Three of my “advisors” on sticky Mah Jongg issues:
When I am teaching “newbies” how to play Mah Jongg, one thing (among many!) that I stress is that a discarded tile may be called until the next player “racks” their tile. And by racking I mean putting the tile in the rack, not just touching it to the rack. This is a pet peeve of mine – it is important to RACK that tile. Now, I don’t mean that you should sweep in, grab the next tile, and quickly rack it. Let’s remember that in social games we play a friendly game and take a second or two to pick up our next tile, giving another player a chance to say, “um…” or “wait…” or “I’m calling that tile.”
Gladys Grad‘s newest Mah Jongg Madness newsletter reinforces my instructions:
Q. Here’s a question that has come up during our weekly play. What is the “time limit” for calling a tile? Quite often, someone will throw away a tile and almost before you have time to react, the next person has begun their turn. If the next person has picked up the new tile and not looked at it, do they have to relinquish it to the claimer? Or if they have picked it up and looked at it but not racked it? What is the point where the tile cannot be called? We’re pretty lenient when playing among ourselves but would like to know what applies for tournament play. Maddy
A. You are able to claim a discard until the next player has actually racked their next tile. Racking means that the tile picked from the wall is actually placed IN their rack…not in front of, on top of, or in back of the rack. Sometimes a tile may be claimed at the same time as another player racks or discards their next tile. This comes under the Mah Jongg Rule of “Simultaneous Occurrence.” In this event, the claimant will receive the benefit of the doubt.