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By Tom Sloper
August 17, 2008

Column #377

American Mah-Jongg (2008 NMJL card). A random deal can turn into something wonderful in a well-played Charleston.

(Notation system explained in column 356.)

Immediately in the first pass I had a quandary. There were clearly a lot of 6D circulating. Could I use them? What were the chances that the one I'd passed would come back? Was the 2468 option as good as my other options? Counting, I saw that the S&P #2 option was best (8 tiles). Consec. #1 (6 tiles) was a subset of that--keeping the S&P2 option automatically preserved the Consec1 option. The 2468 option, #2, was just 6 tiles--and could not be preserved while passing 3 tiles. Reluctantly, I let 8D go across, retaining the 6D pair for the moment.

In the next pass I got 5C, furthering my main option. Had to break up the 6D pair. Goodbye 2468 option. Sure enough, the first 6D came back in the first left. I had 6D pair again, but, set on my course, elected not to stop the Charleston. Passed 6D again in the 2nd left. I got 3C, then got R in the across. Now I had only two passers, so I blind passed. Had two tiles for the courtesy and got 4C and... you guessed it... the bad penny came back.

First pick: 3C, threw 6D. Second pick: 5C. Didn't need three, so threw it back. At this point I just needed to pick 1C or R, then break up the 3C pung and wait for mah-jongg. Picked a bunch of junk, then got J. You should have heard the response from the others when I discarded it. It was a shame, but Consec. was farther away than plan A. Somebody threw R and I gnashed my teeth. The wall was getting short when I threw the 2nd J. Immediately after, I picked 4C, raising the spectre of plan B. But having thrown two jokers, I couldn't well change horses now. Then I picked the holy Red Dragon. Threw 3C. Waiting for 1C. It was the very next discard. The plan was validated.


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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.