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By Tom Sloper
December 14, 2008

Column #391

American Mah-Jongg (2008 NMJL card). Pretty good joker day today. What three tiles would you pass?

1. No pairs. So I look to odds, evens, highs, lows. Five odds (mostly low), two evens (one low, one high). I want to go for the middle of the card for sure. I'd ditch the wind, a dragon, and the 9D.

2. Wow, look at those twos and eights. 2468 for sure. I'd pass N G 5B.

3. Twos again, but not much else. To keep evens and consec. open, I'd pass a 9 and a wind and a dragon.

4. Twos and sevens. Not a great start for Sevens #2 (no 5B, no F). But maybe 2468 #1, or maybe the old standby, Consec. #2. Five tiles towards either hand (I don't count jokers when counting). Problem is, that leaves only two to pass, Wh and 4D. Can you believe it? A quandary with the very first move! 2468 #1 will be harder to make (I don't have the 2nd 8B), so if I want to play the odds, I'll go for the reliable old friend, Consec. #2. I have to pass either G, 2B, or 4B. It might or might not come back. Of those three, I'd pass 4B because pungs are the easiest set to make in this game.

5. Pair 8C. Looking to odds, evens, highs, lows, the highs come out on top, so I opt for Consec. No target hand in mind, I pass a wind, a dragon, and a low #.

6. Threes and fives. Clearly a 13579 hand in the making. I pass 8D, 2B, and E.

7. Threes. Couple sixes in there too. I can pass a dragon, 8C, and a seven. I want to keep the 12D and 34B open for Consec. #2. Not a lot of thinking necessary on this play, see what comes in next.

8. Flowers and threes. No sevens (and no jokers). Thinking Sevens #3 or Consec. #3, maybe 369 #1, what's left to pass are 1B 8B S. That's called elimination.

9. The twos and fours scream 2468 #3. I can pass 1B 3C 5C without having to think much at all.

10. Besides the jokers, nothing else but the nines. Either 13579 or Consec. I'd pass the twos and the four.

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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.