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By Tom Sloper
June 5, 2022

Column #762

American Mah Jongg (2022 NMJL card). The dance music has begun; it's the Charleston! What would you pass?

1. Step one: observe a pair of ones and a pung of nines. Step two: the nines have more friends than the ones. Think high Consec or high Odds. Either way, pass low numbers, without passing a pair.

2. Got a pair of eights. The evens are obvious friends with the eights, but so are the sevens, which leaves just two winds to pass. That's not enough, so we have to dig into specific hands. Evens #1 is your best bet (six tiles, not counting the joker), but do hang onto the sevens for now. 4D and 4C can go, as can the winds.

3. A pair of sevens and a pair of nines. Obviously good for either high Consec or high Odds, but also a distant start for S&P #3. No need to hang onto winds or 5C, and I'm not enamored of 5D or 6D, either.

4. Step zero: with three jokers and three flowers, you want to make sure to go for a hand that uses what you've got and doesn't need a pair of anything you haven't got. Let's consider Quints #4, Consec #2, and 369 #2. Odds #4 may not be too far-fetched, since singles are easier than pairs, but too many options spoil the Charleston. Hang onto the craks, 2D, and 8D. That leaves N and 5D and 7B to pass. It's not pretty, but things get ugly when you have too many options.

5. It's inevitable to consider 2022 when soap is accompanied by twos. But there's a pair of ones and a pair of nines, and there are only four tiles towards 2022 #3. There are five tiles towards Consec #4... and precious little else. Step three: count highs vs. lows. There are five lows and only four highs. It's painful, but you can pass eights with N. The mah-jongg goddesses will probably reward you by giving you reason to regret the decision.

6. Pairs of fives, ones, and sevens. The mah-jongg goddesses are giving you mixed messages. The three pairs don't work together, so figure out which two pairs are friends. Ones and fives not that great, but the fives and sevens also have 9C for additional support (Odds #2). I normally favor keeping dragons initially, but in addition to N and 8B, you need another tile to pass, and if you want to hang onto the ones, you could pass G.

7. Ones and twos and eights. Twos go with ones or with eights. Have to look at specific hands. Consec #3 is pulling me (1-2-3 is stronger than 7-8-9), but got no flowers (but flowers are easy to get, except when you need a pair). Consec #6 is also an option (7-8-9), but not enough pairs. Try not to sigh heavily (don't give your opponents information), and choose passers from 7D 7B 9C soap.

8. Pung of F, pairs of eights and threes and Souths. The eights have more friends than the threes. Go high Consec. Pass S 3C 3B.

9. Two pairs of twos, a pair of eights and a pair of Wests. The twos are where the strength is; Consec, not Evens. Pass W 7C 8C.


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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