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By Tom Sloper
October 11, 2009

Column #427

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

1. No hand uses all three pairs, so you'll have to choose two. But which two can be decided a little later. The fours can work with either the fives or the sevens for a Consec. hand, and the fives and the sevens can work together for 13579. But the E and the twos can go.

2. That trio of sevens is the key. Consec. or Odds. No ones, so forget Elevens. All even numbers far from seven are expendable. Don't get rid of G or F just yet. Pass 4B, 4C, W.

3. The pairs are 3B and N. They might make W-D #3, but it's iffy. So keep the winds and threes, but look at other options too. The dragons might make W-D #5, but even iffier. Keep 5D and 4B for Consec. #2. 1B, 2D, 7B look like the passers at this point.

4. Only one pair: 7C. With 4C, 1C, F it could be Elevens #2. With 8D 9D 8B it could be something in Consec. That leaves 2C 3D 0, so just pass them already!

5. Either pass winds and a dragon, or keep them and pass anything else (except F). I'd pass 1B 2C 8C, that way I can go W-D or 13579.

6. Sevens and Wests do not go together. I wouldn't go for a Winds hand with only four winds, and I wouldn't pass the W pair. I'd pass N E W.

7. With those ones, I could go for Elevens or Odds. Since I don't know what other numbers to pass besides 2B, and might have a use for F, I'd go ahead and pass the W pair with the 2B.

8. Pairs: twos, threes, sevens. They don't all go together. The sevens don't go so great, either. There are lots of low numbers, so I'd pass E 9B 7D (breaking up the unwanted pair).

9. Pairs of sixes and eights scream 2468, but no hand uses sixes in two suits. I'd pass S 6C 7B.

10. One of those! I hate those. You could count odds vs. evens and highs vs. lows. Or you could just defer the thinking, and get rid of W G R for now.

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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). Linda Fisher's website is the only website that describes American rules:

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.