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 30, 2009

Column #421

American Mah Jongg (2009 NMJL card). What would you pass?

I heard a wise saying from Dr. Laura this week: "That there are imperfections in a properly-made decision is just a fact of life." The results of your decision won't make themselves evident until some time after it's been made. You just have to make your decision and run with it. At least you can't blame me if it turns out later that it wasn't the best decision--because I didn't make it, you did! Hah! Oh, sorry. That's not where I meant to go with that. Anyway...

1. No pairs, no jokers. S&P is not an option with these tiles, so count highs vs. lows and evens vs. odds. Five lows, six highs (highs win, just barely); seven odds, five evens (odds win). Something in Consec., with the high numbers from 6 to 9, looks like the best avenue for the moment. The G isn't likely to be needed; best hang onto the F just for flexibility's sake. Throw anything from among 1C, 3C, 3B, 2D, 4D, and G.

2. Two pairs (both even) and three jokers. Go 2468 for sure. There's only one odd tile, so 7D can go. Shoot for 2468 #3; keep 224 in D and 466 in C; throw 6B, 2C, 7D. The flower will probably go before too long.

3. Pair sevens. Those dots cinch the deal; go for high Consec. or 13579. Pass 2C 2B 4B.

4. Three pairs, in the high Consec. range. Get rid of lows; 3C 4B 4D.

5. Pair flowers. The rest of it looks more 369 than anything else, so pass 2C 5B W.

6. Two pairs: ones and fives. Eliminate evens and winds; 2B 6D E.

7. If not for the two jokers and not nearly enough soaps, I might go for 2009 in S&P. But W-D #5 (NEWS) looks more possible. Pass 3C 8C and either nine. Don't break up the 2C pair just yet.

8. Three pairs: two pairs of fours and a pair of threes. This screams Consec., so pass anything far removed from the strong numbers, like nines and the eight.

9. Two pairs of threes and a pair of soaps. Suggests 13579 #5 but there are missing pieces. Keep Consec. #6 open too; pass any three from 6C 8C 4B 2D.

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). Linda Fisher's website is the only website that describes American rules: (new address!).

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.