|By Tom Sloper
January 4, 2019
American Mah Jongg (2018 NMJL card). As I wrote in last week's column, you get the yearly newsletter from the League if you buy your card direct from the League.
The newsletter (or bulletin) always includes rule clarifications, once in a while leaving a little room for additional clarification. From this year's letter:
Q: I called Mah Jongg and displayed my hand incorrectly. Instead of Pung, Pung, Kong, Kong (111 22J 333J 44J4) I displayed Pung, Kong, Pung, Kong (111 2J22 3J3 4J44). Since I had the correct 14 tiles can I rearrange them?
A: YES. You are allowed to rearrange your exposed 14 tiles in order to display a correct Mah Jongg.
The answer is logical and friendly, but in this case the question is missing information. The rule applies only if the player had not exposed any incorrect pungs or kongs prior to the mahj declaration. The rule does not mean you can expose a pung now, and then change it to a kong later when exposing the rest of the hand. Because there's another rule that says you can't do that. Sometimes rules overlap one another, and sometimes you have to figure out which one holds sway over the other. The League sets the rules and is the ruling authority on unanticipated occurrences where rules overlap ambiguously. I am guilty of being overly picky about wording, a trait I picked up while reading a century's worth of mah-jongg books from around the world. The words that didn't ring true for me in the 2019 newsletter are the confusingly similar "call" and "miscall." From the letter (I added the italics):
Q: Is there a penalty for throwing a miscalled tile?
A: If the miscalled tile is called causing an invalid exposure, the calling player hand is "dead" and there is no penalty for the discarder of the incorrectly named tile. If the incorrectly named tile is claimed for Mah Jongg, the game stops and the miscaller pays the claimant 4 times the value of the hand; others do not pay. Remember, a tile may never be called unless correctly named.
The word "call" means speaking a request for a live discard. "Miscall," though, refers to the act of wrongly speaking a tile's name when discarding it. I wish "miscall" could be recalled and we could all say "misname" instead. As per my rant in Column 353.
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Question or comment about this column? I often, um... intentionally... "miss" something; maybe you'll be the first one to spot it! Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board. If you want your full name to appear, let me know in a short sentence in the email (I'll omit that sentence when posting). Hit me with your best shot!
Join Johni Levene's popular Facebook group, "Mah Jongg, That's It!" for lively conversations about American mah-jongg and all things mah-jongg.
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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.
© 2019 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.