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By Tom Sloper
June 2, 2019

Column #724

American Mah Jongg (2019 NMJL card). In these exercises, you see an opponent's exposures above, and your own hand below. What would you discard?

1. Your opponent is making 369 #3. Her hot tiles are threes and nines in bams and craks. Your 3C is hot. If you throw it, she might win on it. How long is the wall? The shorter the wall, the more dangerous the discard. But you have ten tiles and a joker towards your own hand, 2468 #2. The 1C and F are less dangerous to discard right now, but consider: That 3C has to go, else you will never win. The odds favor you if you discard early, before the tile's heat increases more and more. It's a hot potato, getting more dangerous the longer you hold on. The flower may be hot, too (for another player, not for her); again, the shorter the wall, the hotter the flower. I'd discard 3C if the wall is still pretty long.

2. She could be making 2468 #1 or Consec #5. If 2468, she needs even bams (like your 2B). If Consec, she needs G and either 7B or 9B. Your hand is good for Any Like #2, but it's uncertain which dragon to use for your matching pairs and which will work best for your matching pungs. G is hot, so you should plan to keep it. Check the discard floor. Are there any twos or fours? Those are her key tiles; the death of either narrows her options, giving you less to worry about. What about green dragons: see any on the table anywhere? Look at the length of the wall. How close are we to the end? 9B and 2B are hotter if the wall is shorter. If the wall is long, discard her hot tiles to feel her out (if she calls for exposure, you know which way she's going). If the wall is short, how short is it? You have only three discards - red, 2B, 9B - you need at least two lucky picks plus one subsequent lucky discard, meaning if the wall is shorter than 4 stacks, you have no chance to win and you should discard whatever is safe, if there are any safe tiles. Jokers are the safest discards.

3. Your opponent is making either 2019 #1 or Consec #6. Look for clues: especially eights in all suits. She needs two pairs of eights if she's making Consec #6; the eights are her key tiles because visibly dead eights narrow her options, and your worries. You do need to get rid of the 8D, since it doesn't work for your hand (Consec #2, several ways). Do it sooner rather than later. But first, redeem her flower joker (a rare opportunity among advanced players).

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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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