Last week I received a question from a reader of this blog. I responded to her – my answer to her question is below – but I would like your thoughts on this disturbing and uncomfortable matter.
We have a weekly, friendly neighborhood game. One of our players constantly moves the discarded tiles toward her rack searching out what she was unable to pick up when discarded earlier. Two of the players have witnessed a slight of hand, palming the needed tile and placing it on her rack. Sometimes she has 14 tiles on the rack before there is an opportunity to push off from the end of the rack the unneeded tile. We do not want to embarrass her or cause damage to our neighborhood friendships, so I wanted your advice as how to tackle this problem in a tactful and friendly way. Is there a rule stating players must keep their hands behind the rack unless picking and discarding tiles? Is there a printed rule that can be provided to all players as general information, without bringing attention to the guilty player? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thank you in advance for any help you can provide to help solve this difficult situation.
Unfortunately, there are no written rules about these actions which, sadly, have to be labeled as cheating. My first reaction was to tell this player that she was no longer wanted as a part of this group. But this is a small and friendly neighborhood and that kind of response would not be appropriate in this particular situation. I decided to run by my solutions with my dear friend in Vermont, Jan E, and we both agreed that the way to go is as follows: when she moves the discarded tiles toward her rack, you should immediately move them back to where they were and say in a very friendly way, why don’t we leave the tiles where everyone can see them?
The other egregious situation is more difficult and it will require the people in the know to continually be counting the tiles on her rack. As soon as you see that she has 14 tiles on her rack – and it is not her turn to discard – you must say, “Oh Jane (not her real name), you have 14 tiles on your rack – you’re dead!” and make sure that she is then out of that particular game. After you have done this a few times, I suspect she will understand that you are on to her and will stop palming those tiles when she is playing with your group.
What makes this a particularly difficult situation is that this is a small neighborhood and everyone is close friends. You don’t want to start a Hatfield vs. McCoy type feud – you just want this women to keep game play on an even and honest level.
What are your thoughts on these two situations? How would you handle them? I will publish your comments in an upcoming post.