Was it Luck or Skill?

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I am an avid Mah Jongg player who has played regularly for two-and-a-half years. I love the game, the patterns, and the mental stimulation. I consider myself a good player, but somewhat “streaky”. I may win three games a few weeks in a row, then not be able to complete a hand on the card for two or three sessions. It’s not that I feel I’ve played badly those weeks I don’t win, but sometimes a hand that looks so promising after the Charleston just doesn’t come together.

So here I was being asked to play with three other seasoned Mah Jongg players, two of whom had been playing for decades, and who I would consider experts. I was happy to be playing with this trio but would be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little anxious. If I hadn’t been winning games with players of my own caliber, how would I do with players who were clearly better than me?

The pace was a little faster than my usual and I had to think and make decisions quickly as I didn’t want to appear unable to keep up. One of the “experts” called “Mah Jongg” fairly early in the first game. I wasn’t surprised and decided the rest of the evening would probably be more of the same.

We played a total of seven games. To my surprise, I won two of them. Both hands were in the Consecutive Run section. One of the hands was something I frequently attempt and sometimes win- FFFF 1111 2222 DD. I won with FFFF 7777 8888 DD.

The other was one I consider more difficult and rarely try- 55 77 555 777 9999.  I had decided to play an Odd Numbers hand based on the initial tiles distribution.  The Charleston was kind to me. After it was complete I realized that I had the 9999 and needed only four tiles to complete the hand. My biggest obstacle would be to get the 55 since I was lacking both. I got the tiles I needed and called “Mah Jongg” after I picked the second 5 myself.  I hadn’t exposed anything in advance so the other players seemed quite surprised. I was complimented on the nice hand.

So I am left wondering- did I win those games because the tiles were kind to me? Was it just my time to win, after losing for a few weeks? Or did I elevate my level of play and concentration to prove I could play well? I suspect it was a combination of all three.


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