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NMJL Rules (FAQ 19)

FAQ 16. Frequently-Asked Questions about the 2024* National Mah Jongg League card

Confused by rules 5 and 6 on the back of the 2024 card?

The unfortunate wording of those rules has caused this question to be asked by many players since the 2024 card came out.
The rules do not involve prior exposures. Both rules are talking about actions that occur entirely during the conflicting-claims situation. Let me paint a picture for #6:

0. No exposures are atop anyone's racks.
1. Player A throws out a tile and says its name.
2. Player C realizes this is a tile she needs for mah-jongg.
3. Player C speaks: "Mah-jongg!"
4. Player C starts to expose tiles from her hand, moving them to the top of the rack. Or she takes the discard and puts it atop her rack.
5. Player B looks up from her tiles and speaks: "Wait, I'm next in line, and that's MY mah-jongg!"
6. Player B is too late. Player C wins.

Same thing for #5. No prior exposures factor into the situation.
The reason for the rule is so that a player who's paying attention, and acts, doesn't have the rug pulled out from under her when a daydreamer or indecisive player realizes after the move that the tile was one she needed too.

Did You Know? 2024 and NEWS are not kongs! (That means no jokers, and no exposure prior to mah-jongg.)
This principle also applies to "357" (Singles & Pairs #1), a grouping of three singles. Jokers may only be used in groups of 3 or more Like tiles, and only groups of 3 or more Like tiles (pungs, kongs, quints, sextets) may be exposed prior to mah-jongg.

222 000 2222 4444 (Any 2 Suits)
(2024 #1)

FFFF 2222 0000 24 (Any 2 Suits)
(2024 #2)

FF 2024 2222 2222 (Any 3 Suits, Like Kongs 2s or 4s)
(2024 #3)

22 444 44 666 8888 (Any 3 Suits)
(2468 #2)

FFFF 4444 x 6666 = 24 -or- FFFF 6666 x 8888 = 48 (Any 3 Suits)
(2468 #4)

FF 2222 44 66 8888 -or- FF 2222 44 66 8888 (Any 1 or 2 Suits)
(2468 #5)

    Do the pairs in the 2-suit version have to be craks?
    No. It says "Any ... 2 Suits" in the parenthetical. That means, in the 2-suit version, the pairs can be any suit (just not the same suit as the kongs). The color-coding is never to be taken as standing for particular suits. Read Frequently Asked Question 19-BY and FAQ 19-J.

11 DDD 11 DDD 1111 (Any 3 Suits, Pairs and Dragons Match)
(Any Like Numbers #2)

    Is the hand to be played exactly as shown, with different like numbers or i.e. pair of 1ís are bams, dragons should be green, etc.??
    You can use ANY LIKE NUMBER (that's the name of this family of hands), not just ones. And the colors do not dictate suit. Let's say you have sixes. If your first pung is a pung of, say, soaps, then match that up with a pair of six dots. Then if your other pair is six craks, you match that up with a pung of reds, and finish the hand with a kong of six bams.


    What is the + and = signs and how are those played - or are they ignored?
    That section of the card is called "Addition Hands." The + and = signs are there to illustrate the logic behind the pattern in this section. "One plus six equals seven," etc. You can ignore the + and = signs as you build the hand.

    Do we have to use only the numbers shown? Or can we, say, add 3333 + 1111 = 4444, or 3333 + 5555 = 8888?
    The parentheticals on the Addition hands do NOT say "any numbers that add up to whatever." So you MUST use the numbers shown only. The only places on the card where the numbers and letters are flexible are where the parenthetical specifically says there is flexibility. For more on this concept, see FAQ 19-AJ.


    If I use only a single joker (the fewest possible to create a quint) in Quints, is that considered jokerless, so I can get the Bonus double score?
    No. It has a joker in it.

    But it's impossible to make a quint without at least one joker. And the name of the Bonus double isn't "jokerless," it's "Bonus."
    None of that matters. The difficulty of making the hand is pre-built into the score on the card. The (jokerless) Bonus cannot apply in Quints because that's part of the scoring system.

11111 NNNN 88888 (Any 2 Suits, Quints Any 2 Non-Matching Nos., Any Wind)
(Quints #2)

    This is 3 colors but it says "2 suits" - huh, what?
    Winds are suitless. Suitless tiles and groupings are customarily represented in blue (except the occasional zero in a colored "202X").

    Can the two quints be the same number?
    No. Read the parenthetical.

    Can the two quints be the same suit?
    No. Look at the colors. And the parenthetical says "2 suits."

    Can the numbers both be odds or both be evens? Definitely not clear if that fits in the non-matching category. Does non-matching mean one odd and one even number?
    No, it doesn't mean that. "Non-matching" just means "not the same number." Odd or even doesn't matter.

FFFFF DDDD 11111 (Any 2 Suits, Quint Any No.)
(Quints #4)

    This hand has to be two suits, right? The number quint has to be a different suit from the dragon kong?
    Yes. That's what the parenthetical says.


111 22 3333 44 555 -or- 555 66 7777 88 999 (These Nos. Only)
(Consecutive Run #1)

    Can I make this hand with different numbers, like 4-5-6-7-8?
    No. Read the parenthetical: "These Nos. Only." This is the only hand in Consec that is not flexible as to the numbers.

    What's going on? This hand is usually either pair-pung-kong-pung-pair, or pair-pair-pung-pung-kong. But this one is pung-pair-kong-pair-pung! Is that a mistake?
    No, your eyes are not mistaken. The League mixed it up this year rather than stay with the traditional biannual alternating shape. I always thought of the pair-pung-kong-pung-pair shape as a "pyramid" shape, so I think of this new arrangement as sort of a "W" shape (high-low-higher-low-high). Just enjoy the difference without questioning whether there's a "mistake" somewhere.

FF 1111 2222 3333 -or- FF 1111 2222 3333 (Any 1 or 3 Suits)
(Consecutive Run #3)

    Can I use any consecutive numbers, or does that have to be those numbers only?
    Any 3 consecutive numbers. The only hand in Consecutive Runs that has to be specific numbers is the top one.

1 22 3333 1 22 3333 (Any 2 Suits, Any 3 Consec. Nos.)
(Consecutive Run #4)

    Does each suit have to have matching numbers or could you do: 1 22 3333 6 77 8888?
    The numbers have to match. The parenthetical says you can use only three consecutive numbers (not three and then another three not following consecutively from the first). And the color-coded symbols show an example of what three consecutive numbers looks like if they start with the number one.

FFFFF 123 444 444 (Any 3 Suits, Any 4 Consec. Nos.)
(Consecutive Run #6)

    Can I use a joker in the "123"?
    No, as explained previously (and as explained on the back of the card), jokers may NEVER be used in place of a single tile.

    Can I call the 123 chow? Do I have to call it only from the player at my left?
    It's impressive that you know Asian mah-jongg, but this is American mah-jongg. There is no such thing as "chowing" in this game. You can call a tile to complete the "123" only if it's for mah-jongg.

    Can i have fffff 456 333 333 (any 3 suits). In other words, do the pungs have to be in ascending order or do they just have to be consecutive numbers?
    They have to be in ascending order, just as shown on the card. You can use different numbers, but you can't mess with the order of things.

    Is that a quint of flowers?? Is that a mistake?
    No, your eyes are not mistaken. It is indeed a quint.

    But it's a quint! This hand ought to be in the Quints section!
    Says who? It's flowers, and there are 8 flowers in the deck, and it's a lot easier to make a quint of flowers than any other tile. And the League can put an occasional quint (or even sextet) of flowers elsewhere on the card if they want to.

111 222 3333 4444 -or- 111 222 3333 4444 (Any 1 or 2 Suits, Any 4 Consec. Nos.)
(Consecutive Run #7)

    After the "or," can that be 3 suits?
    No. To the left of the -or-, it's one color (one suit). To the right of the -or-, it's two colors (two suits). The color-coding is saying that the hand can be made in either one or two suits. Which is also what the parenthetical says.
    Strategy note: This hand, or something very like it (two pungs, two kongs, no pairs, four consecutive numbers) is on the card every year. I call it the most powerful hand on the card. It's often a good go-to when other hands become unattainable. Traditionally, the hand used to be listed in the #2 slot (beneath the top Consec hand), but lately the League has taken to shifting its position, and now it's second from the bottom! You don't need to read the previous sentence (nor this one, for that matter).

FF 11 333 5555 DDD -or- FF 55 777 9999 DDD (Any 1 Suit w Matching Dragons)
(13579 #3)

    Can I make like, say, 3,5,7 i/o 1,3,5 or 5,7,9? It doen't specify "these numbers only."
    No. Not only does it not say "these numbers only," it also doesn't say you can use just any old numbers you feel like! See FAQ 19-AJ for a full explanation of this principle.

FFFF 3333 x 5555 = 15 -or- FFFF 5555 x 7777 = 35 (Any 3 Suits)
(13579 #5)

    Can I make like, say, 3333 x 7777 = 21? It doesn't say "these numbers only."
    No. Don't be silly. See FAQ 19-AJ for a full explanation.

    Can you use a joker for either digit in the "15"?
    You'll find the answer on the back of the card.

    Every player should read everything on the NMJL card. Turn it over and look at the back.
    Left pane, last sentence of the last paragraph before the numbered rules.
    Look for the word "NEVER" in bold capital letters.

    For a more detailed explanation, see FAQ 19-E2, here on Sloperama. Please bookmark FAQ 19 for your future reference.

    Oh, cool! You have FAQs! So I can actually find my own answers anytime?

FF NN EEE WWW SSSS (Any 2 Suits, Any Like Nos.)
(Winds-Dragons #7)

    Can I make this the other way: FF SS EEE WWW NNNN?

NNN EW SSS 111 111 (Any 2 Suits, Any Like Nos.)
(Winds-Dragons #7)

    Is EW a pair?

    Can I call the W for mah-jongg?

333 DDDD 333 DDDD (Any 2 Suits, Pungs 3, 6 or 9 w Matching Dragons)
(369 #4)

    The parenthetical doesn't say "Like Pungs." That's the intent, right? The pungs should both use the same number?
    Yes. The fact that the pungs are shown as "333" and "333" clearly indicates that they're supposed to be the same number, which (considering the parenthetical) could be sixes or nines instead of threes.

FFFF 33 66 999 DDD (Nos. Any 1 Suit, Any Opp. Dragon)
(369 #6)

    What does "Any Opp. Dragon" mean?
    It means you have to use a dragon whose suit does not match the suit you used for the numbers. If you used craks for the 33 66 999, you can't use red dragons (you have to use soaps or greens).

    Is that pronounced "opposite" or "opposing"?
    Whichever way you like.

    Do I have to use bams and red dragons?
    No. Color does not dictate suit.

FF 22 46 88 22 46 88 (Any 2 suits)
(S&P #1)

    Why isn't there a space between the 4 and the 6?
    Why do you think there should be a space there?

    Hey, I'm the one who's supposed to be asking the questions here!
    Turnabout is fair play. (~_^)

112 11223 112233 -or- 998 99887 998877 (Any 3 Suits. These Nos. Only)
(Singles And Pairs #3)

    That's a pung, a quint, and a sextet - so can I use a joker? And can I call for exposure?
    No. There is no pung in the hand, no quint, and no sextet. The terms "pung" and "quint" and "sextet" apply only to "like tiles." Those "groupings" are "runs" in League vernacular (perhaps "reverse runs" or "decreasing runs"), made up of singles and pairs. Look at the title of this section of the card. It's called "Singles and Pairs."

    In this section of the card, you cannot use jokers, and you cannot make any exposures, not only because all the hands are marked with a C but also because the hands in this section are all made solely of "Singles and Pairs." Read FAQ 19E (click here).
    Also: every player should read everything on the NMJL card. Turn it over and look at the back. Left pane, last sentence of the last paragraph before the numbered rules. Look for the word "NEVER" (in all capital letters, bold text, and underlined just like that).

    Can I call a discard if it's the tile I need to complete this hand for mah-jongg?

    Why aren't there spaces between every pair and every single?
    How should I know? And what difference does it make? So what if there's no space between obvious pairs and singles?

    Wow, you sure are a grump! Why do you answer these questions if you don't like answering questions?
    I love answering questions. But sometimes the questions can be kind of silly.
    Fair enough. You got me there.

Interested in Strategy Tips for the 2024 card? Check out my Strategy Columns, starting out with my analysis of the 2024 card in column #799!

Didn't find what you were looking for in this FAQ? Check these links...

The official rulebook, and a newsletter. Every table should have the official 2020 revised rulebook.
Every year, the League issues rule clarifications in its newsletter. Every person who buys the card
directly from the League receives a subscription to the newsletter, which is mailed every January.

Copyright 2024 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. The contents of this page and this website, including and not limited to text, graphics, and photos, may not be reproduced or published without written permission of the author. This site is not associated with the National Mah Jongg League.