It is football season and so talk is all about the defense and the offense. Well in Mah Jongg play sometimes you are faced with that choice as well. So what do you do and when?
There are no clear cut, stead fast rules. Are you playing in a friendly game at home or are you playing in your regular game where you are playing for $$ and the other ladies will be upset they have to pay because you did not play carefully? Are you playing in an tournament where taking a risk will only mean that you alone will lose points? Are you having a bad day with the tiles and luck seems fleeting? Or are you having a great day and you are on a roll and luck has been with you? It can be these factors that affect your decision whether or not you will be playing defensively.
Personally I know I tend to play very defensively. I hate to throw that Mah Jongg tile to someone. That is also one of the things about playing American style MJ that I am less than enamored over. Everyone pays even if you were not the one to throw the tile! In Japanese and Chinese styles of play only the giver of the winning tile pays the consequences of losing. (Unless someone draws their own winning tile of course then everyone pays!) This is also the case in tournament play. I like being responsible for my actions but you cannot stop someone else from the action they take so why should you be penalized?
When I was playing Japanese style in Tokyo, I was taught you cannot win if you throw the winning tile to someone else. That philosophy has stuck with me and so now I am very careful. If my hand is not close and I know someone else is, I will break up my hand rather than throw a tile that might be needed. How do you know you ask? Well it is easier to figure that out if they have exposed part of their hand because you can then search for a hand they may be playing and avoid other tiles in that hand. You can think about which tiles they have been discarding as well. If someone at the table has been discarding the winds, then they are probably not going for a hand in that section.
The key is to watch and to pay attention. Follow the game and you will pick up on the clues that could indicate a hand being played. And then it is up to you to choose the tiles you throw!