Jewish Journal


by Elaine Sandberg

October 25, 2010 | 1:22 am


                                    RETURN A CALLED TILE?

The other day I had a surprise call from a former student who was now playing in a regular game once a week.  She was calling from her game and I could hear the chatter of voices in the background.

It’s always fun to hear from former students who are really enjoying the game and have made fast friends with their “class mates”.  And after the Hi!s and How are you?s, she explained the group was having a disagreement and she asked for a “ruling”.

Here is the scenario. One of the players had called for a tile for an Exposure, put the tile up on the rack and after reexamining her hand, said “No, I don’t want it” and put it back on the table.  Another player immediately challenged her and claimed that she was not allowed to return a tile once it was placed up on the rack and had to proceed with the Exposure—whatever it was. Others in the group disagreed and since they didn’t have my book handy for reference, they decided to call. (The book is A Beginner’s Guide to American Mah Jongg.)

The “rule” is a player may call for a tile, place it up on the rack and return it, if no other part of the Exposure has been made. Once any part of the Exposure is made, the called tile is not returnable.  The player who challenged was not altogether mistaken, but she was quoting a tournament rule. 

Mah Jongg tournaments are very strictly organized, competitive and the top prizes can be in the thousands of dollars. Tournament rules differ from the rules of a regular Mah Jongg game. For example, there are very strict time limits to a game. Players play in rounds of 4 games at one table, move to another table for another round of 4 games, etc. Games are scored. Winning players get a score, and rules for disqualification may vary from one another, depending on who the sponsor is and so any special rules a tournament may impose are usually announced at the beginning so everyone knows what they are. They are held in resort towns, on cruises, to raise money for charitable organizations, hotels, and any place that can accommodate sometimes hundreds of players.

But in any event, it’s not a good idea to call a tile and return it, even when no other tiles have been exposed because inadvertently, information about the hand you could be considering has just been given away. 

So Til next time…








Tracker Pixel for Entry


View our privacy policy and terms of service.




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...

Read more.