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By Tom Sloper
May 31, 2009

Column #408

American Mah Jongg (2009 NMJL card). WWYD?

1. Two hands: Consec. #1a and Consec. #2. And they're both even. Consec. #2 is easier (no pair mate required) and worth the same, so I'd go for the gold. Discard 1, 4, or 5B.

2. You need more sevens or nines, in either bams or dots. So look at the table for clues. If you see that the needed tiles of one suit are not present, that could mean one of two things: either that's a good suit to go for because there are numerous of those tiles remaining to go out, or somebody's using them and it's a bad suit to go for. If someone has discarded one of your needed tiles, then chances are that more of that tile will go out eventually. If you see none of your needed tiles out there, you might as well just flip a coin.

3. It's either 369 #5 or Elevens #1a. Look at the discard floor (and opponents' racks) for 1B. The risk is that you might not be able to make the F pair for the 369 hand or the 1B pair for the Elevens hand. If 1B doesn't look good, go for 369. F is easier to get than 1B, but while you're looking for 1B clues, look for F clues as well. If anybody has a kong showing, maybe it's better to go for Elevens. It's going to take a while to get ready, and your tiles can go dead in the meantime.

4. Consec., either #5 or #6. If it's #6, you want the threes to be the pair so you'd discard 5C. If it's #5, you also don't want 5C. Discard 5C.

5. Winds-Dragons, either #5 or #6. You have 3 tiles to discard either way, but an entirely different 3 tiles. W-D #6 is the better hand to go for, because it's worth more and doesn't require getting a single. Let the winds blow!

6. It's 369, either #4 or #6. The latter will be harder to make, because it requires 3 pair mates. I'd go for #4. However, it's always good to get rid of a tile that is not needed by either option, and 9D fills the bill.

7. Four possibles, all equal and all Consec.: #2, #3, #4, #5. But are they actually equal? #3 has a couple ways it could go, and that flexibility has power (and it's worth more). #4 is the most risky because it needs two pair mates, and is the only one that uses R. Throw R.

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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.

Where to order the yearly NMJL card: 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.