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By Tom Sloper
June 7, 2009

Column #409

American Mah Jongg (2009 NMJL card). I'm playing a tournament today at Temple Akiba in Culver City, but that doesn't stop me from sharing some What Would You Pass problems with you.

1. A reasonable start for an un-American hand, but a classic garbage hand in American; no pairs of anything to give a hint. The hand has fours and eights in all three suits. If you wanted to go for Consec. #3, you'd need neighboring numbers in one suit; that's the case for 8D but not for the fours. There's no fodder here for Consec. #2. A lot of evens, so by eliminating, we get 3C 3D and 4C to pass.

2. The flower pair is key. Could go Consec. #5 (1D 2B 3C) or 369 #6 in craks, or Elevens #2 in dots. Can pass 7C 6B 2D.

3. It wants to go 369, but only two tiles are obvious passers: 7C 8C. Consider specific hands to determine the third. Main option seems to be hand #6. Keep 6C 9C Wh G. The other hand that uses dragons is #4. The only three in the hand is green, so 9B or 9D can go.

4. Threes and greens suggest 369, but what about Consec. or 13579? Well, in all cases, the problem is that the threes are in the same suit as the dragons. There are only a couple of hands that can use matching threes and dragons: Quints #4 and S&P #2. Both are long shots. Probably better to go for Consec. or 13579 (especially #3a) and lose the dragons entirely. Pass N G and either 6.

5. You can use both pairs in Consec.#2, Consec. #5, or 13579 #3b. Just get rid of anything that doesn't work for any of those hands. Problem is, the 13579 hand might go a couple of ways. Most likely at this point 9D can join your W and R in the Charleston.

7. The consecutive pairs clearly point to the Consec. family, so you know S and 1D will go. The flower can go, too, since the only hand that can use it wants opposite suits.

8. The only hand on the card that uses all three pairs is Consec. #5. But flowers are cheap, meaning they're disposable. Consider also hands that don't use them. 8C and 6B can go for sure. Then it's a decision between 4D and F. In general, this hand looks more 13579 than Consec., so I'd pass 4D and see what comes in.

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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.