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By Tom Sloper
April 3, 2011

Column #482

American Mah Jongg (2011 NMJL card). The 2011 card has arrived, so let's have a look.

What's Different - Down in the Change-Up corner (or the Math corner, if you prefer) the old Seven hands are back, and the Like Numbers hand with dragons is also present. It's different to have not one but two sections in Change-Up.
There are dragon hands in the Odds family (13579), a welcome relief after last year's dragon drought. And this year there's only one dragon pung hand. So if you see someone make a dragon pung, you know exactly which hand she's making. This is the year of the dragon kong; there are dragon kongs in 2011, Evens (2468), Consec., Odds, Winds-Dragons, and 369. No dragons in Quints this time.
Flowers are abloom this year, especially flower kongs--except in 369 and S&P.

What's the Same - The following hands are all carryovers from the 2010 card: 2468 #2, 2468 #7, 369 #3, Consec. #4, 13579 #5, S&P #1, and Winds-Dragons #6. Quints #4 is a three-suit version of 2010's Quints #1.

What's Noteworthy - Because of the Sevens hands, there are a lot more flowers this time (as noted above). The import? Last year it was relatively safe to discard flowers. But not this year.
No glaring typos that I've spotted. One reader wrote me that she thought there was an error in Quints #2 (that the League showed the second numerical configuration of the hand when it should have shown the first instead). I don't see how she figures that to be an error. Last year, someone thought it was an error that the second-to-last hand in Winds-Dragons was concealed (rather than the last one). I pointed out to her that the last hand in that section was an all-dragons hand, which was also appropriate for the last spot in that family. These so-called "errors" are non-issues.

Repeating Patterns - Have a look at 2468 #5, Consec. #3, 13579 #2, and 369 #2. These hands all use a 3-3-4-4 structure. But beware, the last three are two-suit hands, but the 2468 hand is a three-suit hand, so don't be fooled into thinking that its suitedness is also part of the pattern.
See the bottom 13579 hand and the bottom 369 hand. Both use a 3-1-3, 3-1-3 structure. The reason they're both worth 35 is that the League made them concealed; otherwise they'd be far too easy to make (four-pung hands are the easiest type of hand, as evidenced by last year's NNN EW SSS 111 111 hand).
Speaking of which, this year's FF NNN EW SSS 2011 hand is likely to be easier than might appear. Pairs are hard to make, but singles are easy. This hand has only two pairs.

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Question or comment about this column? I often miss something; maybe you'll be the first one to spot it! Please be gentle. Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board.

October 2010 article on American mah jongg's rise in popularity, from the WALL STREET JOURNAL: ?mod=WSJ_hpp_RIGHTTopCarousel_2.
There's a movie of the WSJ story too -- just click the Video tab on the above page, or go to ?mod=WSJ_hpp_RIGHTTopCarousel_2#articleTabs%3Dvideo.

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:

© 2011 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.