|By Tom Sloper
August 26, 2012
American (NMJL). Frequently Asked Question: What if all 4 players want to do a blind pass at the same time? Frequently Given Answer: Use the IOU paradigm. One player begins by passing whatever she has, and says "I owe you one more," or whatever. That gets the ball rolling (or, if you prefer, the dominos falling), and when tiles come around to her again, she can fulfill the IOU.
So, let's say all four players have just two tiles to pass, and want to blind pass one. One player starts the dominos falling by giving her two to her neighbor and saying, "I owe you one." The player she passed to can now blind pass one, giving three to her neighbor. When the fourth player gives three tiles (including one blind tile) to the first player, the first player can give the tile she owes to her neighbor. Problem solved.
Or let's say one player has one tile to pass in the last right; two players have none, and one has two.
What about the worst case? What if someone has no tiles to pass, so wants to blind pass three? What if everybody needs to blind pass three?
There is one player who has at least one tile she can pass... the dealer. If the dealer cannot declare mah-jongg, she is going to have to start the game by discarding a tile. So she has at least one tile to pass.
The player who has a tile to pass passes that one tile and says, "I owe you two more." The next player can pass it along and say, "I owe you two more," and so on, until each player has blind passed the same tile right. Then the first player need only repeat the process twice (saying, instead of "I owe you two more," rather "Now I owe you one more" and "Here's your third tile", respectively). Now each player has (in effect) passed three tiles to each other player, using the IOU workaround, although in actuality nobody has actually changed her hand. Or you could just all SAY you did the above. It amounts to the same thing anyway.
The IOU solves the blind pass impasse.
P.S. The League has never addressed (to the best of my knowledge) the question of how to handle the extremely unlikely and rare eventuality of every player wanting to blind pass. So what I have said about it is not official - it is just my best guess, my own idea about how it could be handled. - Tom
P.P.S. Mah Jongg Madness rules: if every player wants to blind pass, it's tough luck for the dealer - she has to pass three. But as of March 2019, the League has still never issued a written ruling on this question. - Tom
P.P.P.S. In 2020, the League issued a rule supporting the IOU method outlined above. - Tom
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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. Like this, for instance...
What if everybody wants to blind pass three, part 2
> From: Paula M
> Sent: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 7:09 AM
> Subject: Re: Question about the final pass in Charleston
> Thank you very much. So, in effect, no one really has to pass anything in that final pass - if no one has anything to pass. The "I owe you" is really just pro forma, correct?
> I appreciate the speed in answering my question. I consult your book all the time and it answers almost all of my questions - except for this one!
> Paula Myers
I don't want to agree to the use of the term "pro forma" since I am not a lawyer and don't really know what that means. I prefer to call it "a wink and a nod." But think about it a second. Nobody wants to pass ANY tiles, right? so if I pass three tiles I don't want to give up, everybody after me has no choice (since nobody wants to pass ANY tiles) but to blind pass them all, and they will come back to me intact. So why bother doing it at all?
Note, however, that the situation you posited is extremely unlikely -- if you pass three tiles you don't want to give up, most likely somebody along the chain will want to take one (she lied when she said she had none to pass, or she just "changed her mind," which as you surely know, women never do), and you won't get all three back after all.
The only way to prevent that would be to make a pact that none of you will take any of the three tiles you pass. The rules do not support all players making a pact like that -- so, technically, making such a pact would be outside the rules.
The rules also do not really support everybody saying, "let's just skip it since when we're done with the last right we'll all still have the same tiles we have now," but so what? When you're done with the last right, you'll all still have the same tiles you have now.
Or will you really? Is the dealer going to declare mah-jongg as soon as the Charleston has ended? If not, then she has to discard a tile. Which means she really had one tile to pass. So unless you all made a pact, she would have probably been the one to break it (on the chance that the tile she kept gave her mah-jongg).
So maybe when everybody says "I don't have any I want to pass," you should just ask the dealer, "so you're ready to declare mah-jongg right now, is that what you're saying?" If she says yes, tell her to go ahead and declare mah-jongg. If she says no, then you can go back to what I wrote in column 534 -- the dealer has one tile she can pass, so everybody can blind pass that one tile three times using the IOU "wink and nod", and the game can begin -- or just skip it since you'll all just have the same tiles anyway, and she might as well just discard it and get the game going.
May the tiles be with you.
Creator of the weekly Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs -- donations appreciated.
Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
Los Angeles, California, USA
January 14, 2014
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: http://sites.google.com/site/mahjrules/.
© 2012 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.