American Mah Jongg (2022 NMJL card). Building your own hand is one thing, but you don't want to give someone else mah-jongg. Watch opponents' exposures and defend.
1. Scan the card for flower pungs, until you find one with a dragon kong. You'll find this in W-D (the 2nd hand). The hot tiles are the other dragons. It's risky to throw any dragon unless somebody else throws one and it goes unclaimed. That would mean the player isn't ready... yet. And I hope you were observing their body language at the time.
2. Scan the card for flower kongs, until you find one that can go with a pung of twos. You find one right away (2022 #3), but don't stop scanning. Consec #7? No, the pung can't be a number lower than three. And nothing else turns up, so it's definitely the 2022 hand. The hot tiles are 2C 2B and soap. Those are key tiles; check to see if any are dead on the table.
3. Fours and sixes. You know what families this can't be: 2022, Any Like, Odds, or any family on the right pane of the card. Start with Evens. And... nothing. Move on to the center pane. Consec #5 fits, so it could be the hot tiles are 3B 5B 7B. But wait, did you overlook Quints? That would be an understandable mistake, since the exposures don't include a quint. But this could be Quints #2, with more hot tiles: 2B 8B.
4. Threes: a pung in one suit and a kong in the other. We know which families don't apply: 2022, Evens, W-D, S&P. Any Like #2 is a candidate... nothing in Quints... nothing in Consec... Odds #3 is a candidate... and so is 369 #6. That's a lot of possibilities, and a lot of hot tiles: 3B G R, 1C 5D, F 6C 9C. If you see one of those go out, it might mean you can narrow the possibilities. Probably.
5. Kong of F, pung of G, the reverse of #1 above. Scan for flower kongs. Consec #7. All bams are hot.
6. Pungs of same-suit twos and fours. 2468 #3 is obvious, but just to be sure, look in Consec... no, it's definitely 2468. The hot tiles are 6D 6C 8D 8C.
7. Kong of Wests. Quints #1 is a possibility, and there are two W-D hands that can use a kong of W: #1 and #6. This is a problem. All dragons, all winds, and all number tiles are hot. Have to wait for a clue, and that may be too late.
8. Hmm, a pung of west... This is a problem, but not for you. The player has goofed, and is playing a concealed hand (2022 #4). Call them dead.
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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