Mah Jongg Tells

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2014-02-17 11.34.30Most of us play with a regular weekly game and at this point of the year the habits of the players at your table become obvious to you. What does it mean when they shuffle their tiles or count them? Do they harumph and moan and groan? Which player at your table can you always count on to collect the winds? Who likes to try the singles and pairs hands?  Who seems to take a hand of nothing and win?

We play with five players each week and take turns sitting out.  It gives you a chance to observe.  You walk around and watch the racks.  How do individuals set up their tiles and how do they make they their plan?  And then you watch the play evolve. Sally* (*names are changed to protect us all) frequently dips into the popcorn and M & M’s when her hand is close. I think it is her way of focusing.  She grabs a handful and puts it on her card and eats very quickly.  Sure enough all of a sudden she calls Mah Jongg. Mary* will tell you she has no jokers and this is the fourth hand in a row like that or the umpteenth in a row without a joker to start.  So we may be surprised if she calls anything for awhile and then we all know when she does get a joker too. But Mary will surprise you and go for the Singles and Pairs hands more frequently than anyone else. Lesley* is constantly moving her tiles in this direction and that or moving them around. Lesley is the kind of player who cannot visualize a hand without physically moving the tiles to see the hands.  So you wait while she tries every possible hand she can think of and then she loses track of whether or not she has drawn a tile.  She is the one you have to watch all the time. Lesley is the one who moans and groans too. Then there is Sarah* who plays quietly.  She never lets on what she is playing or if she has a joker.  When she has a good hand she does not let on, when she has a nothing hand she does not let on.  At the end of a game when everyone says so what were you playing or what did you need, Sarah never lets on or shows her hand. She is the unknown.

After you learn the habits of the players you are with, you will learn who likes which hands.  You learn which players will keep the winds so during the Charleston try not to pass them to that person.  Sometimes you have to of course but be thoughtful. Some players moan and groan and it can be distracting  but it can also be a ploy so don’t get sucked in either. They may moan and groan but in reality they are on call just waiting for that one tile.

And what about you? What habits have you picked up during play? Do you sit up straighter when your hand is close? Or perhaps you lean back in the chair pretending to be relaxed? Do you grab the tile from the wall and quickly discard it telling people you are waiting on one tile or do you treat each pick the same?  Do you groan or hesitate or slump your shoulders when you pick up a hot tile knowing you are now on the defensive because no way you want to give Mah Jongg to someone else?

The bottom line is that behaviors are indeed telling so pay attention.  It can be helpful.

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  1. Cathyschibli  December 8, 2015

    Loved this! And so true!

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