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By Tom Sloper
August 28, 2011

Column #497

American Mah Jongg (2011 NMJL card). A tale of two hands, based on a discussion this past week. The topic: winning on joker redemption when two tiles away. Player 1 exposes souths with jokers, then discards 5B. Player 2 needs 5B, and has a redeemable S.

Player 2 says, "Call!" She takes 5B, exposes a pung with a joker, redeems S, and says "Mah jongg!" She puts up her tiles. "Bottom hand in 13579. 70 cents all."

Well, players 1 and 3 reach for their racks as though to throw their hands in, when player 4 shouts, "Everybody stop! Don't throw your hands in!" She looks at player 2. "You're dead. It's a Concealed hand, so you can't play it that way. When the five bam went out, you couldn't take it, because you were illegally making one exposure from a Concealed hand. You needed to pick from the wall, then redeem the south, then wait for mah jongg." And she is right. Player 2 returns all her tiles to the sloping front of her rack, since her hand was exposed in error.*

Player 3 picks from the wall and discards 8C. Player 4 exults, "Call!" She takes 8C, forms an exposed kong, and continues: "And..." She gives player 1 the fourth south, and takes player 1's last joker. "Mah jongg! Consecutives #3. 50 all."

Player 2 complains, "Wait, aren't you just doing the same thing I did? How come I can't do it but you can? You're just making up rules!"

Player 4 explains, "My hand is marked X on the card. I formed a legal and complete kong of eights, then redeemed the joker, making mah jongg. Your hand is marked C on the card, so making the pung of fives was illegal in your case." It takes some explaining, but player 2 concedes in the end.

The difference between these two hands is that player 2's hand was a Capital-C Concealed hand. Reader Ann S put it very well this week, when she said: "a concealed hand must be completed and shown on the rack when the 14th tile is picked or claimed." That is not what player 2 tried to do. She wanted to make a two-step move (she wanted to do exactly what player 4 wound up doing a few minutes later). The first step of her two-step move, though, is illegal. To make the claim for the 5B she had to expose part of her hand, which is forbidden with a Concealed hand. To redeem a joker requires that the player have 14 tiles in the hand first; to mah jongg on a Concealed hand requires that the player do that on the 14th tile.

* Column 497

>From: Chris Schumann
>Sent: Mon, August 29, 2011 9:53:45 AM
>Subject: Column #497
>Hi Tom,
>In column #497, your scenario has player 2 call the 5B for a pung, exchange a joker, and call mahjong on a concealed hand. That's clearly a bad mahjong. However, you also state that "Player 2 returns all her tiles to the sloping front of her rack, since her hand was exposed in error." I have a question about that.
>First, Player 2 calls the 5B and exposes a pung: two 5B's and one joker. Depending on the card, there is at least one potentially exposed hand that has a pung of 5s so this is OK by itself; or there isn't, making her eligible for a dead hand. In either case, nobody called her dead on this exposure.
>Second, she exchanges her joker for the South wind on Player 1's rack. Again, this seems like a legal move.
>Third, she calls mahjong for a concealed pattern when she has one exposure. This is the move she rightly gets called on.
>Since the pung of 5B was exposed first, and legally, should that exposed set (and the juicy joker in it) stay on top of her rack, or should it be hidden since this was all done in one turn?

Hi Chris,
You make a valid point. The 5B pung should indeed remain atop the rack.
Since it was all done in one turn, and since the moment someone claims mah jongg is rather climactic, and calling someone dead is also highly charged, and since it's often the case that important game decisions have to be made in the heat of the moment, if it was decided that she would put the whole hand back out of sight, I would go along with that as well.
But you are right; the 5B pung rightly should remain atop the rack.
May the tiles be with you.
Tom Sloper

Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
Creator of the Mah-Jongg FAQs -- donations welcome.
Los Angeles, California, USA
August 29, 2011

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October 2010 article on American mah jongg's rise in popularity, from the WALL STREET JOURNAL: ?mod=WSJ_hpp_RIGHTTopCarousel_2.
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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:

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