Posted by Elaine Sandberg
They go together— you can’t have one without the other. At least you can’t make an Exposure unless you know the card and you can’t know what information the Exposure reveals unless you know the card. So it sounds like the card, or more specifically, the hands on the card, is the key to unlock the “unknown” hand a player is pursuing. This is the information a player wants and needs to be able to play a successful game—whether the goal is to win or to keep the others from winning.
I have discovered that every card has it’s unique characteristics and if you can determine what they are, you have a heads-up to “read” the Exposures others make. What are these characteristics?
One of the first (on the 2010 card) is there are no Pungs of Flowers. Only Kongs can be exposed. So discarding Flowers early in the game is a good idea to keep someone from collecting a Kong of Flowers.
The odd Section has no hands that require Dragons. So if someone exposes Dragons, you know for sure the hand is not odd. Whether the Exposure is a Pung or a Kong makes a difference. There are only four hands that call for a Pung of Dragons and four hands that call for a Kong.
There are only two exposed hands that require a Pung of nines, the 2nd. Like Numbers hand and the 4th. odd Section hand. The 5th Winds/Dragons hand and the last 369 hand are Concealed.
If someone exposes a Pung of East, declare that player’s hand Dead. The last 2010 hand (and only hand) is Concealed.
You might think an Exposure of a Pung of eights would lead you to look in the 2468 Section for the hand. Wrong! There is no hand in the even Section that requires a Pung of eights.
So finding and identifying these anomalies can help you to more quickly and accurately discover the hand an opponent is playing and more quickly and accurately lead you to make adjustments to your play.
But there are other clues you can pick up from the Exposures that help in discovering the hand being played.
When only one Exposure has been made it’s not always easy to determine the hand being pursued. But when two Exposures are made, the player has probably given away the critical information about the hand. At least the choice can be whittled down.
Whether the numbers on the tiles are odd , even or odd and even puts the hand in the Section they belong to and it’s easier to find the specific hand.
Whether the Exposures are one Suit or two.
Whether the Exposure is of Flowers, Dragons and /or Winds.
Whether the Exposure is a Pung or a Kong.
The Exposures and the card “tell all” so be wise enough to listen.
AND MAY THE TILES BE WITH YOU….
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July 19, 2010 | 2:20 pm
Posted by Elaine Sandberg
LUCK VS SKILL
The references to Luck abound in our idiomatic language—Lucky Louie, the Luck of the Irish, Lady Luck, he/she’s got all the Luck, Lucky in Love, etc., etc., etc.
What is Luck? Fate? The Law of Averages? Randomness?? I don’t have an answer. In Mah Jongg, I have heard it said by countless numbers of people the game is all Luck. As a teacher of the game and a player of the game, I beg to differ. The game is not all Luck.
Yes, Luck, or whatever you want to call it, plays a part, especially when you first take a peek at your tiles. You have no control over that aspect of the game. But from there on you do have a great deal of control. It’s your ability and skill and sometimes guile that controls the choices you make about all the other aspects of the game –from what tiles you pass in the Charleston, what tiles you keep, what hand to pursue, whether or not to change your hand and to which hand, the discards you make, the Exposures, whether you play defensively, and so on.
To prove my point that skills play a greater role than Luck in Mah Jongg, I note that there are players who generally win, fairly consistently. People refer to them—they a say “She’s a great player”. What makes a “great” player? It can’t be just Luck. We’ve all experienced the fleeting nature of Luck.
It must be something else. It is. It’s the number one skill—a thorough knowledge of the hands on the card. There are many players who can play quite successfully without referring to the card. Yes, they mostly memorize the hands. They are able to accurately assess what information the Exposures of others reveal and modify their play accordingly. They keep a very close account of the discards, and are fully aware of the nuances of their opponents. And they play a strong defensive game, which some players describe as “tough”. Mah Jongg is very competitive—you do everything you can to win and everything you can to keep the others from winning. That’s the challenge of the game and what makes it such fun to win and such dismay when you lose. And, last, but not the least, there’s Experience, which some say is the best teacher….
Even as I believe the skills a player possesses is the most important factor in winning, there’s a little voice inside that says
MAY THE TILES BE WITH YOU!
July 12, 2010 | 11:37 pm
Posted by Elaine Sandberg
There’s a joke that goes a teacher asks a student to make a sentence using the words “defense” and cultivate”. Being a novice English-speaker, the student thinks awhile and finally says, “I climbed over de fence because it got too cold to vait”
In Mah Jongg, “de fence” is critical! While the primary goal of the game is to win, the simultaneous goal is to defend—to keep your opponents from winning. Playing defensively is not a separate strategy to adopt when you realize you can’t win. It’s an integral part of your game from the git-go. Racking your tile is a defensive move. (We discussed “racking” in an earlier blog.) Selecting one hand over the other is a defensive move. Even passing tiles in the Charleston is a defensive move…whether you are aware of it or not. Every discard you make is a defensive move.
Discards are the obvious first line of defense during the game. What and when you discard a tile depends on the situation. Let’s examine common situations you meet in every game you play.
At the start of the game, discarding doesn’t usually present a problem. Players don’t call for Exposures early in the game, mostly because the combinations are incomplete. But as the game progresses, Exposures are made and discarding becomes more crucial.
Here are some tips about savvy discarding.
Keep track of the discards, not only for your own hand but
because as the game progresses, you need to discern which tiles are “safe” and which tiles are “hot”.
A safe tile is one you know cannot or will not be called. When a player has made two Exposures you should be able to home in on the one or two hands being played. For example, once you discover the hand and learn the hand requires a Pair, discard that tile as soon as possible in hopes the player isn’t ready to Mahj.
When a tile is discarded and no one calls it, discard the same tile as soon as you can. Most of the time it is safe.
But it can be a double-edged sword. The player may have waited for the second discard before calling to delay exposing. This is a strategy you can use for your own hand. Don’t call for the first discarded tile you need. Wait for a second discard.
A “hot” tile is one that has not been discarded during the game and because it hasn’t, assume that someone is saving them. These circumstances can lead to a discard becoming hot.
Discard Flowers early in the game, if you’re sure you don’t need them. But don’t discard them late in the game. The 2010 card has over 20 hands that require either a Pair or a Kong of Flowers and a player may be waiting for one for Mah Jongg.
During the game, if a player discards a Joker it’s a sign that Mah Jongg is close. The player probably needs a Pair, going for a Jokerless hand or playing a Singles and Pairs hand. So be extra careful about what you discard. Be sure you check the Exposures and the other discarded tiles before you discard.
As the game progresses, if you have a tile you’re fairly sure another player needs, eventually you will have to discard it, if you want to win. So discard it sooner rather than later. The sooner you discard it, the greater the chance of it not being the Mahj tile. If it is, so be it. But you had to discard it, eventually.
And as the game is ending—there are only two or three picks from the Wall and you are more than one tile away from Mah Jongg or for any reason you cannot win, protect yourself and keep your opponents from winning. Break up your hand and discard the safest tile of all, the Joker. At this point, it’s of no use to your hand and the others will also be discarding Jokers. If you are “waiting”, the possibility of someone discarding your Mah Jongg tile is practically zero. The possibility of picking the Mah Jongg tile is almost never. So, protect yourself from a loss and a penalty. Break up your hand and discard Jokers!
The bromide that the best offense is a good defense is true, especially in Mah Jongg. Playing good defense is playing well! So….
MAY THE TILES BE WITH YOU!
July 5, 2010 | 12:17 pm
Posted by Elaine Sandberg
This article will deal with the “trauma” of finding a hand—a distressing and frustrating part of the game for many beginning players and sometimes even for more experienced players, as well.
In front of you are thirteen assorted tiles of different numbers, Suits, sometimes Flowers, Dragons, Winds and hopefully, Jokers. At first, it looks like a mish-mash, and honestly, sometimes it is. Your goal here is to make order out of this “chaos”.
The big mistake many novice players make is to immediately search for a hand. Don’t! The first thing you need to find is a Section or category your tiles reveal, because it’s the Section that will lead you to a hand. There are four Sections that your tiles most often will fall into: Even, Odd, 369 and Consecutive Run. So start with these. But remember, there are six or seven other Sections. So if one doesn’t work out, look to the others.
First put all the odd numbers together, even numbers together, 369 numbers together, consecutive numbers, etc. Put them together by Suit and number and put the numbers in ascending order to mimic the hands on the card.
Here’s your odd numbers:
3,7,9,Bam 5 Dot, 99Crak together.
Here’s your even numbers:
22,4,6,Bam 22,4 Dot,8 Crak together.
Notice I did not put all the same numbers together—all 9s together or all the 2s or all 4s together. I separated them by Suit and numbers that are ascending, just like hands on the card. Now I have a better idea where to look for a hand, because usually, the Section with the most tiles is where I want to pursue my search.
Now here is the most important factor..look for the Power of your hand. The power is any combination: Pair, Pung, Kong, etc., of any tiles, including Flowers and the most-loved tiles of all, Jokers. Jokers can be used for anything, so they can “create” a hand or strengthen it.
Often, your tiles reveal one or two Pairs, sometimes in the same Section, sometimes not. Sometimes in the same Suit, sometimes not. But try to use as many of the Pairs as you can. These combinations are the foundation around which you should build your hand.
Determine in what Section(s) the power tiles are used. Even Pairs are used in the 2468 Section, but also, in the Consecutive Run Section. Odd Pairs are, usually used in 13579 and again, in the Consecutive Run Sections. A Pair of 3s and 9s alerts you, not only to the odd Section, but also to the 369 Section. When you have odd and even numbered Pairs, look in the Consecutive Run Section. But you need also to find other tiles that are connected to the power and reflect a hand on the card. Remember your Jokers can help!
Two Pairs of 2s may not be useful if there is no hand that uses two Pairs of 2s. Two or three Pairs do not always translate into a hand. You may have to abandon a Pair because the hand you choose can’t use it. Even if you have no Pairs, you still need to organize your tiles by Section(s)—go for one(s) with at least five or six tiles. And don’t forget to count Flowers and/or Jokers as part of the Section.
Try this technique if you’re having a difficult time finding a hand. And remember, the Charleston is coming, so keep your mind open…..
AND MAY THE TILES BE WITH YOU!
Any comments or questions?
June 28, 2010 | 3:54 pm
Posted by Elaine Sandberg
I had a distressing call from a former student of mine, telling me that one of her “play-mates” was continually complaining that she was “picking and racking too fast”.. that she didn’t have a chance to call for a tile. She added that nobody else in the group complained about the speed of her picking and racking.
“What should I do”, she pleaded. “It’s my sister-in-law”.
Family peace is at stake here and although the rules of the game clearly states once a tile is racked, no one can call for the just discarded tile, it’s not easy to tell your sister-in-law “You’re playing too slowly for us.”
The speed at which a player picks and racks is clearly a matter of playing “style”. There is no time-count between picking the tile and racking it. You don’t pick a tile and count “one Mississippi, two Mississippi” and then rack. People pick and rack at different speeds (Unfortunately, some people don’t rack at all.) The idea is to pick and rack in a “reasonable” way. However, what is reasonable to one player might seem “unfair” to another. But most players are fine with the speed of picking and racking in the game they play.
What is the purpose of racking? Racking is a defensive move, designed to keep another player from calling a tile he/she needs—exactly what the sister-in-law is complaining about.
People who complain about “racking too fast” most often do not have a firm grasp of the card’s requirements for the hand they are playing or can’t decide between hands, or whether they need the tile or not, or if they are able to call—-all signs of a novice or just a slow player—not too much fun for more advanced and skilled players. But playing with more advanced players is often a help to slower players. They learn to play faster..usually.
So what to do if you are faced with a similar situation? It can be difficult to be tactful.
You might suggest, “Try to rack quickly too, and keep me from calling, just like I keep you from calling”. Sometimes, peer pressure works—the other players might suggest to her that she needs to play faster. Hopefully, she’ll take the hint. If it gets very uncomfortable, find another group, or (your other players) suggest to your sister-in-law she might be more comfortable in another group. Or you might show her this article..
Whether things improve, or one of you finds another group, I wish you Good Luck!
AND MAY THE TILES BE WITH YOU!!!!!
Rule: Racking is not tapping the tile on top of your rack. It’s placing it into your rack, next to your other tiles, even when you know you do not need or want it. If you discard it before racking it, you are helping your opponents—not the correct way to play—no matter how good friends you are….
June 24, 2010 | 6:28 pm
Posted by Elaine Sandberg
Well maybe not around the World, but it’s heard in living rooms, dens, in rec rooms, in tournament rooms, conventional halls, on ship board—all over America.
Mah Jongg is once again sweeping the country, knowing no geographic, age, sex or ethnic boundary, much as it did in the late ‘20s, ‘30s , ‘40s and well into the ‘50s. Much to the chagrin of many of the “faithful”, the introduction of Bridge, the ‘60s and the sexual revolution, the Women’s Movement and the return to the work force by many women, saw the game fade away into (almost) obscurity. If you had asked a person if they played Mah Jongg, the most probable answer would have been, “Oh that old-lady’s game my mom played? Are you kidding?” Or “Mah Jongg? What’s that?”
After such an unromantic demise, why is the game of “A Thousand Intelligences” making such a huge comeback? I have a couple of ideas. The first is that a large number of “Boomers” (there are over 72 million) are looking for retirement pleasures and entertainments that can keep them healthy but also mentally alert and functioning. And they want to be challenged and have FUN at the same time. Many of these Boomers are now “Empty Nesters” looking for new friends in new places, closer to their kids and grandkids. I meet people every day who recall playing “years ago when I had my kids” and they are returning to the game, refreshing the warm memories of those times. And there are those who are getting close to retirement and planning ahead, so to speak. And lots of folks are remembering their Moms playing Mah Jongg and thinking that maybe they knew something they didn’t.
But what about the younger generation? Are they interested in an “old lady’s game”? The answer is an unequivocal YES.
When they are exposed to seeing the game played and/or learning it, their enthusiasm is just as great as their predecessors. Because it’s such a great game, they quickly realize how interesting, challenging and what fun it is. The Internet is jammed with Mah Jongg sites that introduce viewers to newer versions of the game. And their curiosity is aroused to learn the original. Consequently, I see more young people in my classes and private groups than ever before and I applaud their good judgment. They come away loving the game and addicted to it—its challenges, its excitement and its FUN!!
So, a new and informative post will appear to pass on tips and strategies, answer and discuss Mah Jongg questions, air your comments and/or criticisms and maybe share your recipes for food and/or drinks you find add to the pleasures of the game. And every now and then, present you with a Mah Jongg problem.
So here’s a tip for novice players: If you have a tile you don’t need, but are fairly sure someone else does, discard it as early in the game as you can. Eventually, if you are to declare Mah Jongg yourself, you will have to discard it. So discard it earlier, rather than later and hope your opponent isn’t ready to declare Mah Jongg. If it’s late in the game, and you’re sure you have the Mah Jongg tile, if you have to, break up your hand to keep your opponent from winning.