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!