Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American Mah Jongg, always answers interesting questions  in her monthly Mah Jongg Madness Newsletter. But I must admit that I was rather surprised to read the following question describing a situation where a tournament director allowed someone to put back a tile that had already been racked and exposed. However, Gladys – as always – was diplomatic and kind in her answer. Read the question and answer and then let me know how you would have ruled on this situation.

 Q. I was at a tournament and a newer player claimed a flower for an exposure.  She picked that tile up, and exposed it with 2 flowers and a joker.  Then she decided she didn’t want the flower or the exposure, and proceeded to put the flower back on the table and put the other tiles back in her hand.  We called the director over to the table, and he said she could do that with no penalty.  Is that correct?  Rebecca N, NY

A. First, let me preface any comments with one fact….no matter what the Director in a tournament rules, it is always correct.  It is his/her tournament, and the Director’s decision is always the “right decision.”

That said….in standardized TOURNAMENT RULES, once a tile is touched and used in an exposure, the  player must use that tile, and complete her turn….whether or not she changes her mind or not.  (Please check with the NMJL to see what their ruling is for social games.)

Tournament rules have evolved to not allow you to “change your mind” about keeping a tile once you have touched it. 

What do you think about this? Can’t wait to read your comments!

12 thoughts on “Q&A FROM THE GRAND MASTER

  1. Susan

    I have to weigh in here. That is a pretty standard rule. Not only at tournaments but in home games as well. We don’t allow someone to take a tile, expose it and THEN decide she doesn’t want it. In all the tournaments I play in, if you touch it you take it. That’s final.

    Standard rules are important at tournaments. After all, sometimes large sums of money are involved. So, the playing field needs to be level as far as the rules are concerned.

    I’m afraid this situation sounds like a director who either wasn’t clear on the rules or was a ‘soft touch’ when it came to making a ruling. It’s not easy to direct a tournament. You have to be clear about what your rules are and then stick to them! There’s nothing worse than playing in a tournament where a director wavers on the rules.

    Getting down from my soap box now…..


  2. Kate

    we wouldn’t allow that in our weekly game either.
    You can say I may want the tile, then say no, but not call it then return to the table.
    You know what the problem is here, is that then that player goes back and says “well I was allowed at the tournament I played in”


  3. Tony

    I have had the privilege of playing in 3 tournaments by Gladys so I know this player would not have been allowed to do this move. In my small groups, depending on the experience of the player, we may have allowed it with instruction of correct procedure for future games. In stores “the customer is always right”. In Mah Jongg the player is not always right. It was a bad call by this tournament director who should have known better.


  4. Diane G

    Certainly, a bad call if they were playing by standardized tournament rules. There must be more to the story. Even in our “teaching games” we do not allow this. One important reason: the learner will never make that mistake again. Allowing the take-back sabotages the learning. That said, maybe just touching the tile and changing her mind would be OK, but racking and exposing? Never. … thanks for the stimulating post!


  5. Nancy Nortz

    You touch it, it’s yours! Even still in the wall, once you touch the wall it’s yours, and definitely laid is played.


  6. Jan Egri

    I totally agree with all of the above. When first learning, you should be taught the rules and of course when you make that mistake, you never forget it! Not a good policy to “allow” it because you will always get that comment, “I did it before and it wasn’t a problem” As far as in tournaments, I’ve played at Gladys’ tournaments and it’s always been you touch it you own it! It doesn’t matter if it’s a tile from the wall, or a called tile. This tournament director did an injustice to the other 3 players and more so to the player that decided not to keep the flower.


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