|By Tom Sloper
April 22, 2018
American Mah Jongg (2018 NMJL card). Some defense exercises from the new card. An opponent is showing two pungs. What is she doing, what are her hot tiles, and what should you do?
1. There are two hands that call for twin flower pungs: Any Like Nos. #2 and Odds #5. Since she could be using literally any numbers, there is no defense. But know that ones, fives, and nines are hotter than other numbers. Watch how she reacts when someone throws one of those. Sometimes a player will exhibit a micro-reaction upon hearing the number she's waiting for, before the discard's suit is announced.
2. These odd numbers make the eye leap immediately to the Odds section ("13579"). Scanning down through the Odds hands, you see that #1 and #2 both fit. Sevens and nines in opposite suits are hot, as are 1D 3D 9D. Odds #1 needs pairs of ones and threes, making those key tiles. If 1D or 3D is dead on the table, then her only hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi, is to make Odds #2.
3. Sixes and eights make the eye leap immediately to the Evens section ("2468"). Scanning down through, the little eye spies Evens #3. Looking elsewhere turns up bupkis. So her hot tiles are twos, fours, and dragons in opposite suits. The twos and fours are key tiles - if 2C or 2D or 4C or 4D is dead on the table, her options are limited (focusing your defense).
4. Flower pungs are in limited use on the card, so you don't have to look too widely; this could be Evens #1 or 369 #1. Both hands have key tiles. If 2D or 4D or 3D or 9D is dead on the table, one of her possible hands is eliminated, and you can defend against the other hand.
5. Consecutive numbers. You'll find these numbers supported by only the first two Consec hands. Consec #1 needs pairs of 1C and 2C; if either of these key tiles is dead on the table, then you need focus your defense on only Consec #2. Including those key tiles, her hot tiles are 1C 2C 5C 5D 5B 6D 6B.
6. These numbers are too far apart for Consec; she's in 369 territory. Specifically, 369 #2. Her hot tiles are 6C 6D 9C 9D. No key tiles; watch her discards, and her reactions to discards.
7. The dragon pung hands in Consec, Odds, and 369 all require same-suit number pungs, so all that's left is 2018 #1. Her hot tiles are ones and eights in dots and bams. Watch for clues.
A tip o' the Sloper hat to sharp-eyed reader Janet H.!
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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.
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