I know a player who, when she wants to exchange a tile for a Joker on someone else’s rack, she just sticks out her hand with the Joker and doesn’t say a word. She expects that the person with the Joker will know exactly what she wants and usually it works out that way. But I find it a bit rude and I personally do like to say something along the lines of, “may I have your Joker please?” 

Also, when this same person wants to claim a discard and it is her turn to pick, she doesn’t say anything…she just picks it up. That used to be okay – albeit a little strange – but ever since last year’s card, the rule has changed so that now you must verbally make a claim. 

Interestingly enough, the wonderful Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American-Style Mah Jongg, just wrote about these very subjects:

Q.  When we play in our home game, we just place our tile on our opponent’s rack, and exchange for their Joker. Or we put it on the table directly in front of them.  We’re smart.  We can figure out what they want.  It’s the same with the new rule from the NMJL; why do I have to say “take,” when I want their discard if I am next in line for my turn.  I don’t have to say “take” when it’s my turn to pick from the wall. Isn’t this the same thing?  Isn’t this a bit much? Marlene

A.   Answer: “because the NMJL said so.”   We shouldn’t take for granted that your opponent can read your mind or your intent to exchange for their Joker, if you merely hold it in the palm of your hand or place it on the table in front of them.  In a tournament, placing it on the table without verbalizing your desire to exchange for that Joker is tantamount to discarding your tile. . .It’s a good idea to verbalize. As for exchanging for your own Joker….there is no requirement (and it certainly isn’t necessary) to announce that you are exchanging.

As for saying “take” when you are claiming your immediate opponent’s discard may seem unnecessary to you, but the NMJL is very firm on this issue.  Enough so, that they added this rule to the back of their card lat year. The penalty if you do not verbalize, is that you are not entitled to use that tile in your exposure.  I recommend that you contact the NMJL directly with your comments about this matter.

As always, I agree with Gladys, I do think it is unfortunate that there is no NMJL requirement to politely ask for an exchange of a Joker. But even though there is no official rule, Gladys does believe that it is a good idea to verbalize. I agree, plus it just adds to the friendliness, politeness, and social aspect of our beloved game.

What are your thoughts?


  1. Helaine Gesas

    I agree with both of you. If everyone played the rules suggested by the NMJL you could go anywhere in the US and join a game and not have to ask what are your table rules.


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