A Knack for Racking

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One of the cardinal rules of Mah Jongg is that a discarded tile is in play until the next player picks a tile and places it on his/her rack, what we Mah Jongg players call “racking”. Until that tile is “racked”, another player can call for the previously discarded tile.  I am not an expert player and sometimes take too long to make a decision about what hand to play.  But I consistently “rack” my tiles quickly.

As a new player I was told of the importance of timely “racking”. My technique is to pick up my tile and immediately “rack” it. I do this before I look at the tile. I have noticed however that not every Mah Jongg player does this. Many players look at the tile first and then “rack” it. Some players never actually “rack” the tile. I’ve seen players hold the tile for five or ten seconds, while deliberating about whether the tile is beneficial to their hand or should be discarded. There have been occasions when I have reconsidered the last discarded tile, and have seized the opportunity to call for it at this time. This is usually met with some groaning as to why I waited so long. My retort, however, has been that since the current tile has not been “racked”, the last discarded tile is still in play.

There have also been occasions when a player at my table complained that I “racked” too quickly and didn’t allow her to think about whether she wanted the previous tile. Frankly, I don’t understand the fuss. I don’t attempt to grab my tile from the pile in record time, or cover the previous one or prevent anyone from calling for it. I am simply taking my turn. To be honest, there have been occasions when I didn’t call for a discarded tile quickly enough, and wished I had a few more seconds to decide before the next player drew a tile, but that’s the way the game is played. So remember, the last discarded tile is still alive until the next tile is “racked”.

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