Please click here if you do not see a Nav Frame at left and Header Frame above - you'll need them!


By Tom Sloper
August 9, 2009

Column #418

American Mah Jongg (2009 NMJL card). By request: analysis of a Charleston. Here's what I was dealt:

As often happens, no jokers. Pair twos and many nearby number tiles. So I was thinking Consec. at this time. And possibly 2468 due to the other evens in the hand. I passed R 9C 9B and got 9C 8D W in return.

I was still thinking Consec. with 2468 backup. If I went 2468, the 6C wouldn't be needed (too far from the 2C pair), so I passed 6C 9C W across. I got 2D 5D 5C in return.

Now I saw clearly that I had a predominantly low-numbers hand, and should give up on 2468. I had two eights I could pass, and the only five I really needed to keep was 5B (for Consec. #2), so I chose one to get rid of: 5D.

"First left." I got G R F, and now had this:

Now I could think about specific hands:

  • Consec. #2 - 5 tiles
  • Consec. #4 - 6 tiles
  • Consec. #5 - 6 tiles

    And I knew I had 3 tiles I could pass, so I did not stop the Charleston. Passed 2B 5C R left. In return, I got 1B 5B 5B. This was a significant pass, a watershed moment. Now I recounted my hands:

  • Consec. #2 - 7 tiles
  • Consec. #4 - 6 tiles
  • Consec. #5 - 6 tiles (but different ones) Consec. #4 was my weakest option now, since it required discarding a pung and a pair.

    So I killed Consec. #4, passed 2D 1B G across. Got junk: 1D 6D 9C, and passed that along right.

    Got 4B R 0. This new 4B enhanced the hand greatly.

  • Consec. #2 - 8 tiles.
  • Consec. #5 - 6 tiles

    I didn't want to get rid of 3D yet - it went nicely with the F pair for Consec. #5, so I was just about to offer two across in the courtesy (the dragons). But then I thought if I kept 0, I had six tiles towards Consec. #6. So I offered R to my opposite, and got 1B.

    Eight tiles towards the ever-reliable Consec. #2, with a couple of fallback options, six tiles each. A strong starting position.

    Click the entries in the header frame, above, to read other columns.

    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.