Jewish Journal


by Elaine Sandberg

February 6, 2011 | 2:53 pm


No, it’s not a tile that has been boiled, baked or fried or in any way heated by virtue of flame.  It’s a tile that has not been discarded during the game, or a tile you determine (or think) another player needs for an Exposure or Mahj.  A “hot” tile is dangerous to discard.

The only way to decide whether a tile is hot or not is to keep track of the discards and to be aware of the hand your opponents’ Exposures have revealed.

When the game begins, there are no “hot” tiles. But as the game progresses, determining what is hot and what is not becomes more critical. For example, your study of the discards reveals no 2Bams have been discarded.  Since the game is about half over, a discard of a 2Bam is probably not hot. But as the game progresses and still no 2Bam has been discarded, you can be fairly sure a 2Bam is “hot”. If you can see that two 8Craks have been discarded, a third is probably not hot. So keeping a count of the discarded tiles is essential to your defense. 

As a matter of fact, once there are two or three picks left in the Wall, almost any tile, hot or not, is potentially the Mahj tile for a player. That’s why I insist on discarding Jokers and breaking up your hand. 

I can empathize with the general reluctance to discard powerful Jokers at the end of the game, but Jokers cannot magically “make” your hand at the end of the game any more than they did during the game. But they keep your opponents from winning and protect you from the angst and penalty of providing the Mahj tile to an opponent.

If you are “waiting” for Mahj yourself, you have a dilemma.  Do you discard a potential Mahj tile for someone else or do you break up your hand?  Usually, break up your hand. Even if you can count a couple of the same tile you pick, you cannot know for sure how many Jokers a player has for the combination your tile may complete. You can’t be sure the picked tile isn’t the Mahj tile for someone else.

And when you are sure you picked the Mahj tile for an opponent’s hand, you must discard Jokers and break up your hand to keep your opponent from winning. And since the other players will be (and should be) discarding Jokers, the only possibility for you to win is to pick your own Mahj tile—which is almost zero.

Let’s talk about discarding Flowers.  I caution my students to never discard a Flower at the end of the game. Why? On the 2010 card there are 11 hands that require a Pair of Flowers, not including the 5 Singles and Pairs hands.  Waiting for a Flower to complete a Pair at the end of the game is not unusual. There are 11 hands that require a Kong.  Even if you can count five or six Flowers discarded, you cannot see how many Jokers an opponent’s hands contains that can complete the Kong.  That’s why discarding excess or unneeded Flowers early in the game is a good idea, but not late in the game.  Flowers are hot.

So my advice, at the end of the game, even if you’re not sure the tile you pick is the Mah Jongg tile for an opponent, protect yourself. Break up your hand and discard Jokers.

Til 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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