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By Tom Sloper
April 29, 2018

Column #703

American Mah Jongg (2018 NMJL card). The Charleston music has begun, dealer. What is your first pass?

1. Three pairs: soaps, fives, flowers. Have you ever heard the phrases "all rules are meant to be broken" and "it depends"? One of Sloper's "rules" is to look for ways to use all of your pairs. In fact, there is Any Like #1 (uses just those 6 tiles, and no others but the joker). Consec. #3 and 369 #1 are also 6-tile options. But there are 7 tiles for W-D #4, and 7 tiles for S&P #4 (neither of those utilizing all three pairs). So in this situation, maybe that "use all your pairs" rule can be broken. I don't like that S&P hand, so I'd keep tiles for W-D #4 and Any Like. I would keep 5D, pass 3B 3D 6D.

2. Terrible garbage. I wouldn't go for S&P without more ammo, and I wouldn't go for Quints without more jokers. Best bet is to go for Any Like or Consec, with sixes as the focal point. That leaves four passers: 2C 9C 4B S. Pick three.

3. Pair of ones. This mess contains seven tiles towards 2018 #4 (bams). Nothing else comes close. I'd pass craks and a dot (holding F defensively).

4. Pair nines, pung F. With 3B and 1D, you can go for Twelves (7 tiles). S&P #5 is also 7 tiles. The first right pass can be chosen from among 8D 4B 7C and W.

5. Twos and eights in different suits. If you try to use both pairs, what you have is 2018 #1 and Evens #2 (both just 5 tiles). But check out 2018 #2, S&P #2, and S&P #4. If you like S&P #1, hang onto the winds. You can pass 9C 3D 3B.

6. Those craks scream 369 #1 but you have no flowers. How about Odds #4? Keep 1D 5D. How about other 369 options? Keep 3D 6B. Pass 4D 5B 8B.

7. One pair (threes), with lots of friends (perhaps too many). Thinking Quints #3 and Consec #7, you have four passers: 8B 7D 1C W.

8. Pair of threes. The highest tile count is found in S&P #4, which would waste two jokers. Keeping 2B for vaguely Consec purposes, you can pick your pass from 8D 8B 9B S and E.

9. That pung of nines looks awesome but has few really excellent friends. Keep tiles for Twelves, Any Like, and Odds. Pass 2D 4B S.

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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Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book about the American game, including official rules not in the outdated official rulebook.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).

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