Jewish Journal


August 8, 2010

the american mah jongg blog


                                            A JUDGMENT CALL


The other day I was playing in a game and after the one of the hands was over, one of the players confessed that she was faced with a dilemma. A somewhat robust discussion followed about what she should or should not have done.

Here’s the story.  We’ll call the player Madge.  Madge was “waiting” for Mahj—-she needed one tile for a Pair. Her hand had only one Joker which she used for a Pung. She had made no Exposures. The game was about 2/3 over and one of the tiles she needed for the Pair was already out and one tile toward the Pung was out.  Then another player discards the second of the tiles needed for the Pung. Technically, the Pung in Madge’s hand was complete. So the question was, Should she call for the tile to complete the Pung, make it “natural” to try for a Jokerless hand and discard the Joker?

There were those who said Yes, of course she should have called the tile. She had a good possibility of declaring a Jokerless Mahj—a consummation devoutly to be wished. If she didn’t call for the tile to make the Pung a “natural”, the possibility of her picking the tile for the Pung would be zero, because now two of the tiles were out. She couldn’t Mahj with a Jokerless hand. If she did call for the tile,  the Exposure might not “tell all” and even if it did, she still could have picked the Mah Jongg tile herself. 

That argument is a valid one. A Jokerless hand is worth double (if your group plays for money) and if she Self-Picked the Mah Jongg tile she could collect four times the amount the hand called for from everyone.  So there was the financial aspect of the game at stake, as well.

I, on the other hand said “Wait a minute. Her discarded Joker would be a big clue that she was waiting for a tile to complete a Pair.”  But since she had no other Exposures, it would be difficult to determine her hand. But not impossible. We were all experienced players knew the card thoroughly. Her Exposure would have given away a huge amount of information about what Pair she needed. It narrowed the search down and from the discards she had made during the game (a most important factor) and a quick perusal of the discards out, it would not have been too difficult to determine her Mahj tile.  But even if we could not have reached a definitive conclusion, the discards other players would now make, become very judicious. And Madge’s own discards would be more carefully scrutinized.

If Madge didn’t make the Exposure, the possibility of someone discarding her Mahj tile was much greater since there was no information about the hand she was playing. And because one of the tiles she needed for the Pair was already out, the chances of it being discarded again was also greater.

Actually, Madge did not expose and she did win—-on a discard, but not Jokerless.

‘Til next time,





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