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By Tom Sloper
May 13, 2018

Column #704

American Mah Jongg (2018 NMJL card). An opponent is showing two kongs. What is she doing? What are her hot tiles? What should you do?

1. Bizarre but true: there is no hand on the 2018 card that matches this. She cannot possibly make mah-jongg, and it would be senseless to let her continue picking and discarding; you should call her dead. I know, I know -- some of you intensely dislike the death rule. But letting her continue to pick and discard is a waste of tiles, given that the death rule exists.

2. It should be obvious that there is just one hand this player could be making: 2018 #1. Her hot tiles are 2C and soap. What should you do? The wisest thing to do* is to not discard her hot tiles.

3. Look for DDDD on the card. There are five hands: Evens, Any Like, Consec, W-D, and 369. Those 4Ds don't work with Evens, Consec, W-D, or 369. So she's doing Any Like #1. What are her hot tiles? F and 4B. Wisest course* is to not discard her hot tiles.

4. Look for flower kongs on the card (FFFF at left of a hand). This isn't W-D so it has to be Twelves ("Addition"). Her hot tiles are threes, ones, and twos in every suit. Could be difficult to defend against.

5. Could be Evens #4, Consec #5, or Consec#6. Hot tiles: 2C, 8C, G, soap, fives, and F. Wisest course of action*: don't discard any of those.

*I asterisked the phrase "wisest course" because of a question someone recently asked on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board: Paul A asked on May 9 what one should do when one picks another player's hot tile, yet is one away from mah-jongg oneself. I told Paul he has to figure that out for himself: "either you are going to pay 2x value..., or you might win, 4x value if by discard, 6x value if by self-pick. There is also a chance that another player might win, not from your discard (in which case you pay 1x value)," I told him. But this simple equation can lead to disharmony.

Other players (not only you) will also have to pay the winner, and they can get mad at you for discarding an obvious hot tile. If you base your strategy off that simple math, you may come out with a heavier purse than the others, but there may be repercussions. As I told Saretta on May 5 on the bulletin board, "paying for the party" is not a League rule, but players may adopt a "pay for the party" rule to penalize "unwise" discards. The common wisdom when a player is showing multiple exposures is "don't discard her hot tiles." My answer to Paul addressed the math, but without taking the human factor into account.

A tip o' the Sloper hat to sharp-eyed readers Libby S and Beth P!

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