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By Tom Sloper
March 28, 2010

Column #444

American Mah Jongg (2010 NMJL card). The new 2010 card is out, and the usual confusion has accordingly burst forth. This time it's all about one particular hand.

11DD 111DDD 1111

This hand has been seen before, in the 2003 and 2006 cards. Nobody was confused those times, but there's a minor typographical glitch this time. People are all in a tizzy over nothing. There's nothing between the green 1's and the green D's, but people don't care about that. What they're getting all confused about is the nothing that's between the red 1's and the red D's. The League's printer didn't put space there.

So now people all across this broad nation are asking if 111DDD is a sextet -- a single exposable grouping. Well, it certainly isn't a sextet, because a sextet is six identical tiles. The last time the League permitted a single exposure consisting of non-identical tiles was 2000. That exception is understandable -- it was the Millennium! That exception notwithstanding, I was taken aback by the flood of emails from those confused about the hand.

I remember someone saying about the yearly card, "there's always something."

People got confused in 2003 when G's and R's appeared on the card. The G's were shown in green ink, and the R's in red ink, but that wasn't enough of a clue for some folks.

People got confused when sextets appeared in 2005, asking if that was a mistake. They wanted to know if they were supposed to make the sextet as two pungs. We'd had double pungs (two pungs of the same tile, necessitating at least two jokers) in 2004. Maybe that's why folks thought sextets must be a typo.

And how about that 1123 hand in Quints? That one showed up in 2005 (and remained in '06, '08, and '09). The confusion over that lasted four whole years!

The 2009 card gave us a double whammy. The Seven-Eleven typo stared at us all year long (those of us using the regular-size card, anyway). And more than a few were confused by the fact that there was a red C on the card. Usually, the C (for Concealed) is shown in dark blue ink. It amazed me how many people were thrown off just because the C was red.

But this year! All that confusion just because the hand doesn't look like this:

11 DD 111 DDD 1111

The spaces between the same-color sets really aren't even necessary. For all it really matters, they could have shown the hand without any spaces:


With spaces or without, it ought to be clear that this hand is two pairs in one suit, two separate pungs in a second suit, and a kong in the remaining suit.

All that brouhaha over nothing!

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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:

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