Mah Jongg is not just a game. It has become a part of my life that allows me to entertain my Mah Jongg-playing friends, cook great meals to serve to them and test my mental skills during our game play (which, hopefully, is often).
No real food in this posting…just something to think about…
I’m thinking about East as the dealer. That’s the title she (or he!) has won by throwing the highest number on the dice. It’s true that she also has won an advantage by becoming East because she starts with 14 tiles when everyone else just has 13. But what else is her role? Although there is no official rule on this – and your table rules may dictate otherwise – I live by the rule that no one should be dealing out the tiles except for East because she is THE DEALER. I am of the school that I don’t want anyone else to touch the tiles until they are all dealt out. Interestingly enough, the wonderful Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American-Style Mah Jongg Tournaments wrote about this in her Mah Jongg Madness March 2019 newsletter:
Q. In the old days, we thought nothing of exchanging a tile for a Joker from our friends’ racks. Now, every time you go to a game, someone tells you not to touch their tiles; don’t deal them for me; don’t exchange for my Joker; don’t touch my wall, don’t, don’t, don’t. Barbara CA
A. This isn’t something new…it’s been going on for a long time. Bingo players don’t want you to touch their cards or their daubers; domino players don’t want you to straighten their double 6’s; and you wouldn’t think of touching your poker buddies’ cards. It might have something to do with superstition….but there have also been some mistakes when players exchange for a Joker in exposures….like replacing a 1Bam for a Flower, or a West for a North. Please don’t take it personally.
When I teach Mah Jongg I tell the beginning students that no one should ever touch anyone else’s tiles or racks. When you want to exchange a tile for a Joker you extend the tile out to the player with the Joker and politely ask for her Joker. You do not take it off her rack yourself.
Why do I teach this way and why am I so adamant about this rule? As it was explained to me, all of this prevents any hint of cheating. I’m not sure that I think too much about that aspect because I would never play with anyone who is suspected of cheating. I think I am just superstitious about this! So, don’t touch my tiles and I won’t touch yours!
I’m looking forward to many comments from all of you regarding the following situation. My “sista” Johni and I had a long discussion about this and we were both in agreement that this was a valid Mah Jongg. But this could be looked at differently and not deemed to be valid. What do you think?
A Player had an exposure of three South’s and a Joker to complete the kong. Someone threw an East and she declared Mah Jongg. As she put up her tiles, she exchanged a South she had in her rack for her own exposed Joker, then put that Joker with three North’s that were in her rack to expose a kong which was needed to complete the Mah Jongg hand. The hand being played was NNN E W SSSS 2015. Was this a valid Mahj?
Two prior rulings by Ruth Unger are key to the discussion here.
#1 You are able to re-sort your hand into a valid Mahj if you have the correct 14 tiles.
Player calls Mahj and displays her hand, however she has placed the Joker in the incorrect spot in her hand and exposes a pung, pung, kong, kong, instead of a pung kong pung kong. Ruth stated that since she HAD the correct 14 tiles in her hand, it is a valid Mah Jongg, and could simply be arranged correctly. She ruled that you are allowed to rearrange your hand if you have the correct 14 tiles in your hand.
*This supports the contention that our player has Mah Jongg when she calls the East and is simply rearranging her exposed 14 tiles as allowed.
#2 You already “own” the Joker if the tile it is used for is on your rack.
Ruth calls this a “finesse” move. A player holds back a tile that can be replaced on another player’s rack. She waits until her 13th tile is thrown, calls it for exposure, then replaces the tile on the other player’s rack and that Joker gives her Mah Jongg. She is then entitled to a self-picked bonus. Ruth ruled that this does NOT apply if you exchange a tile exposed on your own rack because all you are doing is simply rearranging your own tiles. In essence,you already own the Joker. No self-picked bonus is then allowed.
*This supports the contention that our player already owned the Joker since she had the South tile in her own hand and is allowed to call the single East.
Back to our example …the calling of the single East obviously would not be allowed if she had to exchange a tile from ANOTHER player’s rack, but since it was on her OWN rack, it is allowed. If we apply either one of Ruth’s prior ruling that “any 14 tiles that can be arranged correctly is a valid Mahj,” or that you already “own” the Joker if you have the replaceable tile in your hand, this would mean she would be able to call that single East for a valid Mah Jongg. Both of her rulings seem to support this Mahj being valid. If you don’t agree, please explain.
It’s been a while since I have posted the Q&A’s from Gladys Grad‘s Mah Jongg Academy™ but the newest issue just came out and I thought you would all enjoy reading this really great set of questions and answers.
By GLADYS GRAD – “GRAND MASTER OF AMERICAN-STYLE MAH JONGG TOURNAMENTS”
(Some “death defying” questions that deserve repeating….from our most recent tournament.)
Q. If I throw out a tile before East discards to start the game, am I dead?
A. Nope. You are not “dead,” because East hasn’t thrown out the 1st tile to begin the game. Retrieve your tile, and wait for East to discard.
Q. 1) If I expose my tiles on my rack before I pick up the discard for my exposure, am I dead?
2) Q. If I expose my tiles for my MAH JONGG before I pick up the discard I claimed, am I dead?
A. In a tournament, you are not “dead”….(yet). We are not that strict yet….but the day is coming when this rule will be enforced. However….literally, your turn does not start until you pick up your tile TO BEGIN YOUR TURN (either a discarded tile, or one from the wall); and subsequently either rack it or expose it.
Remember to always pick up the discard and place it on TOP of your rack, before you expose the tiles from your hand.
Q. If I accidently look at a pass in the Charleston before I pass my own 3 tiles, am I dead?
A.Not dead. The game hasn’t even started yet. In a tournament, you will lose 10 points (minus -10) from your game-score for that hand. For your social game, there is no official NMJL ruling and no official penalty.
Q. If I place my tile on the table in front of the player whose Joker I want to exchange, am I dead?
A. You are not dead. If that tile touches the table it is considered discarded (not dead). However, if you had REQUESTED the exchange VERBALLY (and NOT expected your opponent to read your mind) BEFORE THE TILE TOUCHED THE TABLE – then you and your tile were safe. Remember to use language everyone understands…not like someone in our last tournament said “that’s mine.” (!!??)
Q. If I’m the next player in line when my opponent discards her tile, do I have to verbalize that I’m taking that tile before I make my exposure, or am I dead?
A.Recently, the NMJL responded to this question and acknowledged that you should verbalize that you are claiming the discarded tile.
However, since we don’t usually verbalize that we are taking a tile from the wall when it’s our turn to pick….and because the NMJL did not indicate a penalty for failure to verbalize when claiming a discard….then (for the time being) we will allow this in our tournaments.
Remember, the NMJL also tells us to be aware of what is happening on the table….not just listen.
Q. Why do I have to lose 10 points in a tournament if I throw someone their Mah Jongg, and they don’t have any exposures? I prefer to play in tournaments where they don’t penalize you.
A.We get this questionevery day.
I’d like to ask you a question, Joan. “When you play in your social game, and you give your opponent her Mah Jongg tile…..aren’t you always penalized….even if she didn’t have anyexposures?” If you play according to NMJL rules, your penalty is doubled for giving someone their Mah Jongg – even if your first tile – or the last tile thrown in the game – gave her Mah Jongg.
In a fair and equitable game there is always a consequence for giving someone Mah Jongg. If you are playing in a tournament that does not penalize you points for giving someone their mahj…then you are getting a gift.
I would hate to be the player who came in 2nd, if you won 1st place with 10 more points.
Even more terrifying than the mysterious disappearance of the hotel guests is that every single one of the hands in the mahjong game is a dead hand! Ahhhh!
Well, that was true when that top photo was taken, but Disney tour guides now claim that the hands have been reshaped by “professional” mahjong players to be an accurate portrayal of a mahjong game in mid-play, and should the mysterious guests ever return, they could pick up where they left off.
All your hands belong to us.
With the joker tiles on the table, and flower tiles being held in the concealed hand, they could only have been playing National Mah-Jongg League rules. Assuming the dice indicate East and counting the melded pung of 3-dots she has on the table, East holds fourteen tiles and is waiting to discard. All this is acceptable, but not even the NMJL rules can account for the bizarrely melded pair of Souths and melded pair of red dragons on the near edge of the table. Is she playing with eighteen tiles in the hand and melding pairs? Ignoring the similarly unexlicable melds for the rest of the players, South at least currently holds the proper number of thirteen tiles in the hand, but West still has only twelve tiles, and North has only nine! The horror!
I was invited back today to play Mah Jongg with the ladies who live in my apartment building. It is interesting to me to note how very different it is to play with a contrasting and divergent group of people from the OMs – nothing will ever be as wonderful as playing with my beloved OMs – and yet there is still the comfort of the NMJL card and the click clack of the tiles and the familiar cry of “Mah Jongg!” That is part of the allure and beauty of the game – no matter where you are and with whom you are playing, ultimately it is all comfortably familiar.
I had a very successful Mah Jongg day, which happens to be personally rewarding to me since this particular group of women has all been playing for so many years. Adele, and it is in her lovely apartment where we play, has been at this game for over 50 years. Her quiet game play offers much to be learned; Jan – who also has been playing for many, many years – offers a great lesson in how to play defensively and cleverly. I love the experience of still being able to learn new things each time I play.
My first Mah Jongg hand was this 13579 hand: 55 77555 777 9999.
I earned $1.00 on this hand because East had rolled doubles and I picked the winning tile myself. That’s a nice way to start the day!
Barbara and Susan – also known as The Mah Jongg Doctors – spent this past Sunday at a tournament in Danbury, CT. The tournament was a benefit for AAUW (The American Association of University Women – AAUW – advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research). The venue sounds as if it couldn’t have been lovelier – a lakeside location with an outdoor area to sit and chat between games.