If you are a reader of this column then you know I am a big fan of Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American Style Mah Jongg, and all she has to teach us about Mah Jongg, both for social games and tournaments.
Her most recent newsletter listed many of the rules for both types of games. I think these are important to know, especially for social games where we do not have a ruling director as we do in tournaments.
I agree with all of these rules. And, as a courtesy to your friends, please pay attention to #5 – there is no reason to wear perfume/cologne to your MJ game…please be aware of your friends’ sensitivities!
While I am off in California I wanted to remind those of you back in New York that Temple Beth-El in Bellmore is holding their second “Mah Jongg Tournament Light,” especially designed for Mah Jongg players who have never participated in tournaments. This is a great opportunity for those of you who want to test the water with tournaments to see if they might be for you (I’m sure they are!).
There are still a few seats left which means there is still time to sign up:
The very wonderful Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American-Style Mah Jongg Tournaments, has created a website devoted to the rules of Siamese Mah Jongg. Although I have posted her rules on this blog before, many of you have asked for an explanation again and so, here is the definitive way to play, with much thanks to Gladys (these are her words, taken from her website). Be sure to visit her Siamese Mah Jongg website.
There is absolutely no reason to have to play a drawn-out or less thought-provoking game of Mah Jongg with only two players. You will LOVE this simple yet very challenging method of playing the game. It can be fast, stimulating, and fun, fun, fun.
1. TWO PLAYERS/TWO RACKS EACH. Two players face each other; and place 2 racks in front of each player.
2. WALLS. Build two (2) full walls of tiles, 19 stacks long, parallel to each other. (EASY OPTION: You can build one wall against each rack. When the tiles from the outside rack have been used, just move that rack behind the other rack.)
3. OPTIONAL: EAST THROWS THE DICE TO BREAK THE WALL. East throws the dice to break the first wall arbitrarily, and retains the amount of tiles corresponding to the dice throw (as with the standard 4-handed version of MJ). It is an OPTION to use the dice to arbitrarily break the wall. Dealing/picking will commence from East’s walls.
4. 28 TILES FOR EAST, 27 TILES FOR THE OPPOSITE PLAYER: Each player deals themselves four (4) tiles from one of the two (2) walls in front of East, until East has taken their last four (4) tiles which would give East 28 tiles. Player opposite then takes three (3) tiles, which gives him/her 27 tiles.
5. ARRANGING THE TILES. Players may arrange their tiles on both their racks…as many as desired; and may exchange tiles back and forth between their own racks. It does not matter how many tiles are on each rack at any one time. (See Item 9).
6. CHARLESTON. There is NO Charleston. (NOTE: You have plenty of tiles and a multitude of tile combinations over which you have control.)
7. THE GAME BEGINS. East discards the 28th tile to begin the game; then the opposite player picks their first tile from the wall; then discards a tile; and so on. Picking and discarding proceeds.
8. JOKERS. You may exchange your own Jokers from your own exposures, or from your opponent’s exposures; but you can NOT exchange a Joker from any existing EXPOSED Mah Jongg hand. Jokers may be exchanged from exposures in a “dead” hand, IF that exposure did not cause the hand to be declared “dead.”
9. MAH JONGG. Once a Mah Jongg is declared by a player, and that player has discarded a tile to complete their turn, that rack with the Mah Jongg exposed must hold only 14 tiles. STRATEGY NOTE: The disadvantage of not exposing your own MJ is that the game might finish before you have declared your own Mah Jongg; and you must have a Mah Jongg exposed in order to be paid. You won’t be paid for a MJ that is still IN your rack, not ON your rack. However, once your first Mah Jongg has been declared and exposed, you MAY NOT exchange for those exposed Jokers. The longer you delay declaring a Mah Jongg and exposing those tiles, the longer you are able to use your own Jokers interchangeably. Remember, once the Mah Jongg hand has been exposed and declared, the Jokers in the exposure can NOT be exchanged.
10. YOU ARE PLAYING BOTH RACKS INTERCHANGEABLY. 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. Remember, the tiles are interchangeable IN the racks, not ON the racks. However, the player may continue playing to try to build a 2nd Mah Jongg on their 2nd rack.
11. IF PLAYER IS DECLARED “DEAD” FOR 2 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.
12. PLAYER HAS 1 MAH JONGG AND 1 DEAD HAND, the game continues by the opponent only – until opponent makes a second Mah Jongg, or all the tiles have been picked. (NOTE: In a 4-handed version, the “dead” player has to cease playing, while everyone else continues. Think of the player’s 2 racks in the 2-handed version as 2 individual players. If one hand is “dead,” there are still 3 players alive.)
13. GAME CEASES when 1 player has declared 2 MAH JONGGS, -or- when the tiles from the walls have been used, and the last discard has been made.
14. If a player has a rack that is declared “dead,” player may continue to exchange tiles between the two racks, but may NOT USE the tiles from the exposures that MADE the HAND “dead” – in order to build another hand. However, Jokers may be exchanged from exposures in the “dead” hand, only if that exposure did not cause the hand to be declared “dead.”
15. See NATIONAL MAH JONGG TOURNAMENT RULES and MAH JONGG MASTER POINTS RULES for additional information.
16. SCORING AND PAYOUTS: Payments are made at the END of the game. For easy payouts, KEEP SCORE. At the end of the game, the lesser score will pay the winner the difference between the two (2) scores,
A. The 1st Mah Jongg by a player receives the value on the NMJL card, regardless if it is self
picked, but if it is JOKERLESS, the value is doubled.
B. Sometimes, if both players have the same score for their 1st Mah Jonggs, e.g., a 25 point
hand – then the payment will be a “wash.”
C. If a player declares and wins with two (2) Mah Jonggs, the payout for the 2nd Mah Jongg is doubled, regardless if it is self-picked. Payout is doubled again if the 2nd Mah Jongg is JOKERLESS (excluding singles and pairs).
©Copyright Mah Jongg Madness 2015 Gladys Grad
Copyright @ SIAMESE MAH JONGG – 2 HANDED GAME.
All rights reserved. 2015 Gladys Grad
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!!
A JOKERLESS HAND!
Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American-style Mah Jongg tournaments, has some new Q&A’s in her latest newsletter. Here’s an interesting one and I’d like to hear back from you as to whether or not you think Miriam’s friend was being picky or just following the table rules…
Q. I made the jokerless hand today of 3 sets of consecutive numbers (FF1122 1122 1122). One of our “table rules” is to announce when we make a hand without jokers. In this case, I didn’t announce it as this was an obvious “jokerless hand.” I was paid $1.00 since I picked my mahj tile. My friend said I should have announced it! Was that necessary? Miriam
A. You have initiated a “house rule” in your own game that “you must announce when you make a jokeless hand.” Perhaps, your opponent was being a little picky about the details of your “house rule.” However, unless you were all in agreement and specific about the “terms” of your “house rules,” you really can’t expect everyone to be in agreement when an issue arises….especially one that doesn’t appear on the back of the NMJL Card.
In a tournament, you are well advised to clarify the hand that you played, and to announce the score you are entitled to receive. That way, when your score is verified and initialed by the person across from you, you all know your score is correct. Or sometimes, we need a little deeper insight into the obvious.