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By Tom Sloper
December 6, 2009

Column #433

American Mah Jongg (2009 NMJL card). The Charleston is a tricky dance if you're a beginner, and I have a lot of students trying to master it this month. What would you pass?

1. Threes and eights, but no ones. So forget Elevens. Think Consec., maybe 369. Are the dragons a distraction, or a hint? Consider the bottom Consec. hand and 369 #4. I'd pass 4B 8B 7C.

2. Twos, so think 2468 and Consec. I'd pass W 7B 9B, and see what comes in next.

3. Flowers and ones could go Elevens or Consec. or 13579. I'd pass S Wh 8D. If 3B comes in later, I can kick myself for not passing 8C instead.

4. Ones and sixes, but no flowers. Flowers are easy, though, so Elevens isn't out of the question. 2478 is also supported here, but not Consec. I'd pass E 9B 5D.

5. Pung nines and pair reds. The primary D hands, 13579 # and 369 #s 4 and 6, need just two nines. Other than those, there are also Consec. #s 4 and 6. Then let's play elimination. 3D, 1C, 2B can all go.

6. Pairs fives, sixes, and wests. W-D #4 is not supported, so think Consec. Therefore all numbers far from 6 can go. I'd pass 1B 1D W.

7. All singles, so look for a pattern. Highs, lows, odds, evens? It's a tossup. I'd pass E N and... um... 1C.

8. Twos and eights fairly scream 2468. I'd pass 7C 1B E.

9. Two pairs of twos, pair of threes. I'd think Consec. and pass high numbers. 7B 7D are easy; for the third...? 6C, I guess. Can't spend too much time thinking during the Charleston.

10. Eights and soaps. Could go for Consec. #4: sevens, eights, soaps. R can go, since there are no twos or flowers and they don't work for Consec. #6. I'd pass R 4C 1D. You could pass other stuff just as well.

11. Pair reds, a number of odd tiles. Maybe 13579 #5 or 6. I'd pass 6C 2D 6D, see what happens.

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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.