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By Tom Sloper
November 15, 2009

Column #431

American Mah Jongg (2009 NMJL card). As a reader wrote so charmingly this past week, "number r complicated." So today's column delves deeply into Charleston exercises with numbers.

1. The key here has to be the 3D pung. With threes, you have to consider Odds, Consec., and 369. With no flowers, ignore Elevens. Odds look good, if you stay with the low numbers (1s, 3s, 5s). So high odds can go. 369 looks good. This combo doesn't look so good for Consec., except for #1. Process of elimination then leaves 7B, 8B, and 0 to pass.

2. Eights and threes make Elevens. There's one 1C here but no flowers. Flowers are easy to get, though, and the 1C could come in with luck. For a backup, consider Consec. G and 6B can go for sure. For the 3rd passer, how about 1D.

3. Sixes and ones. Both pairs of sixes can be used together in 369. The ones might be useful for Elevens; there are no fives or flowers but they could come in, and there's a pair of jokers. Consec. #1 is also an option. But maintaining all those possibilities isn't possible, since three tiles must be passed. So the weakest option has to be dismissed. There are no nines here, so 369 looks bad. There are five tiles towards Consec. #1 and five tiles towards Elevens #3b, but fewer than five towards any individual 369 hand. Pass 3C 6B 3B.

4. Flowers and eights. Could be Evens (#1 or #4) or Consec. (#5). Evens looks much better. All odds can go. Pass 1B 5B 5D.

5. A lone pair of fours. All you can do with fours is Evens, Elevens, or Consec. Since there are no jokers, S&P can also be considered; keep F and all bams. Keep 2C 8C for a possible 2468 #1. The perennial standby, Consec. #2, wants you to keep 6D 7C. That leaves 5C 3D to discard. One more is needed; 1B is disconnected from the other bams, so that'll have to go.

6. Threes and fours and sevens don't all go together. But this is a great start for 13579 #1, and Consec. #1 is also a possibility, so pass any three non-dots.

7. Norths and souths are "odd" (as opposed to even), and the 3D pung suggests W-D #3. Keep 8B 1C F for an Elevens option. That leaves just 2B 4B 6B to pass.

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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.