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By Tom Sloper
August 8, 2021

Column #752

American Mah Jongg (2021 NMJL card). When George Bailey and Mary Hatch danced, what music was playing? The Charleston, of course!

1. I know, those winds jump out atcha, don't they though? Five tiles isn't the greatest start, but maybe the mah-jongg goddesses are trying to tell us something. Five winds, the Wests paired; the five could be a start for W-D #1 or #3. What else goes with? East and West go with Even numbers (W-D #2), and there's only one even; that adds up to four tiles (not counting the joker). There are also three nines here, which could go with N and S if you get more of those, I suppose; that adds up to five also. G goes with E and W only (four tiles towards W-D #5). That leaves the threes and the six available to pass. But wait, don't those numbers suggest 369? Try that line of thinking for a second. 369 #1: four tiles. #2: four tiles. #3: four tiles. #4: four. #5: four. #6: four. #7 is even worse. Back to plan A. Five-tile possibilities are better. Passing 3B 3C 6C feels like giving someone a bonanza... but they're holding you back, so let'em go.

2. Three pairs: threes, sixes, and sevens. The three pairs don't all go together to make one hand, so consider two pairs, and what friends they have. The sixes and sevens team up with 9C for Consec #2 (five tiles). The threes and sixes work together with 9C for 369 #6 (five tiles) and #7 (five tiles). The threes and sixes and R make five tiles for 369 #5. Let's try another tack: G obviously goes with your bams (six tiles for Consec #3). R and Wh go with your sixes and sevens for Consec #8 (six tiles). the 3D pair and 3C go with matching dragons for Any Like #3 (six tiles). That and Consec are the best way to go; forget 369. You can pass 3C 9C 2D and keep several six-tile options.

3. With those two jokers, you can go for whatever strikes your fancy, but how about passing W Wh and a four or eight.

4. Pair of 2D, but precious few friends. Consec #5: five tiles only. Don't spin wheels. N and S can go, and 9B is no friend of 2D.

5. What you have mostly here is low numbers. Highs and N can go.

6. Pair of flowers, pair of nines. No jokers, so S&P is an option; how about S&P #5, the 369 hand. You have eight tiles towards that one. But no 6C at all (that's a big weakness). Five tiles towards Any Like #2. Or you can just say you don't need 4D, 2C, and G.

7. Two pairs: twos and sixes. The numerical distance between them says forget Consec. Think Evens and Any Like. If you want to keep Any Like #1 open, and keep E N, then you can pass 7B 5C Wh. But with sixes in all three suits, I'd ditch winds.

8. Souths go with R and odds. If you want to go W-D with these, pass any numbers except seven.

9. This one wants to go 369. Pass W 2D 5C.


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!

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).

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