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By Tom Sloper

March 5, 2006
Column #256

American mah-jongg (2005 NMJL card). An all-too-likely scene. Avoidable by simply buying a rulebook and keeping the yearly NMJL bulletin.

Player One: West.
Player Two: Nine dot.
Player One: I'll take that.
Player Four: Ooh, two jokers! I wish I had those!
Player One: I hate to do that. Well... have at'em, ladies! North.
Player Three: When's the new card coming out?
Player Two: April first. Please! I can't think with all this talking! Where was I...? Oh, yeah. Six dot.
Player One: I'll take that.
Player Four: Oy! Look at all those jokers!

Player One: Seven dot.
Player Two: Seven bam.
Player Three: South.
Player Four: Oh! I picked a nine dot! I'll just take that lovely joker... and that's maj!
Player Three: Darn! I was so close! Look what I had.
Player Two: Oh, what a shame. Pretty hand.
Player One: I shouldn't have put up all those jokers, but look at these. I had to do it.
Player Two: That's pretty too!
Player Four: Fifty cents, everybody. I picked it myself.
Player Two: No, you didn't. You picked a nine dot, you said so yourself.
Player Four: Yes, and it gave me the joker, which gave me maj. Everybody pays double.
Player Two: No! Everybody pays double if you pick the winning tile yourself. But you didn't. You aren't using a nine dot in your hand, are you? You can't go making up rules to suit yourself like that.
Player Four: I picked a tile that I could use to exchange for the winning tile. I picked my own maj. Everybody pays me double if I pick it myself. If I didn't pick it myself, then, according to you, who gave it to me? Who should pay me double?
Player Two (looking at Player One): But she didn't give you the joker, you took it. Nobody pays you double.
Player Four: That's impossible! Every hand, either one person pays double or everybody pays double. You never earn less than a dollar when you win!

The argument couldn't be resolved on the spot. Since the group didn't have a copy of the rulebook, their only recourse was to either email me or send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the NMJL (one is quicker, but the other is more official). Best to have the rulebook! Thanks to Caren Low, whose Feb. 28 bulletin board question suggested this week's topic.


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Question about this column? See an error? Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board.

Haven't ordered the 2006 NMJL card yet? Read FAQ 7i.

Need rules for American mah-jongg? Go to AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the booklet from the NMJL (see FAQ 3).

© 2006 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.