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By Tom Sloper

December 3, 2006
Column #295

American Mah-Jongg (2006 NMJL card). Classic problem types.

Problem Type One: You've carefully kept two options open, a small handful of tiles serving as the "hinge" between the two. It comes to pass that the number of tiles to the left of the hinge equals the number of tiles to the right. You've discarded the last of your throwaway tiles, and now the tile you pick, rather than weighting one direction over the other, instead goes straight into the hinge itself. This example is from my Nov. 17th play session:

The hinge is these: . I was hoping to pick F or 6C or G - something that'd give me a clue which way to go (Lucky 13 or Consecutive Runs). Wouldn't you know it, I pick 6D. The two options are still even (neither one looks advantageous over the other in any way). What do you do? You consider the risks. Does one hand need a pair that you don't have? Have others thrown out the tiles you need - or just as bad, have they been hoarding them? You may just mentally flip a coin. And sure enough, what usually happens after that is... "I went the wrong way."

Problem Type Two: You had a clear direction from the outset, but the hand needs a pair and you don't have it. Also from the evening of November 17th:

I needed 2B, but two were out; I kept picking flowers. I also wanted Wh, of course (Consec. #6). The 4B was my ace in the hole - in case 2B went dead, I could shift the numbers up (but that way would be a lot weaker). Naturally enough, the last 2B went out. I threw the ones (and one of the threes), but it was too far to go, too late in the game.

Problem Type Three: The hand you were dealt was all singles, with maybe one pair, and no jokers.

This happened to me last night. I had possibilities for 2468 (three hands: #2, #4, #6) but also S&P #4. Classically, the inevitable situation that ensues consists of not one but several problems:

1. The tiles you pick either don't help any of your options, or help each of them equally.

2. Other players discard tiles needed for all your options, and you can't call them.

3. Sometimes what happens is that you pick jokers (or redeemables) but can't use them.


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© 2006 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.