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By Tom Sloper

May 29, 2005 (Year of the Rooster)

Column #216

American mah-jongg (2005 NMJL card). Let's do some pre-Charleston exercises. Each of the following is the initial deal. Let's compare strategies.

1. This hand has just one pair (not counting the jokers): 3C. Thus there are three first choices for where to begin thinking: Consecutive Runs, 13579, and 369. Don't ignore Quints, but do ignore S&P given the joker pair. With these specific tiles, best bet is to go for 13579 #1 and #5, with Consec. #3 and 369 #1 as fallback plans. Keeping all these possibilities open would leave you just two passers - 8C and 7B. Dropping the 369 option doesn't free up another passer, so drop the Consec. option and focus on 13579. Pass 8C, 7B, and either 4B or 2D.

2. Another one-pair wonder: 6B. And only one joker this time. With sixes, you'd start by thinking 2468, Consec. Runs, or 369. Definitely forget Quints. S&P might be a distant option. The 5667B suggests Consec. #1, but Consec. #4 is another good possibility. Maybe Consec. #3. Nothing in 2468, Consec., or 369 can use the 1C, S, or R, so those are the best first pass.

3. This one has no jokers, but a natural pung and several other tiles in the same suit. Since the pung is sevens, it would be foolish to ignore the Seven hands. And of course don't forget Consec. and 13579. Do forget Quints, though, and probably ignore S&P. The E and R are obvious passers. To find the third one, just look outside the bams. Keep the 8D for now (in light of the 8B and Consec. #3), but 6D looks sorta expendable.

4. Another no-joker, natural-pung deal. This one, though, points pretty strongly at Consec. #2. Mustn't act hastily, though. Consider 369 as well, and Consec. #6. OK to pass 4B, 4D, S. If you don't want to pass like numbers, substitute 7D for one of the fours.

5. Only one hand on this year's card uses both the twos and the nines - Quints #4. If you don't pick up any ones in the Charleston, you might have to go for 2468 or Consec. or 13579. Pass 9B, 9C. For the third, either 6C, 4B, or F. Probably not F, at least not yet.

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© 2005 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.