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By Tom Sloper
June 23, 2019

Column #726

American Mah Jongg (2019 NMJL card). Charleston exercises.

1. Going by the four steps, we see there's a pair of fours, and a pung of sixes in a second suit. They clearly go together for either Evens or Consec. Step 0 says since there are no jokers, consider S&P - okay, done (nothing that uses a pung, and nothing that uses pairs of fours and sixes in different suits). So stay with plan A. Keep all evens, keep 7B, and hang onto F and soap for now.

2. The only pair is S; it doesn't have enough "friends" to warrant going that way. Scanning the tiles for card patterns, there's a zero, but not a solid "2019," and not enough friends for that family. There are five lows and five highs, five odds and five evens. Garbage hand; look for Consec #2 possibilities. When desperate, think about the unthinkable: like for instance, passing S S 0. If you're not that desperate, choose to keep high or low by mentally flipping a coin.

3. Pair of F, pair of 3B. Where can those be used together with one another, and what other tiles in the hand can work with the combo? There's 369 #4. Trying out Consec #s 3, 5, and 6 gets us nowhere. Same with Odds #3 and Any Like. But we have just five tiles for 369 #4 (same for Consec #3). I'd keep all those dots, and the dragon. That leaves 7B 7C E to pass.

4. No pairs. A lot of low numbers, so 6B and 9D can go. I'm loath to pass dragons or flowers in the first pass, so a low number has to go. Keep the ones for Any Like, keep 4B 5B for Consec #5. Passers: 4D 9D 6B.

5. More evens than odds, more lows than highs. The E pair may be a red herring. Five tiles towards Evens #1. Pass E 1B 9B.

6. One pair: eights. What's friends with eights: evens and highs, of course. Keep them all, pass 1D 3D S.

7. Two pairs: ones and matching dragons. Of course they're friends with one another (Any Like, Consec #5, Odds #3). But no additional helpers at all (just those four tiles in all three hands). So: what's friends with just the ones? (Besides the dragons.) Answer: not much, maybe 3D. What's friends with just the dragons? (Besides the ones.) Answer: 3D 9D. Sometimes the mah-jongg goddesses don't give you anything to work with. Not much you can do. I'd pass 4C N E.

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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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