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By Tom Sloper

November 5, 2006
Column #291

American Mah-Jongg (2006 NMJL card). Abby, Barbie, Cathy, Dora, and Eve are fairly new players who play a weekly game. They'd been taught how to play by a local player who'd given them a couple of lessons earlier in the year, and then died. It was Eve's turn to sit out. Abby picked a tile and announced, "We're in the hot wall." The tension at the table ratcheted up a notch. Eve, who'd been perusing a magazine, came to the table to view the final phase of the game. Abby discarded: "Two dot." Barbie called: "Take."

Cathy: "Hey, you can't do that. It's the hot wall. You can't take except for maj." Barbie: "Oh darn, that's right! I keep forgetting what you can call, and when you can't call it, it's all so complicated!" She put her jokers back on her rack and put the 2D back on the discard floor. Cathy had been studying the discard floor, and now asked Barbie, "Anyway, aren't you dead?" Barbie: "What? Why?" Cathy: "Because there are three One Bams dead on the table." Eve, standing behind Barbie: "She's not making a Consecutive hand. She's making a 2468 hand." Barbie: "You're not supposed to tell!" Cathy: "2468!? Oh. I see it now. Never mind, then." Barbie: "Now you're dead. You called me dead and you were wrong. Besides, now everybody knows what hand I am doing." She glared at Eve, who defended herself: "But you would've had to show her what you were doing anyway." Barbie: "No, I wouldn't!" Dora: "Then what are you supposed to do when somebody calls you dead but you aren't?" But everybody was either shrugging or being mad at somebody else.

The impasse was broken immediately. Dora picked a tile and exulted, "I win!" She showed her tiles: seven random pairs. "It's atomic, and I picked it, and it's jokerless! Three dollars from everyone!" In unison: "Three dollars??" Eve: "Bet-on!" Cathy objected: "You can't add jokerless to atomic. It wouldn't be atomic if it wasn't jokerless. Two dollars yes, three dollars no." Barbie and Abby backed her up and cracked open their coin purses. Cathy: "And Eve's bet is no good because she told what Barbie's hand was." Eve: "No way, I never heard of that rule! She would've had to tell anyway!" Barbie: "Never, I wouldn't have told her what hand I was doing. It was my job to reply to the death call, not yours." Cathy: "I never called you dead, I just asked if you were dead." Barbie: "Same thing. You owe me a dollar since my hand wasn't dead." Cathy hotly denied it, and so the game went.

This kind of scene is easily avoidable. Get a copy of the official rules. If you're going to adopt table rules, first learn the rules, so you can break them properly.


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© 2006 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.