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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Stop Stop Stop

A near riot broke out at a recent game.  Arlene had stopped the passing and Rena was willing to option two tiles.  "What?  How could you do that!  She stopped the passing - you'll give her mahj!" was the reaction.  "Maybe I will and maybe I won't," said Rena, in words or substance.  Accusations flew.  A heated debate ensued. Should you option with someone who stops the passing?  Maybe you should and maybe you shouldn't.

Let's take a step back and think about how and why the passing gets stopped. The League states that any player may stop the passing after the first left for ANY reason. Your thumb may hurt from picking up tiles or you may have eight jokers; maybe you are set to mahj or maybe you just don't feel like giving a second left.

Typically, a player stops the passing if: 
  • She has two hands and can't decide which one to play, or
  • The second left will cause her to give away a needed tile or tiles. 
In my book, the first reason is a poor rationale to stop the passing.  Each hand is a seedling that needs nourishment and cutting off the tile supply to both is a weak decision.  Better to be ruthless now in the beginning than to have to make bigger sacrifices as the game progresses.  Some may think otherwise.

On the other hand (pun intended) not having the tiles to pass because you will destroy a strong contender is ample justtification for stopping.  Sometimes, however, you may think you have nothing to pass but in reality you do.  For instance, if winds are going around and you only need one East or West it may be likely you will get the tile back.  Or if you are playing an open hand and you have a completed pung, you can pass one of those tiles and call it when it gets thrown. (Of course, it may not get thrown, but these are the risks you take)

So, to get back to the main question - do you option with someone who has stopped the passing?  Maybe.  Do you think the person has stopped the passing because she has a great hand or because she "doesn't know what to do"?  If you listen and observe, you will know, unless she plays her tiles close to the vest and doesn't give anything away.


  1. I play with someone who always wants to stop the charleston, because she's always got 2 or 3 hands going, I dont like that at all. I think you should only stop if you are 2 or 3 tiles away from winning.

  2. We had a different problem with the Charleston. In the past, my Mah Jongg group had lost track of which pass we were on. But we found an iPhone app called the Mah Jongg Groove that helps us keep track of which pass we are on. It's a really great app! You can download it here: or learn more about it here:

  3. Can you stop the passing after the 2nd left or only the 1st?

    1. If you want to stop the passing, you must do so after the first left. Do not wait too long because if someone has already passed their second left, and it was picked up, it is too late to stop the passing. If you think you may want to stop, pick up your first left and say "go slow on your second," or "I may want to stop," and take a moment to decide.

  4. We have a new player that stops the Charleston EVERY round, thinking that she is disadvantaging the other players. She's driving everyone crazy because she IS disadvantaging the other players. We're ready to kick her to the curb.
    The analogy of the hand being a growing thing and needing nourishment is perfect. We'll try that next time to see if she gets the idea.