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Playing Winning Mah Jongg
Although apparently viewed as a game of pure luck in some circles, in reality Mah Jongg features considerable strategy and over the course of an entire match, Skill will tell over Luck. Skill in the game is enhanced (and Luck diminished) if Flowers and Seasons are omitted and minimum hands are allowed (because it means all players tend to remain in the game, not just the lucky one who happened to draw a minimum hand). How then to win at Mah Jongg?

First, Diagnose:
When you get your tiles, make an immediate evaluation of how many tiles away from victory. That is, how many specific tiles do you need to go out, shortest path?

Playing to win:
Take chances. Discard anything you don't need, even lucky tiles. After 6 or 7 tiles, feel free to say "chow" or "pung".

Playing not to lose:
Discard cautiously. After 4 draws, if you need only 3 tiles or less, go for it. Otherwise, play for a draw.

Playing for a draw:

Other Tips:
Holding 7-7-7-8 waiting for 8 or 9 is better than 4-5-5-5 waiting for 3 or 4 because 8 or 9 are more likely to be discarded. It is better to wait for tiles already showing on the board since players avoid discarding "new" tiles after the first few turns.

Example: Player holds 2-3-4-4; someone discards a 4. Beginner says "pung", melds 4-4-4 and then waits for a 1 or 4 to complete his sequence. But only one 4 is left in the set and most of the 1's have been discarded early. Expert says "pung" only if he can make ready, waiting for a 1 or 4 as above. Otherwise he keeps quiet and discards his own 4 later on (because he knows that now it is safe to do so) and keeps the 2-3-4 sequence.

Also ...

Last updated: Wed May 1 06:43:18 UTC 2013
Created: Feb 27, 1994