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By Tom Sloper
January 22, 2012

Column #504

American Mah Jongg (2011 NMJL card). A reader this past week asked how tiles should be organized (how the hand should be set up) upon the initial deal. In past columns I have shown many examples of initial deals -- but always already sorted (organized; "set up") for the reader, in my preferred manner of sorting (especially in the WWYP, What Would You Pass, columns). So perhaps this is a beginner step I've been skipping. So, to rectify the oversight, this column.

Let's say you get this mishmosh of tiles:

First thing to do is sort by suit. Collect all your craks. (It doesn't have to be craks first; just pick one suit to organize first). And as you collect them, put them in numerical order.

Then put all your bams together.

Then your dots.

Because most hands on the cards with flowers show flowers at the left, if you have any flowers, put those at the left. Sometimes that's what I do first.

Now you're ready to begin eliminating tiles to pass right in the Charleston. Let's take another random mishmosh:

Organize them:

I do not pre-assign my jokers (I don't declare them to be part of any group and so place them) at this stage of the hand. I keep my jokers together, and I often use them as a separator between my keeper tiles (above, on the left) and my junk tiles (on the right). With just two winds, there's no way I'm going to be using them. So I put those to the right of my jokers. Anyway, that's how I organize things.

By the way: gung hei fa choi! Today is Chinese New Year's Eve. Happy Year of the Dragon!


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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:

© 2012 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.