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By Tom Sloper
September 4, 2011

Column #498

Next weekend I will be presenting mah-jongg (1920s style) at Ticket to the Twenties, so there might be no column next week.


American Mah Jongg (2011 NMJL card). Sometimes a deal needs deep thought in the Charleston. Other times you can just eliminate chaff.

1. No jokers, but a pung of sixes. That has to be the keystone. Not enough 3s and 9s to support 369, and not enough even numbers to support 2468. So think Like Nos. and Consec. Maybe even W-D #4, if people will pass you Es and Ws. Pass S 1B 2B.

2. Again with the sixes. This time go 369; pass 1D, W, 4B.

3. Eights, nines, and greens. This screams Consec. #2. Pass 1C 7B and either 4C or 6C. Keep 8B for a Like Nos. option.

4. High numbers outnumber lows. Pass N, 1D, and either 2C or 3C.

5. Think low Consec., maybe 2011. If you want to consider the bottom 2011 hand (a little risky since you don't have the 2nd 1D), you can't really maintain the Consec. #3 option. In addition to passing 2B 5D you'll have to pass either 3D or 4C or 5C. But what the hey; Consec. #3 is cheap and a bit boring.

6. Low Consec.; pass winds* and 7C.

7. High Consec.; pass winds* and 3B.

8. Dots are key here. Could go Consec., Sevens, or Evens. Choose three to pass from W, S, 1B, 7B*.

9. When you get jokers, eschew hands with lots of pairs; look for hands made of pungs, kongs, quints. This one could go Quints #3 or Consec. #5 (that latter one flying in the face of what I just said; those pairs could kill you). Look also at Quints #4 and Consec. #3. So, what to pass? 7B and 6C for sure. Then you have a problem with the 3rd tile. Either 1B or 4C has to go; flip a coin.

10. Fives. Think Like Numbers and Odds. Pass W, 2C, and either 8C or 8D.

* A problem with passing multiple wind tiles in the first pass: another player may have a way to use them all. Best to break them up if you can.

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Next weekend I will be presenting mah-jongg (1920s style) at Ticket to the Twenties, so there might be no column next week.

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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.