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By Tom Sloper
September 30, 2019

Column #730

American Mah Jongg (2019 NMJL card). The dance music has begun; it's the Charleston! What would you pass?

1. Following Sloper's Four Steps, we note the presence of two pairs: flowers and threes. Possible families to target: Consec, Odds, 369, S&P. Ignore Quints and the entire left pane, and W-D. There are flower hands in all the target families. Keep sixes, nines, and 5D. That leaves numerous passers: sevens, eights, E, G.

2. Step one bears no fruit - no pairs. So go to step two: Highs vs. Lows. Doing this analysis, I note that 4-5-6 run - but it has no friends. And it turns out that there are a lot more lows than highs. Passers: nines, G R S.

3. Where did all the jokers go? Step one: just one pair (E). But that's short on friends, so go step three: five lows, four highs (not a significant majority. Step four: same thing. It's always sad when the steps don't turn up anything. But this tells you I need to invent Step Five. There are friends for the E pair: G, R, F, the fours. Keeping fours, also keep all evens. Passers: 1B 3B 9B 9D.

4. No pairs again. But at least a joker. So: step three: high vs. low. Dang! Even. Step four: odd vs. even. That finally tells us what to do. Odds vastly outnumber evens. Passers: evens and E.

5. One pair: ones. Step two: it has friends, ones and dragons for Any Like. Pass anything except ones and dragons.

6. One pair: sevens. Friends? Not many. High vs. low? Five high, six low (no significant majority). Odd vs. even? Same. You could just get rid of winds and soap and stop dithering.

7. Pair of fours and pung of nines. They are not friends with one another. What friends are there for the nines? Plenty: F 5D 7C 9C. You can obsessively hang onto those fours if you want, but that's likely to cause trouble later.

8. Three pairs: F 5D 6B. The ideal thing would be to use all three. And there are three hands where you can do that! Lot of passers to choose from: 1D 9D 3B 3C G Wh S. Keep or throw whatever you want from those.

The Four Steps don't cover every situation. They're an opening book that you get to modify to suit.

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Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book about the American game, including official rules not in the outdated official rulebook.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