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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mahjongg Diplomacy

The Paris Peace Talks

So we know that the National Mah Jongg League rules are written out - we can look at the back of the card or call the League for an "official" ruling.  But what about the unwritten rules - the etiquette and the courtesies?  Much about our game is unwritten, which leads to misunderstandings and sometimes hurt feelings.  Common sense should dictate these courtesies but oftentimes notions of common sense differ.   When people play together regularly their courtesies become integral to the group, so much so that if a newcomer is invited, the customs and mannerisms of the group are not explained, and a newcomer can feel as if she has waltzed into a minefield.  The "regulars" bark at her ignorance, or, worse yet, sneer and snicker.  Below are some hints that I hope will give some guidance.

To the regulars - it's important to tell the invitee your table rules BEFORE she shows up at the game.
Table rules can be as minor as "The hostess is East first" or as major as "We play a cold wall meaning you must pick your own mahjongg tile."  Be sure she knows what the pie is and whether or not you double the card or give bonuses for certain hands, throwing double, etc.  What do you do when there's a wall game?  If you all put money in a puschke  what happens to that money?

I've gotten some mail recently that describes some behavior that is, well, shall we say unbecoming to mahjongg players?  Here are some (anonymous) samples:

"Some have questioned my practice of picking a tile from the wall, holding it in my hand (for a mere second or two) then deciding that I don't want it, calling the tile name  and placing it on the table, without racking it or touching it to my rack."

"An experienced player at our local game says it is up to the winner to claim double payment for a jokerless hand, to the extent that no one else at the table is allowed call attention to it."

"We messed up the Charleston and couldn't figure out what happened.  Three of us wanted to throw it in and start again but one of us refused because her hand was too good."

"I was invited to play in a game and when I showed up there were six players.  Had I known that, I would never have accepted."

"A player had three wests showing.  I threw a soap and was told I had to pay for the table because it was an obvious hand"

To invitees, I say this:  Make sure you know the answers to the following BEFORE you play with a new group:

  • Do they play League rules?  (13 tile game)
  • What's the pie?  What happens if someone goes pie (loses all her money)?
  • Is there betting?  (If you do not feel comfortable betting, let the hostess know)
  • How experienced are the players?  (Find out if you will fit the pace)
  • What are the table rules?
Now, some players are not aware that they are varying from the official rules.  "We don't have table rules," they say.  The answer is simple:  The official rules are listed on the back of the card.  If you do not see what you are doing on the back of the card then it is not an official rule.

Sometimes there are misunderstandings and misinterpretations regarding the official rules.  In that case it helps to have a rule book such as Tom Sloper's "The Red Dragon and the West Wind" which examines the rules in depth.  But, ladies, (and most of you are ladies) please, PLEASE, show courtesy, especially if a new player has been invited to the group.  Lay it all out ahead of time and give her the option of gracefully bowing out (as in, sorry, I can't play a $50 pie) or making a suggestion (such as I'm used to throwing and picking so please don't call me dead if I make a mistake).  So a little diplomacy will go far in terms of finding and keeping players for years to come.  After all, it's only a game - it ain't the Paris Peace Talks...

(pay for table with three wests showing)