the upper left corner of the 2018 card and study each 2018 hand, one by one. Compare with the 2017 hands on the 2017 card if that helps you see differences. Then move down and analyze the 2468 hands, and then move on down the left pane of the card. Then down the center pane: Quints, Consec, Odds. Then the right pane, all the way down through S&P. Finish up by making a note of the high-scoring hand and how it's formed this year.
  • Pay attention to the frequency of flowers. Scan down the left side of each pane to observe whether flowers are much-used (as they were in 2017) or little-used (as they were in 2016). Most importantly, see how many hands in Consec and Odds use flowers.
  • Scan down the right side of each pane and make a mental note of where the Concealed hands are. While you're looking at those, how many of them are four-pungs-and-a-pair (the easiest hand structure to make)?
  • Next, get out your mah-jongg tiles. Starting over again at 2018 #1, form each hand using the tiles. Compare with the 2017 card so you are clear on the new way of doing things.

    As you study the card, pay attention to the alternating hand structures that have typically graced each card:

  • Consec #1 and Odds #1 have low pairs in even years, and end pairs in odd years. That structure might also appear in another section of the card, like Like Nos. or W-D.
  • Consec #2 is pung-pung-kong-kong in even years, and pung-kong-pung-kong in odd years. The structure of Consec #2 is always reflected in Evens, Odds, and 369.

    And before you can truly say that you have analyzed the card, you must read the backóevery word. If you read something that strikes a curious chord, check the old card to see if that wording was also present there all along. In the past, it was infrequent to have wording changes on the back of the card, but that has changed of late. There was a change on the 2015 card, and there could well be one on the 2018 card too. You won't know if you don't read the back!

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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 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.

    © 2018 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.