Please click here if you do not see a Nav Frame at left and Header Frame above - you'll need them!


By Tom Sloper
March 13, 2011

Column #481

American Mah Jongg (2010 NMJL card). It's almost time for the new card to come out. I will be going back to the weekly format then, since there will be much to discuss.

The thing I have noticed of late is the enormous number of inquiries about the handling of a picked tile, what "racking" is, and the import of these matters on the Window of Opportunity rule.

Normally, when a discard has been made by the player at your left and it is your turn, you follow these steps:

1. Pause just a beat. This is so that anyone at the table can have a chance to call for the current live discard.

2. Take the tile from the live end of the wall, and bring it to your side of the table. Some people look at the tile with arm extended, but this is a bad idea because other players can see the tile, too.

3. Some people just look at the tile without racking it. This is acceptable; just know that the window of opportunity on the live discard remains open while you're looking at your new tile. You might have to put it back. Some people, in the interest of closing the window so as to have the chance to think about the tile, rack the tile and then look at it. That's acceptable too. When I'm using a set with stickered jokers, I can tell by feel, immediately, when I've picked a joker. When that happens, I just rack it and then make my discard. Of course, racking the tile closes the window of opportunity on the current live discard.
People who "tap" the tile on the top of the rack, or who stand the tile on the card, are wrong in thinking that they have thereby closed the window of opportunity. The official rule is clear, and the word "racking" should be self-evident. A group might set a table rule that permits tapping or carding, but table rules do not apply at a tournament or at someone else's table. At a tournament, after picking a tile, either rack it or (after determining you don't want to keep it), discard it. Official window closure rules apply, so tapping and carding won't hack it.

4. If you'd just looked at the tile without racking it, you can now either rack it or discard it (or declare mah jongg, of course) -- either move closes the window of opportunity on the current live discard. If you'd racked a tile, you can now discard one (or declare mah jongg, of course).

And that's it. How hard is that, really?

Click the entries in the header frame, above, to read other columns.

Question or comment about this column? I often miss something; maybe you'll be the first one to spot it! Please be gentle. Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board.

October 2010 article on American mah jongg's rise in popularity, from the WALL STREET JOURNAL: ?mod=WSJ_hpp_RIGHTTopCarousel_2.
There's a movie of the WSJ story too -- just click the Video tab on the above page, or go to ?mod=WSJ_hpp_RIGHTTopCarousel_2#articleTabs%3Dvideo.

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 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). Linda Fisher's website is the only website that describes American rules:

© 2011 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.