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Monday, October 24, 2011

Ethical mahjongg

Mobile readers:  Click here for video.
(Keep in mind a Chinese mahjongg hand is four kongs and any pair)

My mailbag this week consisted of an inquiry from Lynn P.  It dealt with a dead hand and why erroneous exposures are returned to the hand.  Then she followed up with questions regarding the obligation of a player who knows she is dead to continue to play defensively, and whether or not other players are required to call her dead.  (Yes, she is, and no, they are not)  This line of questions led me to think about how personal ethics apply in mahjongg.

Like corporate executives, politicians and sundry convicted felons, experienced players know the rules are bendable.  Oftentimes situations will come up which prove to be interesting opportunities for self-discovery. While these occurrences may not rise to the level of true ethical dilemmas, they nevertheless provoke a moral challenge that each player must answer for him or herself.  

For instance:
  • Susie has two Easts and a joker exposed.  You know she is dead but no one has declared it.  You pick an East. 
  • Rhoda has three exposures on her rack.  You know you are dead.  You pick Rhoda's mahjongg tile.  Rhoda's your best friend and she hasn't won a game in a while.
  • Tessie pushes out her wall out and you see she's playing a dragon hand.  You pick a dragon. 
  • Each time Ray takes a tile from the wall, you can see what she picks.  She's picked a tile you need.
  • A 3 bam flipped over from the middle of the wall.  You are playing 3 bams.
  • You are on the way back from the ladies' room.  Frieda has not covered her hand with her card.
  • Sheila, who doesn't see too well, has passed you a joker.
  • We see the Mahjongg Warrior in the video "accidentally" knock over the four dot, fully intending the cascading results that ensued.  Do you think that is morally ambiguous or good mahjongg strategy?
The odds are you view mahjongg as a mere frivolous pastime, unaware of the philosophical implications thereof.  A simple knocked-over tile can be just that, or it can be shaded with deeper meaning - only a true mahjongg ninja will crack the code.

1 comment:

  1. Linda, this post perfectly illustrates some of my recent adventures in maj. How people handle these situations tells you so much about them. There are many nuances in a maj game. Personally I take a lot more satisfaction in figuring out that Tessie is playing a dragon hand by the tiny pause she takes when someone discards a dragon she wants but can't claim than by "accidentally" spotting one of her tiles.

    I stopped playing with a group that picks ahead and looks at the tiles. It just took all the fun out of it for me. Thanks for another thoughtful and interesting post.