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By Tom Sloper

Column #760

American Mah Jongg (2022 NMJL card). It's the Charleston, and you're getting mostly lousy deals. What do you do?

1. The mah-jongg goddesses are going easy on us, trying to lull us into complacency. Use the four steps. Step 0 says since there are no jokers, consider S&P - but with just one pair, and a pung that I'd have to break up: no, thanks. Go on to step 1. Note a pair of fours, and a pung of sixes in a second suit. Step 2: the fours and sixes clearly work together (they're "friends") for either Evens or Consec. No need to dig deeper into which specific hand; the first pass of the Charleston is about elimination. Keep all evens, keep 7B, and hang onto F and soap for now (no need to give it willy-nilly to someone else at this point). Pass 9B, S, W.

2. The only pair is S; it doesn't have enough "friends" to warrant going W-D. Scanning the tiles for card patterns. There's a zero, but not enough twos for "2022." There are five lows and five highs, five odds and five evens. Garbage hand. The most powerful family on the card is Consec, and without any pairs, S&P is too far out of reach. Lows: that 1-2-3 combo looks good for starting any Consec hand with three numbers in the same suit, and if you can use 2B and/or 3C too, even stronger. Highs: there's a 6-7, 7-8 combo and an 8C. Those overlapping ascenders work for only one hand, the bottom one. Lows look better than highs, so I'd pass a South and 6B and another high number. I wouldn't pass soap, giving it to someone else, at this point. But if you want to preserve all your Consec options, you can do the unthinkable and pass S S 0. It's not really unthinkable. See, I thought of it and I even said it. Sometimes you have to do stuff you don't like, but in the Charleston you have to think fast and be decisive and don't look back.

3. Pair of F, pair of 3B. Where can those be used, and what other tiles in this deal can work with them? Not Any Like, and not Consec. So, 13579? Lots of high odd numbers but no ones to support the threes. No S&P pattern. There are sixes and a nine in the hand. Focus on 369 and the G. Pass E 8D and a seven.

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 3C, the fours, and 5B for Consec, and pass 2D 9D 6B.

5. More evens than odds, more lows than highs. The E pair may be a red herring (that's often how it goes with an outcast wind pair). Pass any combination of winds and high numbers.

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. They're obviously good friends with one another (Any Like, Consec #7, Odds #5). But no additional helpers at all (just those four tiles in all three hands). I'd pass a widespread assortment of suit tiles, keep ones, dragons, and winds. Complete destruction of stinky red herrings.


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. 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.

Where to order the yearly NMJL card: Read FAQ 7i.

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, a good supplement to the League's 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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