Our good friend, Bettyann, posed a question to the NMJL and the answer she received is not what most of us believe to be fair play. Here it is:

Calling tiles- 1st to call or 1st to expose?

Last year my friends called the NMJL for clarification on two people calling for a tile for an exposure and this is the response they got. When 2 players call at the same time, normally the player next in turn gets the tile, however, if the other player has already exposed their tiles on the rack, that player gets the tile. Yesterday the same scenario occurred and they called the NMJL again. This time the response was oh no, the player next in turn always gets the tile. There appears to be some contradiction on this ruling.

Please send me your comments and interpretation on this scenario. Both Bettyann and I are looking forward to hearing what you have to say about this controversy.


What follows is a thread discussing this controversial ruling. And this is just from one group of Mah Jongg players! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this.

  • I thought the next person in line gets the tile unless the other person is calling it for their Mah Jongg and they get it.
  •  I’m not clear – how do u call a tile AFTER exposing?
  •  IF this expose quickly rule is true, it’s just plain rude!!!! The next player should get the tile unless it’s for Mahj!
  • The player next in turn gets the tile unless it is for Mah Jongg which takes precedence over a call for an exposure.
  •  I have always played the first person to the right gets the tile unless it’s for mahj and then it goes to that person. Pretty much the same as everyone else is saying. However, I was at a tournament and the person running the tournament said the exact…
  •  Next in line unless for Mah Jongg. The end.
  •  Player next in turn gets the tile called for an exposure unless that called tile gives another player mj. Period.
  •  As we were told if the 2 player has already exposed her tiles she gets the tile. This is only if there are no Mah Jonggs.– IF the first player has Mah Jongg, even if the second player has exposed the 1st gets the tile.
  •  I believe this was addressed in the NMJL annual newsletter under the Q and A section, however I don’t have a copy. If anyone has that newsletter can you please post it here? Thanks so much!
  •  This is what the newsletter said: Q. Two players called for the same tile for an exposure. The second player who called started to make her exposure but next in turn announced that she wanted that tile also. Who is entitled to the tile? A. Just as long as the other player started to make her exposure, next in turn was TOO LATE.
  • So suppose the girl on my right has exposed once already and, based on the table and my hand, I have a sense of what she’s playing, and that we may want the same tile? I can call and push my tiles up, like a race? Dislike.
  • I guess if it was addressed in the newsletter, that is the final word. I sure would have thought it was just the next person to the right.
  • I have been playing M.J for a few years n I realize rules change but REALLY lady’s. Has this game gotten so complicated that we have to argue over who gets a tile?
  • I think the real question here is why change this rule to begin with? AND, why make it into a negative experience?
  •  I was floored when the league posted that and allowed the second player to keep the tile just because she races her tiles up first. I think that is a bad bad ruling. I completely disagree with them. Not the first time that calling at different times yields different answers by the way. Sometimes I think they are senile.
  •  Wow this question sparked some very interesting and emotional responses. I appreciate all your feedback.
  •  I don’t like the NML rule either but running and going to a great number of tournament,s it’s always best to follow the rules.
  •  I have spoken about this before as we’ll…after my call to league. And where leagues rules most usually fall to “gracious, friendly” play, this rule of theirs promotes “cut throat” behaviors. We had one gal at the J who always called and exposed at the exact same time…. Very bad form, I thought at the time. And still really believe this is unfair. We do not follow this rule at my tournaments, for that reason!
  •  next player gets it unless someone else calls for mahjongg.
  •  On my iPad I didn’t see all the expert answers. But I still believe calling it for mahjongg gets it over next player for just exposure.
  •  I just got off the telephone with Ruth Unger @ NMJL…..on the 2 issues we had discussed. She has upheld both rulings I called about last year…Those being the first to expose on a call gets the tile…(we discussed further and I asked her to reexamine…
  •  PS… Ruth Unger IS the governing body!!!
  •  only for MJ….. and BTW…when we call league, they keep tract of our “frequently asked questions” and that’s how they end up in the newsletter….after I called last year…it became newsletter-worthy!
  •  Here’s the Q&A from the 2013 bulletin. Hardly seems fair to me.
  •  Betty Ann, nice of you to make that call. However, I for one will not present that to my groups as an acceptable way of play. I think it will cause more hard feelings then bonding. Furthermore, some people I play with aren’t as quick as others and I…
  •  I agree with J. I think Ruth drew a line in the sand and no matter how lame the ruling is, she is going to stick with it. That is NOT the NMJL rule by the way, its Ruth’s interpretation of it. Next president, hopefully a saner interpretation.
  •  I agree with J 100%. In fact, this scenario just happened at our game today. No question about it – J’s interpretation has always been the accepted rule and that’s how it was played today. J2 is right – we are suddenly hearing Ruth’s interpretation of the rule – not the accepted NMJL ruling. (BTW, this was my comment!)
  •  I totally agree w/ J.
  •  Had 2 players call for the same tile tonight. I shared your comments. Told player B they weren’t quick enough so player A got the tile. Made for a good conversation.
  •  I agree that it the same players call for a tile, the next in rotation gets it.
  •  But if one player has already exposed the tiles on their rack, it seems the other player took too long to call for it, and shouldn’t get it.
  •  M makes a very interesting point and something to think about although I still believe the tile belongs to the next person in rotation unless the other person is calling the tile for Mah Jongg. (This was me again!)
  •  I am a very fast player. I look at a tile as it is being thrown and often see what it is before it is called. I can rack my tiles faster than most. With that being said, I think it is unfair to the other players if I were to do that and get a
  •  I play fast as well, but since I teach, I often play with my beginners once they get the hang of it. I will continue to say that the tile is for the next in turn just as you Jan.
  •  Ladies…and Man…If u read, I said I asked Ruth to bring this ruling to the board, as it goes against all of the “kindness” they purport in playing this game. Sure, there are people who decide late to call a tile just because they heard another call …
  •  I know you don’t Betty Ann and I am sure everyone else knows it too.
  •  I agree with L….everyone should know. We appreciate that you even took the time and pushed to speak with Ruth about this.
  •  Many people have stated it sometimes depends from whom you get the answer at NMJL…. My push to Ruth, was also an effort to let her know this. Formalized rulings should be standard and NOT subjective….. While their answers always state graciousness …
  •  Interesting topic, and I don’t mean to beat a dead horse.. This happened to a friend of mine when we did a tournament last month. I don’t know why she hesitated but was a split second late with a “call” or “take”.. The other gal who was NOT next in line…
  •  not sure of that particular tournament’s rules, but i know others who will uphold the NMJL rule…first up….and i know i use the rule next in line to prevent that competitiveness at my tournaments. Some people take a sec to think and process…and I want them to be free to do that without losing their calls. It may not be NMJL ruling, but it does promote gracious play!
  •  When my friend called, the other gal said “sorry-i exposed”.. She knew the trick!
  •  I was in a situation where the tile that was thrown was a mahj for myself and another. I called mahj first and exposed then the other person who happened to be in line woke up and declared mahj. They gave her the mahj. So, wouldn’t you also apply that ruling here?
  •  I would like to say I would think so, but frankly, since I don’t even attempt to wonder where the NMJL’s head was to even change this rule, I would not venture to make an educated guess.
  •  I could copy this post and send it to NMJL… if u folks would like. I thought asking them to reexamine would be sufficient, however since there are sooo many opinions maybe this would weight their decision. It is their ruling so far. I do not agree with it, as most here. I think it is a very “RUDE” strategy! And, believe me I have seen ppl do this and know they use it to their advantage, as a strategy! One such lady and I will name her, only to let a friend know who it is, and that it is frowned upon…is (name omitted) at the JCC. She’s done it to me many times. She jumps on a call/and exposes simultaneously….and has “raced” (chose this word rather than the one in my head) me out of a call, many times.
  • A tile is thrown, and called by two people (not for mah jongg)……… who gets it?
  •  the next person who’s turn it will be
  • right
  • yes, correct
  • Only have 10 months under the belt, but, I believe it would be the next player to draw a tile that can claim the tile up for grabs. Have a good day. May the winds always be behind your back. I love Mah Jongg.
  • I just called NMJL and they said, next in turn unless the other person racks her exposure before she does. In other words, if next is too slow, she does not get the thrown tile. Crazy, huh? It’s also written in this years pamphlet.
  • Thanks! Good knowledge! A “JOKER”in Illinois !!!!!!
  • I don’t understand this answer. To me it sounds like you are saying, whoever grabs the tile first and racks it. But that can’t be right. Please explain for me, sometimes I am really dense.
  • This is a NMJL rule? I just printed off a flyer for our 1st tournment and printed on it, “American Mah Jongg League Rules.” Since I do NOT like this rule, should I remove this printed line from my flyer? I want to play NEXT IN TURN. NO MATTER.
  • It seems to me it should be next in turn no matter what. HOWEVER, I came across an issue where the player before me threw a tile, I picked a tile and said mahj and exposed. As I was doing that, the player prior to the gal that threw the tile said, wait, I want that tile for Mahj. I checked with Gladys from Mah Jongg Madness and she said “It is important for people to be more aware of what is going on on the table. The 2nd player did not claim the discarded tile in a timely manner in this instance, and is not entitled to the mah jongg. ” So, I would think it would apply also to calling a tile for an exposure. If it is not done in a timely manner, you forfeit the right to get the tile and the other person, who racked it, gets it.
  • that’s the clue “the other person WHO RACKED IT. Agree but that mj call…mmm I don’t know about that one.
  • I picked my tile called mahj and racked it up. Then she said wait I want that tile for mahj.
  • she was BEFORE the person who discarded she is NOT next in turn. If I understand it correctly.
  • Our tournament is NOT going by the NMJL rule that R mentioned. Am I misleading participants if I have printed on our tournament flyer that we are playing according to the “American Mah Jongg League rules?” If players end up getting mad and think that the statement on the flyer was deceiving, I want to delete that info. HELP!
  • Yes, that is correct
  • In my books you absolutely get the mahj. The other player was just too slow in calling mahj. Most people know when they are on call for mah jong and should be ready to yell. Since you already had the time to pick and declare mahj I would definitely think it is yours! There, now that’s my 2 cents worth! LOL
  • AND your 2 cents worth is actually worth 2 million dollars coming from you!!!
  • We called a few times and they say absolutely, if next is too slow to expose the call, then the 2nd caller gets it. The flyer rule is ridiculous in my opinion, but in my game it stands. Remember, this tile is not for mah jongg, just a call for exposure. Ugh!!!
  • We had a player who called and pushed her tiles out of her rack before she even picked up the tile, and at the same time another player wanted the tile before her in turn but spoke after she did. According to NMJL, who covered this “late call” topic in their booklet this year…..they said late calls are the exclusion to the rule of who gets the tile…..I agree…this pits a fast abrupt player against a more thoughtful lay-back one…For an organization who says all the time “this is a game to be played with friends, in a friendly manner” their rule seems to contradict their whole philosophy! Bull…


  1. Suzie

    It has always been my understanding that the next person in line gets the tile, EXCEPT……..if the other person is calling the tile for Mahjongg. Then they are entitled to that tile. I teach it that way and we play it that way. I would recommend that you not be so quick to expose your tiles…once exposed and if you are incorrect as in this case, not being entitled to the tile….you are “dead” and out of the game….


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