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By Tom Sloper

January 6, 2008
Column #347

American Mah-Jongg (2007 NMJL card). Some quandary exercises. What would you discard, and why?

1. First, I count how many discards there are for each best option. 2007 #1: F N G R (4 discards). 2007 #4: N W SS (4). S&P #1: F S 7D (3). Surprisingly, the Winds-Dragons hands are all farther away. I don't want to throw anything that hurts my best 3 options, but one of them has to give. If I'm feeling very lucky I have to choose whether to kill 2007 #1 (throw F) or #4 (throw S). If I want to play it safe, I'll give up on S&P (throw G or R).

2. Quints #1: 1B 00 R (4 discards). Consec. #1: 00 R (3). Consec. #6: 1B 2B (2). S&P #2: 3B 5B J 00 R (6). S&P too far. I'd throw 1B, Quints fallback.

3. 369 #1: 3D 3D 9D 3B (4 discards). 369 #5: F 3C R 9D (4). 369 #6: F 6C R 3B (4). Not having a 6D makes me dislike 369 #6. 9D is expendable for the other two hands, so out it goes.

4. Consec. #3: 1C 22C (3). S&P #3: 333C J (4). No flowers, so forget S&P. Throw 1C now, maybe 2C will be useful as joker bait later.

5. 13579 #2: F 9D 00 9B 5C (6). 13579 #5: F 9D 00 7B 9B 5C (7). 13579 #7: 555B 7B 9B 5C (6). Hand #5 is the farthest, but no analysis is needed - 5C doesn't work for any of these hands (even hand #5, which wants two same-suit pungs, not two different-suit pungs, a common trap).

6. 2007 #3: F 2B 7B N E (5). 2007 #4: 2D 2B 0 7B (4). 2007 #5: 2B 7B N E (4). S&P #7: F 2D N E (4). The 3rd 2007 hand is my least favorite, for the tile count and the number of jokers I need. So let's drop that one from consideration. The problem with #4 and S&P is that I need 2 single winds. Look at the discards trend - if everyone is throwing them, you're OK. But if someone's keeping them, you're probably out of luck. That leaves us with #5. Throw a bam. If someone throws the case 0, kong it with your joker.

7. Consec. #2: FF 8B 7D (4). Consec. #4, Lucky #3: 8B 7D 88D 9D (5). I don't have a 13, so forget that. I don't have a G pair, so forget that. I'd throw 8B or 7D, save F for joker bait when the wall gets to the halfway point.

Thanks to sharp-eyed reader Jeanette for helping with this column!


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Haven't ordered the 2008 NMJL card yet? Read FAQ 7i.

Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, can be ordered through 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).

Jay Firestone of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles has posted a nice video about a young man (himself) learning to play American mah-jongg. You can see it at

© 2008 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.