Please click here if you do not see a Nav Frame at left and Header Frame above - you'll need them!


By Tom Sloper
November 23, 2008

Column #388

I got a question on my Mah Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board this week. Not a weird or funny question, just a question about a hand. Patti asked, "Is there a Mah Jongg hand consisting of a run (1-9), a chi and a corresponding pair of dragons? i.e.: 1-9 in Characters, 3-4-5 in Characters and a pair of red dragons?"

Well, I ran into a problem trying to answer that. Because Patti never mentioned which kind of mah jongg she plays. And that matters a great deal! The only real clue in Patti's question is her use of the phrase "corresponding dragons." Dragons corresponding to suits is not a concept that's universal across the variants. It's a concept found mainly in American and British/Western rules, and possibly in Hong Kong rules as well. Hong Kong having been a part of the British Empire, don't forget.

For my reply on the bulletin board, I chose not to try to answer the question for every possible variant. Too much trouble. Rather, I asked Patti to tell me which variant she plays. But for this week's column, I thought it would be interesting to give it a try.

American (NMJL) - this hand isn't possible, because the chow (aka "chi") does not exist.

Wright-Patterson - This hand almost fits #2, Ruby Hand, but W-P requires the hand to exclude 1s, 5s, 7s, and 9s (those numbers excluded because the Jade Hand excludes those numbers). It does work for #27, Dragon Chows, four chows in one suit with corresponding dragons. The "full straight" AKA "dragon" 1-9 in Patti's example doesn't matter. The hand must be concealed, and is worth single limit.

British/Western - This hand doesn't work for Ruby Crack, because British rules require pungs/ kongs (no chows). In fact, many British players use a one-chow maximum rule. If they don't, then this would earn a double for Clean Hand.

Chinese Official (MCR) - This would earn Pure Straight and Half Flush. Doesn't count for All Chows because of the dragon pair. 22 points, plus any incidentals.

Chinese Classical - This would earn 2 points for the dragon pair. The chows are worthless. Add the 20 for mah jongg, you get base score of 22. Doesn't earn double for all chows (due to the dragon pair). But does earn one double for Clean Hand. The 1-9 straight has no value. 44 points, disregarding incidentals.

HKOS - Earns 3 fan for Won Yat Sik (Clean Hand). Does not earn 1 fan for Ping Woo due to the dragon pair. The 1-9 straight earns nothing extra.

Japanese - It's not pinfu because of the dragon pair, but it does earn itsu for the 1-9 straight (1 fan if exposed, 2 fan if concealed) and honitsu for Clean Hand (2 fan if exposed, 3 fan if concealed).

It matters which rules you're playing, Patti!

Buy the book! Column author Tom Sloper wrote a new strategy chapter for the book MAH JONG, ANYONE? By Kitty Strauser and Lucille Evans. Order it now at!

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

Links to sites where Western rules are described (every author's description varies somewhat):

Click the entries in the header frame, above, to read other columns.

Copyright 2008 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.