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By Tom Sloper
April 6, 2008

Column #358

American Mah-Jongg (2008 NMJL card). We'll have lots of time to work on Charleston exercises with the new card, but my belief is that the Charleston is not the biggest problem we face at this time of year. Rather, defense is where we really need to focus with a new card. So let's do some hand spotting exercises.

1. Two possibilities. She could be making the bottom Winds-Dragons hand, or the bottom 369 hand. Flowers are hot, and so's Green. Check the melds and the discard floor to see if any 3s, 6s, or 9s are dead (3 or more out). That could give you clues about which suit she's working (if 369). And of course if G's dead, or if she's apparently uninterested in G, that tells you something too.

2. Two possibilities. 2468 #6 or Winds-Dragons #5. Look for clues among the melds and discards. If E or W is dead, and she doesn't look unhappy, then soaps and Greens are hot. Otherwise, don't throw E, W, or 2C.

3. Two possibilities. Consec. #4 or 13579 #6. Look for clues. If 2s are dead, 5C and F are hot.

4. No such hand. If the 3D kong is her 2nd exposure, and nobody else has noticed she's dead, and you're larcenous, underhanded, and sneaky, don't call her dead. You might be able to pick a 3D and redeem one of her jokers (if your law-abiding partners don't stop you). If the 3D kong is her 1st exposure, though, trickery is unnecessary. Call her dead. The 1B kong will go back on her rack and her jokers are still alive.

5. Only one possibility, and it's not in 13579. It's Consec. #2. 4D and 6C are hot.

6. Two possibilities. 369 #1 and #2. 3C, 3D, 6B, and F are hot. Look for clues to narrow the field.

7. Two possibilities. 2468 #3 and Consec. #2. The hot tiles are 2D, 4B, 8C, 5D, 7B.

8. Three hands to watch out for. Sevens #1, Consec. #3, 13579 #2. Hot: all 6s, all 7s, 2C, 9C, R.


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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, 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).

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.