Jewish Journal

the american mah jongg blog

by Elaine Sandberg

September 12, 2010 | 7:09 pm


Changing your hand is one of the most frequently occurring events of the game.  Circumstances rapidly change and you frequently don’t end up playing the hand you start out to play. Many times you pick a tile that leads to a better, and/or easier hand.

Nor is there a lot of time for you to make the decision. Saying “Wait a minute” and frantically searching the card for another hand holds up the flow of the game and reveals your dilemma to the others. Not a good idea. 

Every Mah Jongg player has been confronted with the circumstances that lead you to either decide to change or consider changing your hand.  Let’s go over some of them.

• When you can’t call for your needed tiles because your hand is Concealed, your combinations are incomplete, or you are not ready to commit to a specific hand,

• When the tiles you need for a Pair are discarded or exposed in an opponents Exposure,

• You’ve made an erroneous Exposure,

• As the game progresses, your hand is not improving.

So under these circumstances, you will need to consider an alternative. Here are some guidelines to help you in deciding to change your hand.

Timing is everything. Consider if there are enough picks left in the Wall to create a winning hand.  If the game is more than ½. over and well into the third Wall, it’s probably too late.

Check the discards to see how many tiles are out for the alternative hand you are considering. 

If your hand is Concealed, try to change to an Exposed hand.

If you’ve made an erroneous Exposure, look for another hand that uses the Exposure, most times in the same Section or many times in the Like Numbers Section.

Depending on the hand, if the tiles are discarded for the Pair you need, try switching the Suits required for the Pair and the Pung. (See the 4th hand in the 369 Section, the 2nd. hand in the 2468 Section, the 3rd. and 4th. hands in the 13579 Section and the Like Numbers Section.)

But when all else fails and you can’t successfully find a new hand, play defensively and keep your opponents from declaring Mah Jongg.  Have no regrets about breaking up your hand and discard safe tiles, including the Joker.

In the next posting, we’ll discuss some caveats about changing your hand.

Til then,


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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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