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By Tom Sloper
April 15, 2018

Column #701

American Mah Jongg (2018 NMJL card). In column #698, I suggested things to look for in examining a new card. In column #699, I offered a broad overview of the new 2018 card. In column #700, I zoomed in on four-pungs-and-a-pair, dragon pung, and flower pung hands. Let's look now at other repeating structures, starting with two-pungs-and-two-kongs.

It's worth pointing out that flower pungs are easier than pungs made from non-flowers (except, perhaps, when the hand requires two flower pungs). Flower kongs are likewise easier to make than kongs of non-flowers.

Another repeating structure is three-kongs-and-a-pair. Three-kongs-and-two-singles is actually a slightly easier structure; but let's lump those, as well, into this category.

Another repeating structure is "two pairs, two pungs, and a kong."

Two-pair hands are usually 25¢ but three-pair hands are always worth 30¢. More pairs = greater difficulty.

"What good is it to look at hand structures," you may ask. Looking at repeating structures rather than "families" (evens, odds, consec, etc.) lets you break out of the pigeonhole mentality, revealing "unadvertised" categories and giving you a holistic view of the card's "grand tapestry."

Knowledge of pairs hands is important for making decisions about what hand to go for (offense). If you don't have the pairs needed for a hand, then you know you should go for something else. If you know an opponent needs a pair, you know not to discard it.

Knowledge of hands that use pungs and kongs is important for knowing what tiles to discard (defense). The only information you can get about an opponent's hand (other than what tiles she discards and what tiles she does not claim) is from her exposures: mostly pungs and kongs. Knowledge of those "unadvertised" categories helps when an opponent is showing a pung and a kong, or two pungs, or two kongs.

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