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By Tom Sloper

Column #441

American-Style Mah Jongg. Last week I was discussing the Marvelous Mah Jongg card, the "other alternative" mah jongg card. I ran out of column space and had to cut it a little short.

I mentioned the FRIENDS hand last week:


M is West (upside down) and J, of course, stands for Joker. The AMJA card also has some hands that require a joker. Well, a few days ago I got a sticker in the mail. It's supposed to be attached to the card to clarify a special rule unique to the Marvelous card: "A Joker may be picked up to MAH JONGG when used in hands with the letter 'J.'"

In my writings, I use the term "picked" to refer to the taking of a tile from the wall, but I presume this is saying that a discarded joker may be called (picked UP) for mah jongg. While I was looking at the back of the card, I noticed that the word "borrowed" is used for the blind pass. Better than the word "steal," in my opinion. But "blind pass" still expresses what's going on more accurately.

The card includes most of the usual sections or "families." Quints, 2010, and 369 are there. The NEWS section is what you'd expect. And a Word Games section as I discussed last week. I like the simple and not-self-indulgent cleverness of the family names "Odd Duck," "Even Though," and "Run For Your Life."

There's no "math" section equivalent to the Sevens, Elevens, etc. at the lower left corner of the NMJL card. There are some "math" hands, but they're found in the Odds, 369, and Evens sections among the regular hands, and always involve zeroes.

FFFF 9999 + 1111 = 10
FFFF (222 + 444) - 666 = 0

And most significantly, there's no Singles & Pairs section. There are several hands that require singles, though. Interesting how many hands use single tiles in this card. One example:

FFFF 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 DD

A couple of parting nitpicks. In my opinion, some of the wordplay hands take liberties. The use of "W8" to represent "wait" is fine and great, but:

09 FINE 2010 IS G8

"'09 is fine, 2010 is gate." (^_^) Okay, okay. GReen, GReat, I get it. And this one:


"5 fingers, no twooes." I just noticed also that there's a hand in 2010 that requires a kong of1B's to make the sentence "Birds sing in 2010." Gaggy cute.

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Where to order the yearly NMJL card: Read FAQ 7i.
Where to order the yearly AMJA card:
Where to order the yearly Marvelous card:

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:

© 2010 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.