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By Tom Sloper

June 5, 2005 (Year of the Rooster)

Column #217

Chinese Official Tournament Rules. Luck is important in mah-jongg, but the real trick is in how you use your unlucky tiles (to paraphrase the words of professional poker player Roxanne Rhodes on NPR yesterday). Sometimes you get more lucky tiles than unlucky tiles. As is the case for Earl in today's game. He'd just gotten a spectacular score in the previous hand (when he'd been North).

All pungs, clean hand ("half flush"), two dragon pungs, self-picked. 19+1, so 20+8 from each player, for 84 points. Feeling the warm glow of that victory, he looked at his new tiles:

Too bad he wasn't North anymore! Having just scored big with bams, his instinct was to go for them again. He threw 7D for starters. Samantha pounced, chowing it, then Waiyee chowed her discard, then Noriko chowed Waiyee's. It was a happy chowing party, and everybody but Earl was invited.

Earl continued to shape his second clean hand in a row, while the others continued chowing up a storm. Samantha was showing 678D and 789C. Waiyee had 567B, and Noriko was the one really going to town. She had 123C 789D 123B.

Then the wind tiles started going out. Earl had been trying to see if his would turn into something, but once others started throwing them, he followed suit (if you'll pardon the phrase). Besides, he'd collected several more bams by then. He could pung 4B, and he could chow 7B or 3B. Picked 4B and 8B, then took note when Waiyee chowed 2B for 234. Next time around, Waiyee made her fourth chow. She now had 234B 567B 456D 456C - all chows, short straight, mixed double, all simples, - Earl figured she didn't have enough to get 8 points without self-pick, but she's a good player...

Unfortunately for Earl, he was so focused on what Waiyee might be doing that he forgot about Noriko's exposures. Noriko threw 6B so Earl called it. His next two picks were 2B and a third 8B. He decided to forget about his aspirations to make a pure straight.

Discarding 9B, he was waiting for 3B for mah-jongg. Only one hitch - 9B was Noriko's maj tile! If Earl had been paying attention, he would've seen that she was making "outside hand" (terminal chows). He'd made his own bad luck this time.

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© 2005 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.