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By Tom Sloper
November 1, 2009

Column #429

American Mah Jongg (2009 NMJL card). Yesterday I played in an online tournament with Japanese mah jongg celeb Jenn Barr on (I came in second), and today I'm observing a tournament at a Los Angeles mah jongg club (Japanese mah jongg again). I'll report on the latter in next week's column. But as for today's column: Charleston exercises (American mah jongg, of course). What would you pass?

1. The consecutive number pairs (fours, fives, sixes in three suits) scream the Consec. family. In particular, this is a great start for the fifth hand (the one with the flower pair). But the unpaired fours, fives, and sixes shouldn't be gotten rid of just yet. Pass E 9B 3C.

2. Twos, eights, and Easts. You could go for W-D #4, but that's a long shot. Better to look at Evens. Soap can go, and an E. If you can't decide on another tile to discard, pass a second E. You need to keep R, and it's a little early to be too concerned with defense.

3. Wests and Reds don't go together. You could keep FNWRR for W-D #5, or you could chuck winds. High numbers look fairly strong, but if you want to use the Reds you don't want to keep craks. I'd pass 2C 5C W.

4. All you've got here is a pair of nines. There are three families you can look at when you have nines: Consec., Odds, and 369. Without any jokers, forget Quints, but do add S&P into your thinking. I'd keep all the dots, the flower, and 3C and 6B. That leaves 1C 8C 2B to pass.

5. Threes and Easts don't go together. The E's are totally unsupported by anything, so focus on the threes. You could make Elevens in dots, or all Odds. Pass 3C 1B E (don't pass both E's if you don't have to).

6. Ones, fours, and sixes. The ones suggest Elevens. You don't have 7D or 5B, though. Evens might be better. But you don't have to decide that just yet. Pass 9B 1B 8B for now.

7. Fours, sevens, and nines: tricky. The hand is much stronger on highs than lows, so consider passing lows. You can pass S 1C 3D and think later.

8. Threes and sixes. You know what that means. This one's a no-brainer. You can pass anything that isn't a three, six, or nine. Just pick any three to pass.

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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.