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By Tom Sloper

February 5, The Year Of The Dog
Column #252

American mah-jongg (2005 NMJL card). Nora arrived at Esther's home all a-twitter. "This is so fun, there's a new hand to try," she proclaimed. She rushed to the table and arranged some tiles.

"What on earth is that?" asked Esther. Nora explained, "See, it's 1911 and 1949, with pungs of East and Red."

Sophia asked, "1911? 1949?" Everybody looked at Wesley, who just shrugged.

Nora went on, "I don't know, they're Chinese history or something, it doesn't matter. This hand is for the Chinese New Year..."

Esther interrupted, "It's the Year Of The Dog. I gave Muttsy special treats last week."

"What are you talking about?" Sophia asked. "Did this come from the League in New York? It's not on the card."

Nora explained, "I don't know where it came from. It's just a fun special hand for one night only, to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Let's do it, it'll be fun!"

Sophia objected, "Let's just play the regular way." But Nora polled the others. Esther was in favor of doing it for one evening, and it was her house. Wesley saw which way the wind was blowing and gave the swing vote in favor. It was decided to value the hand at a whole dollar. Sophia had misgivings about such a large amount, but the majority ruled.

An hour later, Nora seemed frustrated. "I almost made that hand. I had my Easts and Reds, but I didn't have the ones and nines." Wesley opined, "The 1911 is really hard. You need three ones, and you can't use jokers." A sort of group "aha" went up, except from Sophia. "I'm not trying for it," she grumped. And the next hand began.

When Sophia looked at her tiles, though, she had a change of heart.

Her curmudgeon nature lost out to the chance of winning four or six dollars (depending on whether she picked it herself or not) in one fell swoop. She decided to give it a try. Just for a pass or two. Passed 4B 2D 6C. Got 3C 3B G. And already she had a quandary. She had to either go for a regular 13579 hand (#2) or stay with the weird new hand.

She counted. 13579 #2 (not counting jokers) - 6 tiles. Chinese hand - 6 tiles. They're even. But then she weighed the winning potential. $1-1.50 versus $4-6.00. She went for it. Passed F G 3B. She never got a one, nine, East, or Red in the Charleston.

To be continued...


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© 2006 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.