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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.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Claiming a Discard



A couple of years ago, I received an e-mail from a player who said her teacher had told her that if she picked up or merely touched a discarded tile she had called, she was obligated to take it.  I did not believe that was correct and wrote the League for clarification.  I received the letter above, which states:  You are committed to taking a discard when you have either exposed tiles from your hand or placed the called tile on top of your rack.

This got me thinking about the difference between a call and a claim.  The call signifies your intention to claim the tile, and the League has clarified that you must verbalize your call.  The tile is claimed when you have either exposed or placed the called tile atop your rack.  The League states in "Mah Jongg Made Easy," - the "call" or "take" has become the claimant's turn. (1984, 2018)

There's been some brouhaha going on about this being conducive to "aggressive" play.  After all, if one is committed to taking the discard, it precludes the player next in turn from waking up and saying, "Oh, gee, I wanted that flower."  The argument is that someone who is paying attention and ready to call will "slam" their tiles atop the rack in a display of sharklike rudeness.  Poppycock.  Why would this be more likely to happen than an alert player snatching the discard from the table and slamming it atop the rack? 

Here is an analogy:  In scenario A, a person orders printer ink from Amazon.  She pays by credit card.  It's delivered to her door the next day.  In scenario B, she goes to Staples for her ink, which is kept behind the counter.  She tells the cashier what she wants.  The cashier hands her the ink and takes her money.  In both scenarios, she owns the ink. 

An exposure is the price you pay for a discard.  Does it matter if you pay in advance (expose first and then take the discard) or take the discard first and then expose?  I say no.  In either case, the tile is claimed.  The player next in turn is TOO LATE.  (2013)