Read more columns
See more Sloperama


By Tom Sloper
July 4, 2021

Column #750

American Mah Jongg (2021 NMJL card). Time to dance the Charleston! Try it using the Four Steps described in column 725.

0. Jokers
1. Pairs
2. Friends/Collaborators
3. High vs. Low
4. Odd vs. Even

1. No pairs, so no tiles to be friends with them. But is there a clear preponderance of tiles that are obvious friends with one another (a bunch of tiles all belonging to one particular family on the card)? The closest thing to tiles that are friends with one another would be the high bams (seeming to suggest Consec. #1). That's just four tiles, though; not enough to target that hand. Now count highs vs. lows: seven highs (counting the five), versus four lows (counting the five). No need to proceed with odds vs. evens. Pass lows and N. Something'll come in.

2. Pair of fives. Do the fives have friends? Yes, how about 4C 6D 7D (leaning towards Consec. #2, most powerful hand on the card). Also keep 7D 9D (possible high Odds), and keep all fours, fives, and sixes (possible Consec. #5, and #6, and pretty much any hand in Consec except the first and last). Discards pool: 1B 8B 8C S. Choose three (one of the eights will probably stay for now).

3. Pair of sevens. Friends of sevens: fives, nines (vaguely Odds), and oh what the hey, keep the 6D too (potential high Consec.). Don't pass three winds; your discards pool also includes 1B and 3D.

4. Very rare: two pungs and a pair! Are all three sets friends with one another? No. Fours and eights are friendly (Evens #1, #6), but there's only one measly other friendly eight, so Evens look farfetched for that clique. And fours are too far numerically from eights, meaning Consec is also out for the fours-and-eights club. Fives and eights, though, can go together in Consec. Best bet is to keep all numbers from five to eight inclusive, leaving you with 4C 9D Wh to pass.

5. Twos and norths are not friendly with one another, and N has insufficient friends; forget N. What's friends with the twos? Answer: F 4D 6D (Evens #4), and 1B G (Consec. #3). You don't want to pass a wind pair, but you can pass 1C N W.

6. No pairs. Highs clearly outnumber lows. The passers are ones and twos, the lowest of the lows (the farthest from the numerical bunch. Keep 4B and dragons for now, to see what might come in.


Question or comment about this column? I often, um... intentionally... "miss" something; maybe you'll be the first one to spot it! Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board. Hit me with your best shot!

    Column 750

    On Sunday, September 19, 2021, 11:27:26 AM PDT, Heidi P wrote:
    Question of 4 July column
    Hi Tom,
    I'm a relatively new player, so this may be an obvious "what the heck is she thinking (and not seeing)?" question. But, here goes:
    In 4 July column, #5:
    Your recommendation is:
    5. Twos and norths are not friendly with one another, and N has insufficient friends; forget N. What's friends with the twos? Answer: F 4D 6D (Evens #4), and 1B G (Consec. #3). You don't want to pass a wind pair, but you can pass 1C N W.
    My question:
    Why would you not suggest going for QUINTS #1? You have a F, pair 2B, 2 N, plus 2 Jokers.
    Thanks, and love your column - really learn so much from your tips.

    What the heck was I thinking (and not seeing), Heidi? (^_^)
    I was wrong when I said twos and norths aren't friendly -- there is indeed Quints #1. I'd been thinking generally, without scanning the card fully. I'd noted 2021 #4, where I didn't have a soap or enough winds, and W-D #6, which... Well, let's just count up the possibilities.
    - 2021 #4: 6 tiles, plus 2J. No Easts, no soaps.
    - Quints #1: 5 tiles, plus 2J.
    - W-D #6: 6 tiles, plus 2J. No Souths or soaps.
    When I have two or more jokers, I steer away from hands that need pairs (especially if I have no tiles towards one or more pairs). So 2021 #4 is out. I don't feel all that confident in the Quints hand, either - only two jokers, only two each of the number and the wind, and only one flower, where five are required. I'd rather go for a hand that can use my existing number pair, because the suit hands offer a lot more possibilities and probabilities than the corner-of-the-card families. And of the suit hands, the most possibilities can be found in Consecutive Runs - but in this case we mainly have evens. I still feel more comfortable in the horizontal middle of the card, for these tiles.

    Focus on numbers, with two jokers, and 5 tiles towards Quints

    When I want to focus on the numbers - the three suits and not just ones, twos, zeros - I prefer the flexibility in the section of the card I highlighted in green. This is just the first pass of the Charleston; the tiles that come in may change it all again.
    In July, I wrote that I would keep the numbers and Green, and pass 1C and break up winds. But I hadn't done this counting exercise that time. I'm not crazy about the Quints option, but your idea to keep the Norths is sound. I do have an idea for Green (Consec #3), and F could well be crucial to any green-section hand (such as 2468 #4), so I'm keeping those. I was reserving 1B for the 2021 option but now that I think about it, I crossed that hand off before. So 1B 1C W is a pass that focuses more on numbers but reserves Quints.
    Thank you for your astute question, Heidi! Play safely and stay healthy. And may the tiles be with you.
    Tom Sloper
    Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
    Author of the Sloper On Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs
    Donations appreciated
    September 19, 2021
    Los Angeles, California, USA

Join Johni Levene's popular Facebook group, "Mah Jongg, That's It!" for lively conversations about American mah-jongg and all things mah-jongg.

Where to order the yearly NMJL card: Read FAQ 7i.

Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book about the American game, a good supplement to the League's official rulebook. AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND every player should have a copy of Mah Jongg Made Easy, the official rulebook of the National Mah Jongg League (see FAQ 3 for info on mah-jongg books).

If you appreciate the free information on this site, your donation would be gratefully accepted, and would help keep this site running as a free service. Thank you!

Not tax-deductible

© 2021 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.