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By Tom Sloper
January 17, 2010

Column #436

American Mah Jongg (2009 NMJL card). Today I'm playing in a tournament hosted by Bill & Judi's Mah Jongg Fun L.A. ( Tournaments are so much fun. You should try it! Today's column: anatomy of a Charleston.

1. The deal has two pairs: flowers, south. But the souths are all alone, unsupported by any friends or relatives. So I'm not gonna go that way. There's more strength in the numbers, even though they're all over the place. I don't know what you would do, but I break up the souths. There are a lot of high numbers here, and very few lows, so I pass S 1C 3B to the right.

2. I get 1C 3D G in return. The numbers still look rather lonesome, even though they are rather numerous. In other words: no pairs. I still don't like the lows or the lone wind. I pass S 1C 3D across.

3. I get 6D 7C 8C. And now we're talkin'! I've finally got a pair, which gives me some direction. If I want to use those flowers, I have to go either 2468 or Consec. #5. 2468 doesn't look good at all (never even saw any low evens), so it's gotta be Consec. one way or another, flowers or no. And it's time to decide whether or not to keep on hanging on to the dragons. The only non-flower pair is craks, so R can go. There are at least four tiles towards any hand in Consecutive Runs. But the hand that works best is Consec. #5. FF 6D 7B 8C 8C six tiles. So G can go too. Consec. #2 is the easiest hand to make on the card, so I can't pass 7C. I pass 8D R G left.

4. I get 4C 6C 6D. With the 6D pair, my way is clear: Consec. #5 is clearly the best bet. Stop the Charleston? ...No, I have plenty of stuff. I pass 4C 6C 9B, because that also leaves me open for Consec. #2.

5. I get 7D 9B 9C. Still Consec. #5. The "must across" can be a challenge sometimes, but not now. I pass 5B 6B 9B across (could have passed 7C, but eh).

6. I get 5D 1B 6C in return. Last rites. I pass 5D 1B 6C, no blind pass necessary.

7. I get 3C 8B 8D. Now I have a new alternate option: Consec. #3, with eights as the pairs in the middle. I courteously offer two tiles to my opposite: 7D 3C.

8. Netted a 1C pair. That's okay, I'm doing fine.

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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

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