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).
When the OMs get together for our weekly game, we often debate whether or not to exchange a tile for an exposed Joker on another player’s rack. It’s a difficult decision especially if it is toward the end of the game when it could leave the player’s hand jokerless and then obviously worth more if she wins. Here’s some strategy instructions on this very issue from the Mah Jongg Madness newsletter:
Q. I was told it was a good strategy NOT to exchange for a Joker if I didn’t need it, because it could give my opponent a joker-less Mah Jongg and I’d have to pay her more money. Do you agree with this strategy? Stephanie, IL A.Generally, if you don’t need a Joker, it isn’t necessary to make an exchange. For example – an opponent has exposed (2) 7Bams with a Joker 77J. If you exchange that Joker with your 7Bam, then strategically…you are also preventing someone else (who may have another 7Bam in their hand) from getting that Joker. You will also prevent the “exposer” from exchanging it herself, later. If your opponent’s exposures convey an obvious hand, i.e., 333 5555 77J (2013 card 11 333 5555 777 99) you know that all your opponent needs now is a pair of 1’s or a pair of 9’s to complete the hand for Mahj. Your decision is now easier…”My hand’s not so good, so maybe I shouldn’t take the Joker – then I won’t make my opponent’s hand jokerless; and it won’t cost me an additional penalty.” You are also (hopefully) aware of what other tiles your opponent has discarded from her hand – or how close she may be to getting Mahj. (And for that matter…just how close you might be to making your own mah jong – if you only had that extra joker!)
Again, strategies are situational. That’s why it is difficult to teach specific strategies in a Mah Jongg Theory class or to learn from a book. Most times you have to be in an actual game in order to assess the logic of a specific strategy – and to make the strategic decision that works in the game at hand.
I have tried to find the original source for this very funny – but true! – posting. I found my way to the JewishJournal.com and then to the wonderful Mahj blogs on their site written by the prolific Mah Jongg “professor,” Elaine Sandberg. Scrolling through her blogs it would seem that our friends at Mah Jongg Madness are credited as the authors for these Ten Commandments.
Or perhaps the Ten Commandments of Mah Jongg were just sent down by the heavens above!
Yesterday I received my January edition of the monthly newsletter from the website Mah Jongg Madness.
I look forward to this monthly emailing, particularly the section called Mah Jongg University, devoted to answering Mah Jongg game play questions. The questions are answered by Gladys Grad, known as the “Grand Master of American-style Mah Jongg Tournaments.” Many a “discussion” at our weekly games are settled by the answers Gladys gives in this column. Here is a great question and answer from this month’s newsletter:
Q. When a player puts their exposed tiles on the rack, should they put them in order as they appear on the card? One person in our game said “no.” (That just sounded rude.) The same person will ask us to separate our kongs, etc. Is there a rule requiring you to put them in order? Marilyn A. You do NOT have to put your exposures in order …unless you have exposed your whole hand for mahj – and then only if another player asks you to do so. In a tournament, if you have mahj and you refuse to put the tiles in order upon request, then you will be declared “dead.” However, it is just common courtesy to separate your exposures, especially upon request.
STRATEGY NOTE: If you have more than one exposure on your rack, you really don’t want to make it easier for the other players to know what hand you’re playing…. so expose the tiles out of order. You also don’t want to make it easier for them to play defensively.
If you are interested in receiving this monthly newsletter, be sure to join the Mah Jongg Madness website. And if you have a question about game play, email it to Gladys and perhaps you will see it published in one of her future newsletters.
For those Mah Jongg playing people living in New York, we know Monday is a day to join Mah Jongg teacher extraordinaire Linda Feinsteinat her weekly Manhattan Mah Jongg Club event. For years she has held court in Sam’s restaurant on 1st Avenue every Monday over literally dozens and dozens of tables of four who quickly devour a delicious buffet lunch and then get down to the business of serious Mah Jongg games. Around 2:15 or so, snacks are put down on the counter and the players stretch their legs, get a fresh cuppa, a piece of licorice and then quickly return to their game table. A New York tradition in the making…
And then, just before Christmas, we received an email from Linda that Sam had decided to close his restaurant and that would be the end of our Monday Mah Jongg madness.
But if you know Linda then you know that this wasn’t going to get her down. She is tenacious and focused, among her many other wonderful character traits. And so, not surprisingly, we received another email from Linda just a few moments ago – a new venue has been secured and the tradition continues!
Here’s the new information: Grata Restaurant located at 1076 First Avenue (between 58th and 59th) 212.842.0007
If you happen to be in New York and feel the urge to join in a great Mah Jongg game (Mondays from 11:45 am to 3:45 pm) with some really friendly people, send Linda an email no later than each Thursday to be a part of the coming week’s Monday fun. All levels of play are welcome!