Jewish Journal

Rack your tile—- the controversy

by Elaine Sandberg

June 28, 2010 | 3:54 pm

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!


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….

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A kid from Brooklyn, a graduate of Syracuse University and an immigrant to California via Palo Alto, San Juan Capistrano, finally, Los Angeles, I have been here for the past 15...

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