Tag Archives: strategy



Q.  If someone calls you dead and you are NOT dead, is there a penalty for the person who calls you dead?  I’ve looked through the National Mah Jongg League rules and I don’t see that answer.  Is that a table rule?

A.  In a tournament, when someone declares you “dead” and you are NOT – then the player who called you “dead” is now dead (the Director can also help to determine if you are truly dead or not).  That player will then cease playing and will receive a ZERO (0) for the game, even if it is a wall game.
In a tournament we take it one step further….if someone even uses the “D” word like, “I think you might be dead…”) and you aren’t…then they should be declared dead.
STRATEGY:  If you think your opponent might be dead, it’s a good idea to ask the other players to stop the game while you check the table…and not commit yourself to the “D” word too soon.
You also might want to check with the NMJL for their ruling in a social game. Tournaments tend to follow a bit more strict adherence to rules, because there is usually hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in prizes, and Master Points involved.

Thanks to Gladys Grad, the “Grand Master of America-Style
Mah Jongg Tournaments.” Visit her Mah Jongg Madness site.



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.


MAH JONGG in and around BERKELEY, CA

Here’s more information from our friend and Mahj teacher, Toby Salk, on Mah Jongg opportunities in Berkeley. You can connect with Toby and get all of her information through her website.


Continue reading


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.