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By Tom Sloper
March 30, 2008

Column #357

American Mah-Jongg (2008 NMJL card). The new 2008 card came out this week, so let's have a look at it.

First thing that caught my eye was Quints #1. We're sure to see lots of people getting confused by this one (just as happened the last time such a hand was used). There are three ways this hand can be made:

It's a run of any three numbers. Any number in the run can be paired. Whichever number is paired, that's the number the quints have to be. It's really not complicated, but some are bound to make out that it is.

There are a couple of tricky hands in the 2008 section, too:

The first one needs five soaps, so of course you have to use at least one joker. It can trick you if you're holding three soaps, and someone throws the fourth. You really mustn't put up your three at once - you have to put up two of them, and a joker, taking the discarded fourth - and withhold your third one as a single for when you're ready for mah-jongg.

The second one needs six soaps, which means you have to have at least two jokers. It doesn't do to expose the first pung with more than one joker - because then people might suspect that you're doing this hand, rather than, say, Winds-Dragons #6 or 369 #6 (the other two hands on the card that use dragon pungs).

Of interest (but not particularly tricky) is 13579 #5. It's just a 3-suit version of 13579 #1.

369 #5 will probably trap some folks. The two like pungs must be same suit (key word: "like"), not two suits. And they can only be threes or nines - no sixes. You need at least two jokers to make this one.

And I'm wondering if Winds-Dragons #s 4 and 5 will trick anybody up. They're like numbers, but two pungs and a kong. Maybe this'll cause a few erroneous death challenges.

Next week: we get down to work with this card.


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Question or comment about this column? Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board.

Haven't ordered the 2008 NMJL card yet? Read FAQ 7i.

Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, can be ordered through AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the booklet from the NMJL (see FAQ 3).

Jay Firestone of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles has posted a nice video about a young man (himself) learning to play American mah-jongg. You can see it at

© 2008 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.