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By Tom Sloper
April 25, 2010

Column #448

American Mah Jongg (2010 NMJL card). Last week I played a Charleston one way. Let's try the same deal and see how it might go with different thinking.

1. I'm the dealer, so I have 14 tiles. As though I know nothing about how I played these same tiles last week, I think to myself, "hmm, lots of even numbers. Maybe those 1B's can be used for a Consec. hand, but something tells me to go for 2468." So I keep the 1B's but pass 1D 3D 5D (a little too 13579 for my liking, but hey, those don't work with my hand -- thinking offense more than defense -- after all, this is only the first play in the game). I get 2D 6B R.

2. Hmm, Consec. #5 is looking good -- just need some 3C's. But I also want to keep 2468 as an option. Hand #1 looks iffy (need another 4B and 6B), but viable. I can pass R 8B and one of the craks. I pass 6C, get 5C 6B 9B in return.

3. Great, another 6B, now I have 8 tiles towards 2468 #1. No closer to Consec. #5, but not giving up on it yet. 2468 #2 is a possibility, so all I really want to pass is 5C 9B. I blind pass, and get 9C 4B.

4. Awesome. The heck with Consec. #5, I'm going for 2468 #1 all the way now. I pass 1B 8C 9C. I get 1D 3B, and... 8C. There are two of them in play.

5. No-brainer. I have four tiles I don't care about, just gotta pick three of them. Rather than unleash the second 1B, I pass 8C 1D 3B. I get 4D R 3C in return.

6. Now that 3C comes in (after I went and got rid of a 1B)! Even if I still had it, though, Consec. #5 is nowhere near as strong as 2468 #1. So that's what I'm staying with at this point. I pass 4D R 3C, winding up with 3D 6C 8B (all very familiar).

7. I offer those same three across. In exchange I get 1B, 8C, and 9C. They're back yet again. What goes around comes around again (but not always).

By following a different Charleston strategy, I wound up with a very different result. Instead of three possible hands (all so-so), I wound up with one very strong hand with one alternative possibility. Odd thing is, both strategies were valid.

By the way, I don't think that "rules rule" I stated last week is really from China. It just sounded like a good thing to say. That's how misconceptions get started -- like the one about Confucius and mah jongg (mah jongg really originated in the mid-1800's).

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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:

© 2010 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.