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By Tom Sloper (湯姆 斯洛珀)
6月28日, The Year of the Ox 牛

Column #412

Universal Interest. It's rare that someone cheats at mah-jongg, but it's important to know what to do if it does come up. First, you have to have proof of cheating. You should not say anything to the suspect if you do not have proof. The trick is getting proof. So you have to know what to look for.

Not Rolling Dice
As I wrote in Column #403, the most common way of cheating in American mah-jongg is to plant jokers in the end of the wall, when the players do not use dice. The solution to that is simple: use dice, stupid! Dice exist specifically to make it hard to cheat.

Loading the Wall
The main way of cheating I know of is to plant desirable tiles in the ends of the wall. Then, during the course of play, the player can surreptitiously take those tiles.

Palming From the Wall
The cheater might remove planted tiles from the wall end during play, perhaps when other things are distracting the players or when the cheater is serving his/her wall. Particular tiles needn't be planted in the wall in order for this technique to be effective. Read my account (Column #325) of the cheater caught during the 2007 Open European Mahjong Championship. This cheater apparently took random extra tiles, thereby increasing his chances of winning. Watch the suspect's hands, and watch the wall length (especially the wall right in front of the suspect) at the outset before the deal begins—and as the game progresses. But a very smart cheater might take the precaution of putting unwanted tiles back in the wall shortly after, or concurrent with, taking the desired tiles from the wall.

Palming During the Shuffle
The cheater might be taking desirable tiles during the shuffling process. At the conclusion of a hand, the first step should be to turn all tiles face-down. It's a complete waste of time to shuffle the tiles while any are face-up. And shuffling them while face-up is just asking somebody to cheat. (Of course, this does not defend against a player who finger-reads the tiles or has a photographic memory.) Second, while shuffling, make sure that the tiles near the suspected cheater get shuffled. Reach over and mix them in with the rest. Third, check wall length before dealing.

Keep a Record
There may be other ways of cheating as well. If you suspect someone of cheating, start keeping a record—the number of wins, the number of jokers... After collecting enough data, you may have evidence (if not proof) of cheating.

Got Proof?
When you have definitive proof of cheating (and only then), give the cheater the boot. And let the world know about it. Cheaters don't deserve to enjoy the lovely game of mah-jongg with anyone.

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

Photos of the 2007 WMJC in E Mei Shan, China.
Photos of the 2007 OEMC in Copenhagen.
Photos of the Fourth China Majiang Championship and Forum in Tianjin, 2006.
Photos of the Third China Majiang Championship and Forum in Beijing, 2005.
Photos of the 2005 OEMC
Photos of the 2003 CMOC.
Photos of the 2002 WCMJ.

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Copyright 2009 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.