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By Tom Sloper
October 18, 2009

Column #428

American Mah Jongg (2009 NMJL card). Defense exercises. An opponent is showing the following dual exposures. What is your strategy?

1. It can only be the Consecutive family, and it can only be one hand: Consec. #2, the yearly reliable easiest hand on the card. The only thing is, you don't have a clue here as to what the second suit is. Fives and sixes in both other suits are hot. Don't throw'em unless you're prepared to accept the risk.

2. It can only be the W-D family, and it can only be the first hand. N and S and F are all hot, unless you see N and S dead on the table.

3. Only one hand on the card works for this: Consec. #4. You know that the hot tiles include either the next higher or the next lower number in bams, and the lower two numbers in dots. The only uncertainty is the exact numbers. The hot tiles, then, are 7B, 9B, 5D, 6D, and 7D. As with the next exercise, you can look for clues.

4. This could be Consec. #4, or 13579 #5. That gives us a wide range of hot tiles. But you can get clues. Look at the discard floor and other players' exposures. Both possible hands contain pairs. Pairs can be a guidepost and a curse. For the 13579 hand, you know that ones and fives have to be paired; that knowledge can help you determine what direction the player is going. For example, if you see three or more 1C on the table, you know 5C is hot and 1D 3D are hot. And if you see 1C and 5C dead, she's either not making the 13579 hand or her hand is dead. This knowledge tells you what you can and shouldn't do.

5. This could be Consec. #4, or 369 #4. As above, look for threes and nines dead on the floor for clues.

6. This can only be Elevens #1b. 1D and F are hot. Look to see if 1D is dead.

7. This can only be Elevens #1a. 1B and F are hot.

8. Elevens again (#2b). 1B and F are hot.

9. Elevens yet again (#2a). 1D and F are hot.

For more , see columns 402, 407, 410, 419, 428.

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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.