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By Tom Sloper

March 19, 2006
Column #258

American mah-jongg (2005 NMJL card). Today's column is inspired by a recent question on the mah-jongg Q&A bulletin board. A group of "the usual ladies" was playing their regular game. One of the ladies excitedly declared, "maj!" and showed her tiles.

One player objected strenuously. "You can't make the hand that way. Look at the card. The pair has to be the first number! You're dead."

The lady who had made the hand defended herself. "The footnote says 'any pair and quints match.' My quints match my pair. I'm not dead, and you have to pay me 80¢ since you threw it."

Another player backed her up on this, but the challenger was adamant. "I'm not paying. You call the League, and if they say it's correct, then I'll pay."

This was unacceptable to the winner, who insisted that her hand was correct, and that she should be paid on the spot. "It says 'any.' 'Any' means 'any!'" The other shouted, "You're dead! Live with it!" The situation was out of control.

So the question is, how do we avoid big blowups like this one? At the first sign of hot tempers, try to cool the situation off. In a calm reasoning tone, suggest that everyone take a break for a moment. Cover your tiles, stand away from the table, and go refill your beverage or get some munchies. The others may not like having the game's momentum disrupted, but if you soothingly and reasonably suggest a break to cool the tempers, they may follow your lead.

It might help to realize that different people have different reasons for arguing when corrected. Sometimes they honestly think they know the truth. They might be generally self-righteous. They might have a big ego. They might be the type who interprets argument as an attack. Some players have a feisty combative nature - after all, it's a competitive game.

After a cooling-off moment, poll the players. How many people agree with argument A, and how many people agree with argument B? It doesn't matter so much which one is actually correct - what matters is that you douse the fire and get past it.

Then after the evening's game session has ended, you can refer to the January NMJL bulletin (everybody should keep those, every year) the rulebook (every group should have one), check the NMJL website, check my FAQ 9, FAQ 16, and FAQ 19. Having exhausted all of those, you can send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the NMJL for an official answer, or email me for my opinion. Then the next time the group gets together, you can all calmly discuss how the argument might have been avoided.

Then again, if a player is often combative, you should dump her anyway


Click the entries in the header frame, above, to read other columns.

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.