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A few days ago a player picked up a discard, held it for a moment, placed it on her rack, and announced that she was thinking about it. I thought that since she had picked it up, it was now hers, but was absolutely certain that after she placed it on top of her rack, it was definitely hers. She disagreed with me and said that she was allowed to continue thinking about it. I appealed to a Mah Jongg FB group that I belong to – 99% of the 1500+ people in that group agreed with me; just a few agreed with her that she could pick it up and then put it back; 100% of the people agreed that once she placed it on her rack, it was a done deal. What do you think? Do you believe in “if you touch it, you own it?” Or, once it is on her rack, it is there for good? Or, until she brings up the rest of the exposure, she can think about whether or not she wants the tile and, if not, put the tile back on the table? 

Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American-style Mah Jongg, rang in with her opinion – thank you, Gladys! 

“In the NMJL cruise tournaments, for 24 years they always said “if you touch a tile in the wall to begin your turn, IT BELONGS TO YOU. You can not change your mind and claim a previous discard.”  We then took that one step further in all their TOURNAMENTS….if you touch a tile that you CLAIM….IT BELONGS TO YOU. We keep steadfast to this rule in all OUR tournaments. We can NOT understand how someone would interpret this to mean they can not only touch it, but they can even put it ON their rack while they “THINK ABOUT IT.” Nor can we imagine that the NMJL would condone this. But if they do, please note it is for social games, not tournaments.”

Let me know your thoughts!



  1. JPCusu@aol.com

    Too much has gone on with this started with Jonni at mahjongg,that’s it!! I thank Gladys Grad and Ann Israel for getting it straight once and for all. I am finished with this discussion. Let those players do what they want but they will never play anything but a “friendly” house game. Phyllis


  2. Lynn

    If touched, it’s yours. It’s a simple, basic rule that is easy to follow and should be followed.


  3. Jan Egri

    Ann, to make it fair to everyone, you have to have rules in this game. One of those rules is in fact, if you touch it you own it. If you want to think about a discard, say “stop” or “wait” and think about it BEFORE you pick up the tile. The same with taking a tile from the wall. You touch it, it’s yours! So, I totally agree with you. That player 1. picked up the tile, and 2. placed it on her rack. She owned it!


  4. Tracy

    Actually, it would be very nice if it were always that simple, but it is not always true that you touch it and you own it, as per the NMJL. Gladys is talking about the rule in her tournaments. The NMJL has stated in writing that as long as you do not pick the tile up from the wall, you merely touch it, you do not have to take it, and can instead claim the most recent discard. In addition, in picking a discard, the NMJL has ruled that you may put it back on the table, so long as it has not touched your rack. I’m not saying I agree that these are good rules, but the NMJL has made these rulings. People are certainly welcome to utilize the “touch it and it’s yours” rule or Gladys’s tournament rules in their home games, but technically, the NMJL applies a looser standard. Don’t shoot the messenger. Write to the League if you don’t believe me…. Or consider a petition to have them change their rulings.


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