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By Tom Sloper
August 14, 2011

Column #495

American Mah Jongg (2011 NMJL card). What would you discard?

1. This has nine tiles towards Odds #6, which can't use 5C, G, or F. You could go for Odds #5 or #4, but those are farther away. #5 is weakest (just seven tiles +J), so kill it. Discard F.

2. This could make Evens #2, 3, 5, 6, or 7. There are eight tiles +J for #s 2, 3, 5, and 7. There are nine tiles +J for #6, but you're short on pairs (especially, not enough 2s). #5 and #6 look weaker than the other hands, but with these tiles you have to choose between #2 and #3. Personally, I like #2 or #7. So I can discard 8C (probably too early for joker bait* but oh well). If you like #3 better, you can discard 4D.

3. This is painful. No matter which Consec. hand you go for, you don't need all of those 1Ds. Might as well throw one now.

4. Odds. Go for #8, throw F, 3C, or 5C. Keep R for a possible switch to #3, just in case.

5. A lot of ways this could go (think S&P #2 for one), and the 1C doesn't work with any of them. Out it goes.

6. Most likely Odds (#2, 3, 5, 8), but Like Nos. also possible. All of them are far, though -- this has just six tiles +J for each. Getting rid of 7B or 9B won't eliminate any of those options.

7. Think Evens #2, 3, 5, or 6. You don't need 2s and 4s in all three suits. Keep 4B 6B for #2. Keep 2B for #3. You can throw 8B, or 2 or 4 in dots or craks.

8. Up to this point, you haven't really chosen a direction. You can throw 5D and keep three options live: Consec. #1, 2, and 3. But you'd better make up your mind between those options soon.

9. Clearly Sevens, and clearly three suits. What's a better start, though, for the 7 kong and the 1 kong: a pung and a single, or two pairs? Seems like a toss-up, but is it really? The joker pair is the key. If you were to use two jokers in an exposure, chances are that someone could redeem both and zoom ahead of you. Better to split the jokers to reduce that possibility. Throw 7D or 1B.

* Joker bait is explained in column 423.

Thanks to sharp-eyed readers Vicki K. and Susan S.!

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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.