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Thursday, January 2, 2020

2020 is here!


It's that time again!

The 2019 newsletter has arrived from the National Mah Jongg League, signifying the opening of the card ordering season.  To read about the proper way to order your card, click HERE.  

The most important rule is to be sure you order from the League itself, either by ordering individually at www.nationalmahjonggleague.org or by ordering it from a collector on behalf of a charitable organization.  This assures that you will get your card on time and you will get a bulletin, and, most importantly, your $8 or $9 order will be part of the charitable contributions made by the League.

I was very impressed this year by the diversity of charities listed in the mailbag; charities large and small.  From Habitats for Humanity to Curt's Cafe and Dress for Success, the League, through its members, helps so many.  The full list of collectors takes almost four pages of small print, and add to that the hundreds of thousands of individual card purchasers.  It's awe-inspiring that such largesse is derived from the game that keeps on giving.  This is what sets the League apart from all other variations of mahjongg, and it's a formula that has worked spectacularly well for 83 years.  It's easy to forget this when we play, but this is the heart and soul of the National Mah Jongg League, and we all make it happen.

The newsletter had a few updates worth noting.  The "You Asked Us" section states that the Committee works from August to November to test the new card, meaning the 2020 card is complete and waiting in the wings.  Once the card is complete, the collectors start taking orders, and on January 1 orders are open to the membership.  Reminder:  If you want to receive your card in the first mailing, your order must be in by February 21.  Don't be late or you will regret it!  

The Q and A selection reflects member concerns throughout the year.  Many seasoned players find the Q and A can be repetitive, but for new players, the questions are pressing and urgent.  If enough calls come in on a particular issue, it is addressed in the newsletter.  This year's questions cover the issue of two players wanting the same tile - the League has clarified that if one player has properly called and exposed their tiles, the player next in turn is too late.  Racing to put up one's exposure, however, is discouraged as being poor sportsmanship.  But if two players want the same tile; one for exposure and one for Mah Jongg, the Mah Jongg declarer gets preference even if the other player has exposed.

A slight rule change is noted.  If there is a dispute over whether a hand is dead or not, the play continues.  Whichever player was incorrect at the time of the challenge pays the other player 50 cents (previously 25 cents).

One last note:  If you want to order 2019 cards, please call the League as all website orders are for 2020.   

All right, now go back to playing.  You still have three months to mark off all the hands on the card!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Fair Exchange - Joker swapping II

Wait...am I supposed to hand her the joker?

Back in 2012 I wrote a post about joker swapping strategy; i. e., determining when and if to make the exchange.   This post focuses on the process by which a joker is taken, in other words, how to make the exchange.  I've received many questions from players, beginner and experienced alike, who are unsure about the process.  

The National Mah Jongg League states on the back of the card, "Jokers may be used to replace any tiles in any Pung, Kong, Quint or Sextet only. Jokers may be replaced in any exposure with like tile or tiles by any player, whether picked from wall or in player's hand, when it is player's turn.  Let's look more closely at what that means:

The first rule is that it must be your turn in order to replace.  This means that you must wait (which is sometimes hard to do) until you have either (a) picked a tile from the wall, or, (b) called a tile from the table and made a complete exposure.  

(a) When a player picks from the wall, there is no requirement to rack.  If the tile that was picked can be used to redeem a joker, you may make the exchange immediately.  If the tile to be exchanged is in your rack with the rest of your hand, you must place the tile you picked in your rack, then take the tile to be exchanged out of your rack.
(b) When a player calls a discarded tile, the call must be completed before an exchange is allowed.  You cannot call a tile unless you have the requisite number needed to make a complete exposure.  Once you have exposed the entire pung, kong or quint, then you may take the tile you wish to exchange out of your rack.  The League has ruled this constitutes two separate moves.  In other words, once the exposure is made and the tile to be exchanged has left the rack, the exposure cannot be altered.

While you are holding the tile to be exchanged, it is important to announce your intention to exchange. You may say "exchange," or "may I" or "replacing," or in some way (hopefully politely) state or indicate that you wish to use the tile you are holding to make a swap.  After the intent has been declared, you may make the exchange.

It is recommended by the League that you not touch another player's rack, but rather hold the tile to be exchanged in your outstretched palm, and wait for the player to hand you the joker and take your tile.  This is a recommendation, however, and not a rule.  Once the intention has been announced, it is also allowable to place the tile to be exchanged on the table close to the rack that has the joker.  The verbalization of the intent ensures that your tile will not be considered discarded.  Simply placing your tile on the table and pushing it over to the rack may negate your claim as the rules state when a tile touches the table it is discarded.  Be sure your intention is clear, and always be observant as to where and when jokers are available.

Disputes may arise over intention if someone has started to name a tile to discard and then realized they could use the tile to exchange.  The rules state that a tile is discarded when it is fully named, so saying "four...I'll take your joker," is allowable, but "four bam...I'll take your joker" is not.  Be mindful.



If you are replacing a joker on your own rack, you may do so silently, since there will be no issue of considering the tile discarded, and you don't have to put others on alert that you now have a joker.
You may also make multiple exchanges in the same turn.  If you wish to exchange for more than one joker in single exposure, hold out the tiles you wish to exchange.  If you wish to exchange for a joker in more than one exposure, exchange them one at a time. 
You may make an exchange if your hand is concealed, as it does not require you to expose.
After the joker or jokers are placed in your rack, you must discard (or declare mahjongg) and your turn ends.
If an exchanged joker gives you mahjongg, you may declare mahjongg and it is treated as self-picked.