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FAQ 27: Table Rotation

Many readers of the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board have written asking how best to rotate players between multiple tables. This article collects those Q&A posts together, in reverse chronological order (since that's the convention in blogs and discussion forums, that's the way they were originally written). If you want to read the Q&A posts in chronological order, start from the bottom and work your way up. Most correspondents were asking about rotating players in multi-table settings while playing American mah-jongg, but surely the topic applies to players of any variant when multiple tables are in play.


What is all this musical chairs nonsense, part 2

>From: Donna
>Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2015 4:38 PM
>Subject: Mah-Jongg Q+A
>My mah-jongg question or comment is:
>Rotating players:
>At our community groups we love it when there is an extra person or two as they are the 'floaters'. As soon as one table is done, east gets up and the floater takes their place. It continues in this manner.
>If we have no extra players, we suggest people 'be patient, have a cookie, go to the restroom' or set up the wall slowly and another table will be done and easts can change places.
>This two options work well for us and I love playing with different people.
>Donna
>California

Nice, Donna. (^_^)
May the tiles be with you.
Tom Sloper
Los Angeles, California, USA
June 25, 2015


What is all this musical chairs nonsense, hmmmm?

>From: Rosemary R
>Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2015 7:06 AM
>Subject: Musical chairs Mah Jongg
>I am 82, college degree, retired teacher. We play every Wed. at the golf club where several of us learned to play 2 years ago. In the meantime, I have played 3 times a week in Florida at 4 different sites and even now play an additional day of the week with Jewish friends at a Community Center. Never have I seen or heard of a "rule" that includes a kind of "musical chairs" between games. East must move to the next table...in effect, making everyone play with different players each time. To me, this causes unnecessary disruption..and is inconvenient, since not all games end at the same time. Also, some people arrive at different times, causing more disruption, expecting others to move to accommodate them. We are told by the woman that taught us that this is "how it's always done"! Hmmmm?

Hi, Rosemary.
This is a first. I usually get questions from the other side; people who want to encourage mixing. But before I go into that more, let me address your primary question.
There is no "rule" about table rotation, for the simple reason that the official rules assume one table. For instance, a game at someone's home, just 4 people (or 3, or 5). The League has not codified any rules for community centers or golf clubs or even tournaments. So that's the answer to the question you asked.

I encourage you to consider this from the vantage point of your teacher, or the activities director at the golf club or community center. She has a diverse constituency to serve; it doesn't serve her purposes if cliques are formed, with tightknit foursomes excluding newcomers. She wants people to have opportunities to play with others. So she has to come up with some way to rotate players between tables. There are formalized procedures used by tournament organizers, in a setting where everyone starts playing at the same time and finishes at the same time. But those procedures can't always work in the sort of situation you describe. And it's people like her who write me asking for my ideas about how to best arrange things. You can scroll down and read "Rotating players with multiple tables," From: Sharron B, Sent: Monday, May 18, 2015.

As for that thing you said about games not ending at the same time, I discussed that with Linda Z in "How do you determine rotation, part 2" in November 2013 (there's a link in the Sharron B post below). I see the problem but I don't have a ready solution. If you don't like the way your teacher handles things, you can discuss with her some ideas that might suit her needs while also suiting the desires of all the players. But I don't have any magic answers for you (or for her). I suppose in another 15 or 20 years I may have to deal with such matters myself, but since I don't have to deal with such matters yet, I haven't come up with any handy solutions.
May the tiles be with you.
Tom Sloper

Creator of the weekly Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs -- donations appreciated.
Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
Los Angeles, California, USA
June 25, 2015


Rotating players with multiple tables

>From: Sharron B
>Sent: Monday, May 18, 2015 2:07 PM
>Subject: MahJongg rotation
>In a game of two tables or three, do u have any suggestions as to the best way to rotate players to enable player mix? ( non-tournament play) thank u!

Hi, Sharron.
I have not created a formula or algorithm for rotating tables, but I have had numerous discussions with other readers about this.

I discussed it with lindaz on November 5, 2013:
http://www.sloperama.com/majexchange/bulletinbd-archive28.htm#rotate1
I discussed it further with Lynn P about a week later, on November 9-10, 2013:
http://www.sloperama.com/majexchange/bulletinbd-archive28.htm#rotate2
http://www.sloperama.com/majexchange/bulletinbd-archive28.htm#rotate3
And Lynn P came back to discuss it some more on January 25, 2014:
http://www.sloperama.com/majexchange/bulletinbd-archive29.htm#rotate1
http://www.sloperama.com/majexchange/bulletinbd-archive29.htm#rotate2
And I wrote about table rotation in FAQ 21, "Running a tournament" - you can link to the FAQs above left.

As you see, I did not come up with a formula for it. I suppose you might find information online about how bridge players rotate, but I think that's a partners game. You can also try this:
http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/34328/how-to-rotate-n-individuals-at-a-dinner-party-so-that-every-guest-meets-every-ot
Since I am not a math head myself, and since I am not a tournament organizer, this is a problem I have not been much interested in solving myself.
Good luck! May the tiles be with you.
Tom Sloper
トム·スローパー
湯姆 斯洛珀
Creator of the weekly Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs -- donations appreciated.
Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
Los Angeles, California, USA
May 18, 2015


How do you determine rotation, part 6

> From: Lynn P
> Sent: Saturday, January 25, 2014 4:46 PM
> Subject: Mah-Jongg Q+A
> My mah-jongg question or comment is: regarding rotation question written last November and my last question Rotation part 5: I never got a chance to play much last year since I had been sick off and on ... [now am] well enough to play again. Your diagram looks great and I don’t think it matters who goes to which table as long as they don’t go with the person they were just playing with. You are right they will be confused so I will just wait until it is my turn to host again and if I have 12 players I will then make out cards with letters on them,, let them pick one as they come in the door and explain how we will change tables. Seems there is the idea in this group that "I can do what I want since it is my house and I am the host." So there will certainly be some grumbling but I think it will work out nicely and we will play with more different players. ... Thanks, Lynn P

Hi, Lynn.
Sorry you were sick. You said:

Seems there is the idea in this group that "I can do what I want since it is my house and I am the host."
That's only proper. Stay well!

May the tiles be with you.
Tom Sloper

Creator of the weekly Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs -- donations appreciated.
Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
Los Angeles, California, USA
January 26, 2014


How do you determine rotation, part 5

> From: Lynn P
> Sent: Saturday, January 25, 2014 12:17 PM
> Subject: Mah-Jongg Q+A
> My mah-jongg question or comment is: Playing American Mah Jongg we sometimes have 3 tables and are discussing how to rotate half way through our afternoon play time of 3 hours. With 2 tables each player throws dice and the two highest throwers switch places so no problem.
> 1. What is the best way to have 2 players move from each of 3 tables?
> My idea is to have each of the highest roller players move to a different table so they are not again playing together. So one of the 2 from table 1 goes table 2 and one goes to table 3. Next one of the 2 from table 2 goes to table 1 and one goes to table 3 and finally one from table 3 goes to table 1 and other one goes to table 2. Does that make sense to you? Wonder if it would be too confusing for players? We are all over 70 with the exception of 3 in their mid 60’s. I was an elementary teacher for 28 years so I could teach them but can “An old dog learn a new trick?”
> Our group referred to your book “The Red Dragon and The West Wind” at least 3 times this past week (2 separate MJ groups) since the NMJL Bulletin arrived in the mail and players were reading the Q&A. I said, “Never fear, Tom’s book is near,” and found the answers to players’ questions. Thank you again for all your hard work in writing this wonderful book. I agree with you that every group and also every Mah Jongg player should own a copy. Lynn P.

Hi, Lynn. You wrote:

we sometimes have 3 tables and are discussing how to rotate half way through our afternoon play time of 3 hours.
Still? You wrote me about that last November. You still haven't figured out something?

What is the best way to have 2 players move from each of 3 tables?
How should I know? This is a tournament organizer question, and I'm no tournament organizer (I never wanted to be, and I don't want ever to be).

My idea is to have each of the highest roller players move to a different table so they are not again playing together. So one of the 2 from table 1 goes table 2 and one goes to table 3. Next one of the 2 from table 2 goes to table 1 and one goes to table 3 and finally one from table 3 goes to table 1 and other one goes to table 2. Does that make sense to you?
No. I lost track after "one of the 2 from table 1 goes table 2". I had to draw a picture.

Wonder if it would be too confusing for players?
You mean you're not going to direct the traffic? If you don't draw them a picture and/or if you don't explain it clearly, then of course it'll be confusing. Just walk them through it. Also, your scheme doesn't say which of 2 tables one player should move to. Should they flip a coin? Does winner of the toss get to decide which of 2 tables she'd rather go to?

May the tiles be with you.
Tom Sloper

Creator of the weekly Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs -- donations appreciated.
Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
Los Angeles, California, USA
January 25, 2014


How do you determine rotation, part 4

> From: Lynn P
> Sent: Sunday, November 10, 2013 6:01 PM
> Subject: Mah-Jongg Q+A
> My mah-jongg question or comment is: RE: Q & A of Lynn P. on 11/9 about table rotation with 3 tables. No ,Tom I never complained about your showing other people’s Mah Jongg Sets in the past. In fact, I rather liked seeing them and reading the descriptions but I guess being sick with limited time at computer, I would have rather read Q & A. Amazing how many different kinds of MJ sets there are. One of the older ladies in our Friday Mah Jongg group has a very old set that we use. Pictures on the tiles are sometimes hard to distinguish especially since we only play at her house every 12 weeks or more depending on our schedule. I emailed your reply to my to fellow Mah Jongg players and I do think my idea, when playing with 3 tables, of having one whole table rotate to the other two is less time consuming than having 2 players at the 3 tables decide where they will move-sort of like playing Bunco where the hardest thing to do is to remember which table you are supposed to move to!!! I am missing my 2 Mah Jongg games this week because of doctor’s appointment for hubby and me so will be going over your strategy columns each night. Great teaching method. My new closing line to my fellow Mah Jong players is, “May the tiles and jokers be with you as long as you are not at my table!” Lynn P.

Hi Lynn,
Sorry for ranting, then! Keep on enjoying mah-jongg.
May the tiles be with you.
Tom Sloper

Creator of
the weekly Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs -- donations appreciated.
Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
Los Angeles, California, USA
November 10, 2013


How do you determine rotation, part 3

> From: Lynn P
> Sent: Saturday, November 9, 2013 8:18 PM
> Subject: Mah-Jongg Q+A
> My mah-jongg question or comment is: RE: American Mah Jongg; Hi Tom, remember me? I have been sick for the past 16 months and just started playing Mah Jongg again this past August . For the first time since I began playing we had 12 players and 3 tables on last Friday. Table #3 in dining room was a long rectangle table and 2 chairs were on each side. Players had to sit sideways and angle their racks-very uncomfortable. After playing for 11/2 hours, as is our custom, we switch tables by throwing the dice. Highest 2 scores leave and go to another table. At the dining room table we decided we would all switch since by now our backs and necks ached. Two of us went to table #2 in family room and I and another player went to table #1 in the kitchen. Two of the players at the kitchen table who were moving said we can’t all leave the dining room table and 2 of us had to stay. I told them we were not sitting there any longer but they kept insisting we can’t move but we did and we heard grumbling from the dining room. Is there any rule from the NMJL about table rotation with 3 tables? I, of course, have your wonderful book, “The Red Dragon & The West Wind”, and can’t find info about rotation with 3 tables. Were we wrong in all leaving the table? Please advise. Thanks for all your prior advice and comments. Lynn P.
> PS.
> Even though sick I still followed your Q&A and strategies columns but I never got to play with the 2012 card. Glad you are still doing the Q&A but got tired of looking at players old MJ sets!!! Loved your comments to some of the questions asked and did send them out to my Mah Jongg groups. Thanks a bunch!

Welcome back, Lynn. I'm sorry you were sick, and glad you're feeling better. You wrote:

a long rectangle table and 2 chairs were on each side. Players had to sit sideways and angle their racks
Yes. That's what I've had to do when the only table available is too long.

Is there any rule from the NMJL about table rotation with 3 tables?
But are you really asking about 3 tables? Aren't you really asking about a too-long table that's uncomfortable to use? The real solution is not to use awkwardly-shaped or -sized tables. But to answer what you asked, no. There is no official 3-table-rotation rule.

Were we wrong in all leaving the table?
The thing is that nobody wants to sit at that table. If everybody has to sit at that table at some point, you need to work out a rotation scheme that makes each person sit there only 1/3 of the time. Tournaments usually rotate players from table to table (see FAQ 21), and you can also see Linda Z's November 5 post (below) about table rotation.

Glad you are still doing the Q&A but got tired of looking at players old MJ sets
Was that you who used to complain about that? This is an information site; I answer the questions I get; I don't control what questions I get. What's the big deal! Just scroll past them! I am going to continue to answer every question. I am not going to set up a separate board for set-evaluation questions, so you're stuck with it. If I start trying to separate out those questions, next thing you know, somebody will complain that she doesn't like seeing questions about un-American mah-jongg, and I'd have to create yet another board, and on and on! The traffic here doesn't warrant multiple boards, and the site doesn't make enough money to pay me enough to do that. So I'm not going to do that.


May the tiles be with you.
Tom Sloper

Creator of
the weekly Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs -- donations appreciated.
Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
Los Angeles, California, USA
November 9, 2013


How do you determine rotation, part 2
From: "lindaz
Sent: Tuesday, November 5, 2013 5:55 AM
Subject: Joan's Nov 4 email
Hi Tom,
Regarding Joan's email of Nov 4--the way our group rotates 10 players is to rotate the "East" person when a game is finished. We're pretty flexible about this. When one group is finished their game, those players look at the other tables. If another group is on their last wall, we'll set up a new wall and wait for the second group to finish, then switch East players. Sometimes players don't want to wait and will continue in the same group. Hope this helps!
Thanks, Linda

I agree that the person who dealt a just-finished hand rotates out (the same way it's done for a 5-player table, as described in FAQ 13A). As I said yesterday, it's unavoidable that there will be some waiting.
May the tiles be with you.
Tom Sloper

Creator of
the weekly Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs -- donations appreciated.
Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
Los Angeles, California, USA
November 5, 2013


How do you determine rotation

> From: "jccatanese
> Sent: Monday, November 4, 2013 2:12 PM
> Subject: Mah-Jongg Q+A
> My mah-jongg question or comment is:
> Three tables playing. One table of 4 players Two tables of 3 players 10 players total.
> Players do not want to play 2 tables of 4 with two players waiting.
> How do you determine the rotation of the players .
> Help me with my sanity.
> Thank you,
> Joan C

I don't understand, Joan.
What problem is there to solve? Rotate who from where to where, in order to accomplish what? Are you talking about rotating people from a 3-player table to a 4-player table, and vice versa? To what end? You said players don't want to wait, so they'd rather play 3-player at two tables instead. If there's nothing broken, there's nothing to fix.
The only way that I can think of to "rotate" is to do the thing you say your players don't want to do (two 5-player tables). If you want people to rotate from table to table, then there will inevitably be waiting, since some games take longer than others. Not to mention the time it'll take to exchange places. You're going to have to figure this out between you. And when you do, I'm sure my readers would be glad to hear what you came up with.
May the tiles be with you.
Tom Sloper

Creator of the weekly Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs -- donations appreciated.
Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
Los Angeles, California, USA
November 4, 2013


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