Tag Archives: grand master


Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 11.46.42 AMIt’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. 

(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 question every 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.


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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!



The wonderful Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American-Style Mah Jongg Tournaments, has told us about something very exciting in the May, 2015 issue of her terrific newsletter, Mah Jongg Madness. Thanks to Gladys, there is now a way to play our beloved game with only two people. Read on…


Sometimes something comes along that you just have to share

             TWO HANDED


The following is Gladys’ explanation of how to play with two people:


    When I taught this version of TWO-HANDED MAH JONGG to a group of 8 players last week, they liked it so much that they gave up playing their regular group games, and split into four groups of two.

   There is absolutely no reason to have to play a drawn-out or less thought-provoking game with only two players.

     You will love this simple yet challenging method of playing Mah Jongg. It can be fast, stimulating, and fun, fun, fun.

  1. Two players face each other; and place 2 racks in front of each player.

  2. Build two (2) full walls of tiles, 19 stacks long, parallel to each other.

  3. East throws the dice to break the first wall arbitrarily.

  4. 28 Tiles for East, 27 Tiles for opposite player: Each player deals themselves four (4) tiles from the two (2) walls in front of East, until East has taken the last 4 which would give her/him 28 tiles. Player opposite then takes three (3) tiles, which gives him/her 27 tiles.

  5. Players may arrange their tiles on both their racks…as many as desired; and may exchange tiles back and forth between their racks. It does not matter how many tiles are on each rack at any one time. (see Item 8).

  6. East discards the 28th tile to begin the game; picking and discarding proceeds.

  7. Even though the tiles are interchangeable on the racks, players must be cautious to NOT put their exposures on the wrong Rack. A player’s hand should be declared “dead” if the exposures do not match a hand on the NMJL card. The player may continue playing to try to build a 2nd Mah Jongg on the 2nd rack. If player is declared “dead” for two hands, the game ceases, and “dead” player pays opponent 4 times the value of opponent’s existing Mah Jongg, or 4 times the lowest value on the card – whichever is relevant.

  8. Once a Mah Jongg is declared by a player, that rack with the Mahj must hold only 14 tiles.

  9. NOTE: There is no benefit to concealing the fact that you have a Mah Jongg.

  10. You may exchange your own Jokers from your own exposures; but you can NOT exchange a Joker from any existing exposed Mah Jongg hand.


  12. SCORING AND PAYOUTS: Payments are made at the END of the game.


     – The 1st Mah Jongg by a player receives the value on the card, regardless if it is self picked .. but if it JOKERLESS, the value is doubled.

         Sometimes, if both players have the same score for their 1st Mah Jonggs, e.g., a 25 point hand – then the payment might be a “wash.”

     –  If a player declares and wins with two (2) Mah Jnggs, the payout for the 2nd Mah Jongg is doubled, regardless if it is self-picked.  Payout is doubled again if it is JOKERLESS (excluding singles and pairs).

              THE SET-UP AND DEAL




 ©Mah Jongg Madness® 2015 – Gladys Grad



Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American Mah Jongg, always answers interesting questions  in her monthly Mah Jongg Madness Newsletter. But I must admit that I was rather surprised to read the following question describing a situation where a tournament director allowed someone to put back a tile that had already been racked and exposed. However, Gladys – as always – was diplomatic and kind in her answer. Read the question and answer and then let me know how you would have ruled on this situation.

 Q. I was at a tournament and a newer player claimed a flower for an exposure.  She picked that tile up, and exposed it with 2 flowers and a joker.  Then she decided she didn’t want the flower or the exposure, and proceeded to put the flower back on the table and put the other tiles back in her hand.  We called the director over to the table, and he said she could do that with no penalty.  Is that correct?  Rebecca N, NY

A. First, let me preface any comments with one fact….no matter what the Director in a tournament rules, it is always correct.  It is his/her tournament, and the Director’s decision is always the “right decision.”

That said….in standardized TOURNAMENT RULES, once a tile is touched and used in an exposure, the  player must use that tile, and complete her turn….whether or not she changes her mind or not.  (Please check with the NMJL to see what their ruling is for social games.)

Tournament rules have evolved to not allow you to “change your mind” about keeping a tile once you have touched it. 

What do you think about this? Can’t wait to read your comments!



Yesterday I posted some common mistakes innocently made at the Mah Jongg table. Here’s a question from what we have to assume is an innocent mistake from a very new player (I can’t imagine an experienced player passing a Joker during the Charleston). This is from the current Mah Jongg Madness newsletter by Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American-Style Mah Jongg.

Continue reading



Here’s the last of the questions and insightful answers from this month’s newsletter from Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American-style Mah Jongg tournaments. Both questions involve situations at tournaments.

Q. I’ve been playing for a year and am going to play in my first tournament in October.  I was told by my teacher to play more defensively in the tournament than I do in my game at home.  Do you agree?  Sylvia

A. Uh oh.  I really don’t want to disagree with your patient and knowledgeable teacher…but “No” I don’t agree.  When you are playing in your game at home, you are likely playing for “gain” (spell that m-o-n-e-y).  If you give someone else Mahj in your home-game then you are actually responsible for your opponents also paying for your “mistake.”  However, in a tournament, you are the only one who will “pay”…in the form of minus-points.  The others will only be disappointed that they didn’t get Mahj first. If you think you might have a pretty good chance of getting your own Mahj, then you should go-for-it.  The way you win in a tournament is to accumulate those points.

Q. I was in a tournament, and the player to my left began to discard a tile.  She laid it down but didn’t name it.  When I saw it touch the table, I called it for Mah Jongg.  Almost at the same time, she changed her mind and picked it up.  She said she “didn’t name it, and she didn’t take her fingers off it, so she could take it back.” But no one would throw me my tile after that!.  Is that right?  Carol

A. That was the perfect time to call over the director of the tournament, who would have (should have) given the game to you.  You had a legitimate Mah Jongg.  A discarded tile is “down” when it touches the table or is named.  Down-is-down.  (This is not a game of checkers, where you can keep changing your moves until you take your finger off the checker!) 

And as a final emphasis on this answer, just yesterday I received a message from Debbie, a reader of this blog. She definitely will agree with Gladys’ answer; her email said,  In our games we play “once it’s up, it’s up” – no changes -and “once it’s down, it’s down.” 

I agree! Thanks, Debbie!!