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By Tom Sloper

May 27, 2007
Column #320

American Mah-Jongg (2007 NMJL card). Some Charleston exercises. To write this column, I dealt myself some random starting hands, to share the thought process I'd use. My purpose is to aid new players in honing their Charleston skills. The first move of the Charleston is usually just a matter of elimination. You can't know what hand you're going to make in the end - but you can strategically choose some general directions with the initial deal. To repeat, these deals are random. Don't forget: 75% of the time, you have just 13 tiles (you aren't the dealer). You're lucky if you get two pairs, or three of a kind, or more than one joker... usually, you get fewer clues than that. I hope that this column helps you focus your thinking in your next game.

1. Wow, a real mess. The pair of flowers is your only guide - and since you have a joker, best not go for S&P. I see more high numbers than low numbers, so I'd throw 2B 3D and S. Simple elimination for starters.

2. An even worse mess! No pairs. Not enough evens to go for 2468. Not enough odds to go for 13569. Lows outnumber highs, so I'd pass 8C 9D S to the right.

3. Pair of 6D gives you a clue. I'd go for 2468. I'd pass 1D 9C and either E or N to begin.

4. Now we're talkin'. A clear beginning for a Consec. Run hand. I'd pass 6B S and R. Definitely keep G.

5. Gee, too bad there aren't any "like numbers" hands on the 2007 card. But this is good for 13579 #5. I'd pass 3B 1D 2D.

6. Pairs of threes and sixes, with a nine also present? I'd pass any three that aren't a 3 or 6 or 9. Obvious.

7. Pairs of eights and Easts. I'd throw any odds. Bye-bye 3C 5B 5D, right off the bat. Elimination, right?

8. Pairs flowers, twos, and fives. I'd ditch 6B 8D W, see what happens. Sometimes you just have to hope the mah-jongg gods will help you see the light.


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Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is coming out June 12 from HarperCollins, and can be ordered through AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND you must get the booklet from the NMJL (see FAQ 3).

© 2007 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.