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By Tom Sloper
January 4, 2009

Column #393

American Mah-Jongg (2008 NMJL card). Well, it's 2009, but to players of the NMJL card, 2008 lasts until April Fool's Day. So: play on! What would you discard, and why?

1. More evens than odds, and the odds are all singles. So 13579 #1 is out. Consec. #1B is a possibility (8 natural tiles) but you don't have the pairs. 2468 #1 looks best (8 naturals, got both pairs). Discard 3D.

2. W-D #4 is best (8 naturals), with W-D #1 (7 naturals, got pair) following behind. W-D #3 (5 naturals) loses out. Discard G.

3. Looks good for 2468 #5 (8 naturals), but it's weak on pairs. 2468 #2 not so great (6 naturals). 2468 #1 has 6 naturals (dots) also (can't use any of the 2Bs). There are 9 tiles towards S&P #4 but that's a tough haul. In order to decide this one quickly, it's necessary to reduce some options. The two most likely hands (2468 #5 and S&P #4) should be preserved. But 2468 #2 shouldn't be killed off because it's so easy (it's kin to Consec. #2). What's left to throw? 2C and 8C.

4. Consec. #1A is an obvious option, but also preserve Consec. #3, 13579 #6, and S&P #2. None of those needs all three soaps. Throw one, or 6D.

5. 13579 #3A makes 5C and 5D expendable. Consec. #2 is a backup option, and it doesn't change what you can throw.

6. With all those jokers you can look at Quints #4 (6 naturals plus 3 jokers). Other options are 13579 #1 (6 naturals but no pairs), Consec. #1A (also 6 naturals. Typical; three hands and they're all equal. Wait, make that four: 13579 #6 (6 naturals). Consider what you have to keep: FF 3455... 135579... 123455. 8D is out.

7. Very good for 2008 #6 (10 naturals). W-D #3 (8 naturals) and W-D #6 (8 naturals) also look good. Those three options use all the tiles. You have to discard something, so you have to kill one of those hands. W-D #6 is worth more than W-D #3, so throw a wind.

8. Options: 369 #6 (8 naturals), 369 #2 (7 naturals), 369 #5 (7 naturals), S&P # 6 (9 naturals). No tiles left over, gotta kill a hand. If you kill S&P, 3B and 9D can go. Killing 369 #s 2 and 5 don't give you anything. Killing 369 #6 yields Wh G F. Go for the gusto? Wh or G or F. Or play it safe? 3B or 9D.

A tip of the hat to sharp-eyed reader Keating Vogel!

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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 2009 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

© 2009 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.