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By Tom Sloper
July 20, 2008

Column #373

American Mah-Jongg (2008 NMJL card). Follow along with me. How would you have played this?

1. Faced with junk like this, I count odds vs. evens and highs vs. lows, and in this there's a definite predominance of high odds. I'm tempted by FF 7C 8C R for a moment, but I wind up passing 1B, 3B, 8C. Maybe not the best choice, but what's done is done.

2. Interesting, now there's a 9D pair. 369, if I get some threes? Can't spend time wishing for tiles I don't have or that I threw away before. Gotta play the tiles I've got. I pass R, Wh, 6D across. I don't like passing two dragons, but offense trumps defense right now.

3. As often happens, now it's the initial keystone, the F pair, that's holding me back. This is an awesome beginning for 13579 #3. I pass F 7B W. "First left."

4. I don't let that new 9B pair sway me from the latest plan. I pass 9B 2D G. "Second."

5. Stuff is already coming back. There are two 2Ds going around. I pass 2D W R across.

6. Still committed to the plan. My last right is 1D Wh 6B, as I deploy the troops for battle.

7. My opposite offers three and I give her 1B 2D G.

8. My first pick is E, I throw it back.

9. Several turns later, nobody's cooperating with my plan in the least! Got a 2nd F, saving it for joker bait.

10. Later: finally, some movement. Punged 5C.

11. Later: the joker bait ploy worked perfectly.

12. Later: I've konged 7C and picked a 3rd 7D. If I can get a joker or 9D I'll be sitting pretty... otherwise, I'll join the kvetching party: "look how close I was!"


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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).

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

© 2008 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.