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By Tom Sloper

April 9, 2006
Column #261

American mah-jongg (2006 NMJL card). When faced with a dismal deal, look for a "family." Or two. Then, when the hand gives you multiple directions, weigh and prioritize them. Keep options open until the mah-jongg gods give you a sign. The problem with such signs is that they can change and sometimes comes too late. Case in point, this dismal deal:

The Consecutive Runs family is in the middle of the card for a good reason. Consecutive Runs is flexible and powerful, and is the first place to look when faced with a dismal deal. This deal is no exception. The hand suggests Consec. #2 or #3, and maybe even a 369 hand (which one is not yet important). Today's player passed R, 7B, 8D. All the other numbers served to keep those options open.

With this pass, player decided to focus on the two Consec. hands, and killed the 369 idea.

A sign from the gods. Or so it seems. The hand suggests Consec. #2 but the smart player doesn't kill the other option just yet. Passed 5B W 8C. A couple of passes later:

Passed 9C 4D 6D, got 5D 7D 3B. Two good tiles. Consider:

Reversal of signs: now Consec. #3 is out ahead. Player announced, "I've got two." Received 2D 1B. First discard: 1B. Shortly, somebody threw 2C. "Hold on." Taking it commits to Consec. #3 but letting it go keeps 3 reasonable options open. Too early. "Let it go."

Long story short, player got 3C, couldn't call 5D or 4B, got J, and had to make a decision.

1C was most expendable, leaving two options still open. And so we see that even a dismal deal can turn into a reasonable hand. And we see also the power of Consecutive Runs.


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© 2006 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.