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.

6 thoughts on “RACK IT!

  1. Jan Egri

    Ann, that is always a sticky part of our game. Some never rack their tile, just hold it in their hand trying to decide, which gives others a longer opportunity to make a decision. OR of course, we have those that want to call a tile when the 2nd. player past the thrown tile has already picked and the caller wants to know why it’s too late!! (Have to smile here for that one) BUT I also agree with you regarding the grab and shove into the rack tactic. I played one of Gladys’ tournaments with someone that did that and it was borderline rude. The previous tile was barely on the table when she would grab her tile and rack it so quickly that sometimes it fell off the rack!. Needless to say, I opened my mouth and asked her to remember Gladys’ words about that and how we needed to take a breath to give someone an opportunity to call a previous tile. Yes, Gladys made a point in the initial opening of addressing this. It did a bit of good, and the other 2 players thanked me with their eyes. It was a long 4 hands, and three of us were not happy playing there. I know there are strategies to the game, but rudeness should never be one of them.


  2. Diane G

    I think it important to teach that mahj is both a visual and an audible game. The picking, racking, tossing, naming of the tiles contribute to the overall rhythm of the game. Failure to audibly rack a picked tile leads to confusion and disruption, as many players are listening for that “click” while looking at their own tiles. Fast racking is rude behavior which needs a reminder that perhaps the offender could play a more gentler game in the present company. … maybe too subtle? Thanks for a great discussion on an eternal topic.


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