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By Tom Sloper
July 8, 2012

Column #527

American Mah Jongg (2012 NMJL card). Charleston, the initial deal. What would you pass?

1. Garbage: low, high; even, odd; winds, dragons. A couple of strategies you can apply to a garbage deal. You can count highs vs. lows and evens vs. odds, and pass the minority. In this case, lows greatly outnumber highs, so you could go for Consec. Another strategy would be to get rid of tiles that aren't widely used, like winds and dragons. Flowers are used in only one or two hands in each section this year (except the lower left corner of the card), but flowers can give your opponents ideas. With this hand, you could pass a wind (not both at once), G, and 6B or 7D.

2. Pair of ones, and pair of flowers - could go Elevens. Pass anything that can't go with elevens (like twos and nines). Might as well pass 4B too; it's looking like a three-suit eleven.

3. Ones and fives, with lots of odds. I'd keep the 2D for possible Consec. #1, and I'd keep the flower for now; pass 9C 9B E. Remember, the first pass is often just elimination (not narrow targeting).

4. Pair 3Ds and 4Cs. Think Consec., pass high numbers and winds. Translation: pass N 7C 7B.

5. Flowers and eights. Think Elevens, Like Nos., and Consec. (especially #3, #4, or #5). Problem is: no ones, no other eights, no dragons, but that could change. Pass 2D, 3B, and E, and see what happens.

6. The twos suggest Evens, especially with all those other evens in the mix. Why not just pass 1C 5C and either wind for starters.

7. A surplus of pairs: the 1s and Fs and Ns and Gs cannot all be used. Can't even use three of those pairs in any one hand, so look for the likeliest two-pair combo. Fs and 1s: Like Nos. (five tiles). Ns and 1s: W-D #2 (six). Not finding good uses for the Gs? Stop spinning wheels, and pass any three from among 5B W G R. Re-evaluate when you see what comes in.

8. Fs and 5s, could go Elevens in three suits. Pass E R and any 2 (keep 7D for the Odds chance).

9. Pairs 3s and 9s: clearly 369. Pass anything that isn't a 3, 6, or 9. Remember: elimination's the word.

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© 2012 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.