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By Tom Sloper
September 28, 2008

Column #382

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

(Notation system explained in column 356.)

The initial deal was a jumble. The two Ws and two Js were its saving grace. Best choice seemed to be W-D#4, but darn -- long on odds and short on evens. The Js precluded going for S&P; 2008 #5 was a better second option. So I passed terminals and R. Got winds and G, decided to hang onto those, passed more numbers, got another wind and G. The G pair seemed better than a solitary 2 (without same-suit 8) so the 2B had to go. Got more winds and dragons, and now at the end of the first left, my only non-honor was 1C.

The G pung wasn't useful without flowers. 2008 was looking like the best bet now, so I broke up the pung for my second left. Got another wind, and a pair of 9C. Kept the wind, passed the pair across with G, receiving a nice present: 248 in dots. The 2 and 8 I needed! I had naught but 4D to pass right, so I blind passed two. I got a 9B and offered it across in the courtesy, getting G back in return.

So at the end of the Charleston, I was just two tiles away from 2008#5. I would have to be lucky -- pick E, W, J, or soap, throw G, and wait for E, W, J, or soap (depending). A very good position to be in.

It drove me crazy when other players threw winds and I couldn't call them. But I picked E on my 6th pick, setting me for maj. Soap was my only hope. On my 10th play, dealer konged my 5D with a joker. Five turns later, I picked 5D but couldn't redeem it. You should have seen the group's reaction when I threw the precious redeemable tile away like so much garbage. It was followed shortly by my calling North's soap for maj.


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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.