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By Tom Sloper
April 13, 2008

Column #359

American Mah-Jongg (2008 NMJL card). Anatomy of a random 2008 hand, using the notation system described in column #356.

The two jokers tell me not to even think about S&P. There are an awful lot of middle number tiles, 3 through 6, so I'm definitely thinking Consec. My first pass is 1B 9D S.

At the end of the first Charleston, I see that 1B has come back - with a friend. My only pairs at this point are 1B and 6B, but that's good for Sevens. So I change the plan from Consec. to Sevens. I keep 1B, and pass fours.

By the end of the dance, I'm okay for Sevens #1. I have a 1B pair, a 6B pair, one 7B and one F, and two J. Decent enough, since there are eight Fs in the mah-jongg set. I pass three garbage in the optional courtesy, and in exchange I get a third 1B! The real problem is going to be to get enough flowers.

I'm dealer. My first throw is 6D. I kong 7B, using up my 2 jokers. I get one more joker eventually, but when more flowers go out, I can't call them. My game degenerates to "pick and throw, pick and throw." Somebody redeems one of my exposed jokers - the "pick and throw" game goes on... then somebody redeems my last joker.

The wall gets shorter and shorter. My last pick is a flower, but it's the last tile of the wall, and it's too little, too late. 3C is already dead, so that's what I discard. Wall game. I'm two tiles away.

They can't always be successful.

The entire group engages in a brief kvetching party while we shuffle and play again.


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Question or comment about this column? Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board.

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, is the most comprehensive book in existence about the American game. AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the official rulebook 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.