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By Tom Sloper
April 12, 2009

Column #401

American Mah-Jongg (2009 NMJL card). The first challenge we face with a new card is the Charleston, so let's do some Charleston exercises. In each of the following, what three tiles would you pass? Not a very good joker day...

1. The pung of threes is your keystone. The supporting singles suggest either 13579 or Elevens. I'd pass 9C N G.

2. Two pairs: 3B, 7B. They clearly suggest 13579 #1. Keep Consec. #1 as an option too. I'd pass 6C 8C 2D.

3. Three pairs: 5C, 6B, W. The W pair is a red herring, and will have to be broken up. Go for Consec. for sure. I'd pass 9C 1B N (no hurry to break up the W pair, maybe some sixes will come in).

4. 8B pair is the keystone here. Lots of Consec. Options. I'd pass the two fours, then for the third...? Maybe 5B. The dragons might be useful for #4 or #6.

5. There's only one pair (1C) and a lot of low odds. I'd target 13579, pass 6D W N.

6. Three Fs and a 2B pair. Clearly 2468 #1 or #4. I'd pass 1C 7B 2D (I already have plenty enough twos).

7. The G pair isn't well supported by the other tiles. Not 2009. Maybe 13579 #6, W-D #6, Consec. #6. That only leaves 1D 6C W to pass. Hopefully more clues will come in.

8. Pairs: F, W. They suggest W-D #1. I'd keep the low bams for now, and pass 6B 5D 8D.

9. The 6B pair is it. Target: 369 family, Consec. #2. I'd pass 5C 0 R.

10. Definitely 2468. I'd pass 1C 3D W. No-brainer.

11. 2009 #2. I'd pass 1C 8C 5D.

12. No obvious clues. What I do is count the highs vs. lows and the odds vs. evens. Highs and odds win. I'd target Consec. and 369 here. I'd pass the winds, and... hmm, maybe 1B or 2B.

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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.