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.
I can’t imagine playing with someone who cheats. No group is that friendly and the cheater is putting her “friends” in an awkward situation. Some friend! Your solution is gracious and far more diplomatic than anything I can think of. Sheesh! I would flat out call her out on it!
For a friendly game I would suggest that the group announce they would like to streamline the game: 13 tiles ONLY on your rack. 14 makes you dead. Moving the tiles around is a distraction as many of us take a mental picture to remember what has been discarded. Trust you will have the support of the entire group. Good luck.
I totally agree about calling her dead the minute 14 tiles are on her rack. Do this a few tomes and the message should be received.
No question she needs to called on this. I think telling her a few times that all agree she is dead would be a perfect message in this situation. Once she gets this message that all the others have spoken about this and aim to stop her from cheating, then the right person will feel the discomfort instead of the others who are playing honestly and laboring over about what to do.
if you are happy playing with someone who cheats good luck to you i would not play with that person i would rather play two or three than play with a cheater
If you really want her in the group, I would start with your suggestions. Everyone purposely keep the tiles in the middle! If those two strategies don’t stop her monkey business, I would say bye-bye.
The hardest thing we face in our tournaments is “firing” someone who has been found cheating. These players are usually good natured, knowledgeable players….and come to these events with their friends. This makes it particularly tricky because we don’t want to embarrass them In front of their friends. In my previous profession, it was really hard when I had to fire employees; but dis-inviting a MJ player is worse. We warn them (after a thorough “investigation” of course)…and tell them they can finish the tournament if they wish, so as not to embarrass them further; but they are never allowed back in another tournament of ours. Of course, they are always watched if they decide to play to the end; and their scores are not counted. I do not envy your very difficult position. Your situation is literally in your home. Ann’s solution may be the only way .
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Is there someone in the group who is close to her? Perhaps one of the women can pull her aside and be direct and say, “We are a friendly game but we noticed…and if it happens again we’ll need to ask you to stop playing with us.”
It’s unfortunate that someone is desperate enough to make a hand that they would cheat! Tell her you made a new table rule where all hands must be behind the rack because it’s distracting to the other players. Personally I find it annoying when a player has a need to constantly move the tiles on the table.
I have to agree with the 1st suggestion about leaving all tiles where they are & if you are found to have 14 tiles you are declared dead. She must comply or no longer play with the group. What a shame. The game is supposed to be a fun social get together.
Hard to believe that this person thinks she is getting away with cheating. Maybe it’s the thrill of thinking she’s getting away with it…living on the edge. I think Gladys and Ann are right on. Many players get annoyed when discards are moved around because they are visual and remember tiles by their placement on the table. Also, I’ve played in a tournament where hands in front of racks is not allowed. Perhaps you could just say that moving the tiles is distracting and during the next game have one of your players intentionally get caught with 14 tiles on their rack and call her dead. This would serve as fair warning. If the group is playing with loose rules, this could all be presented as an effort by the group to tighten up the game to conform with NMJL rules. However it is handled, it should be stopped before someone loses their patience and creates hurt feelings. If she can’t play by the group’s standards, she will probably find somewhere else to play.
I agree with all the comments above. The two things I would add are:
1. It’s much easier to call a player on this sort of behavior the very first time you notice her doing it, right? But since you let her get away with it several times, she now thinks it’s acceptable. Lesson learned there.
2. I think it might be more diplomatic and more accurate to declare “your hand is dead,” instead of saying “you are dead.” It’s a small thing, I know. But I think the words we choose matter. This woman must have other issues to need to cheat like that. No matter what you do, everyone will probably feel somewhat uncomfortable when you call her out on it. Just remember to breathe and repeat to yourself over and over, if necessary, “It’s only a game…It’s only a game.” Good luck!