Jewish Journal


by Elaine Sandberg

March 20, 2011 | 6:48 pm

In my book, A Beginner’s Guide to American Mah Jongg, I start the strategy chapter by admonishing students not to separate the tiles by leaving spaces between combinations. I explain that doing so reveals to the other players which combinations you are waiting to complete and how close you are to Mahj.  For example, if you separate one tile from the rest of your hand the probability that you’re waiting for a tile to complete a Pair is 99.99%.  Not a good idea.

So….last week I was invited to play at a fund-raiser—it was not a tournament—just the same 4 or 5 players at each table..and there were lots of tables.  At one of the tables, four of the women were former students of mine and we greeted each other with enthusiasm.  A fifth player was a friend, (we’ll call her Rose) and playing, so I watched the hand.

The game was close to the end. Rose had made two Exposures—a Kong of 8Bam and a Kong of 9 Bam.  She had effectively announced to everyone that she was playing the 4th Consecutive Run hand. But, much to my chagrin, she had three tiles on one end of the rack and two tiles on the other, making it obvious that she was waiting for a Flower. Players, in all probability would not have discarded a Flower, but because she had separated her tiles so completely, she left no doubt about what she needed and how close she was to Mahj. Even if she needed a Green and it was discarded she couldn’t call it because she still needed a Flower to Mahj.  She gave her opponents safe discards of Green Dragons. And, of course no one discarded a Flower but everyone discarded Greens. Predictably, she didn’t win.

But I had a great time at the fund-raiser and fun seeing old friends! 

Til the next time….

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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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