Monday, February 18, 2013

Some Controversy about claiming a tile for MJ

So, if you belong to the NMJL (National Mah Jongg League) and get their newsletter, you saw the question regarding claiming a discarded tile for mah jongg and putting it IN your rack rather than ON your rack.

The doctors have been teaching that to claim a discard for MJ you MUST put it on your rack, not IN your rack...because we teach "tournament rules" ...just so that you're ready for play in a tournament some time in the future.

Here's the question and an excellent answer from Gladys Grad of Mah Jongg Madness.  Gladys runs many tournaments and I think clarifies this question very well.  Tournaments DO have more stringent rules that social play.  If you're interested in MJ cruises or tournaments, check out the website at the link above. 

Here's the question from the league bulletin:
QUESTION: I just got the NMJL bulletin: "A player called for a discard and declared Mah Jongg. She put the discard in her rack amongst her other tiles and then made her full exposure for Mah Jongg. Is this acceptable?"

The League answer:
NMJL ANSWER. "Yes..a player may pick up the discard, put it amongst her other tiles in her hand and then put up all 14 tiles for Mah Jongg."

Gladys responds: 

Since the NMJL bulletin came out, we’ve had to respond to this issue a lot in the past few days.

Unfortunately, we have experienced a method of “cheating” in tournaments that directly relates to this rule. Several East and Northeast coast tournaments have been using this rule for a long time; and even though we’ve hesitated to use it for several years, we feel that now is the time to enforce the rule.

OUR TOURNAMENT RULE: If you claim a discarded tile for an exposure or for Mah Jongg, you must place the claimed tile ON your rack - not in your rack.

Tournament play, by its very nature, has to be more stringent with the rules. Our rationale for requiring you to place the claimed tile ON the rack- is that a claimed tile must be verified by the other players. After taking the discarded tile you claimed ON your rack – then everyone else has an opportunity to verify that this was the same tile that was discarded.

On the other hand, if you put a tile you picked from the table into your rack, moved your tiles around, and then exposed.....there is no way to verify that this was the same tile that was discarded. There are players who can do this rather nefarious move very quickly. Therefore, because this is an opportunity to “cheat,”......we now utilize the strict rule in tournament games (where higher prizes may be at stake).

As you know, the NMJL focuses on “gracious” and “sociable” games that usually take place in homes and club houses. By putting this rule in their new bulletin, they have now taken the League-position on this rule for social play. We do know they wish to help keep local social games amenable.

Unfortunately, although we defer to all-things-NMJL, we very respectfully disagree with them on this.
There are a lot of things that tournaments do that may appear to differ from the NMJL’s rules:

-requiring that the card be in front of all players during tournament play
-timed rounds
-bonus hands
-point penalties
-higher point penalties for giving mah jongg to 2 or 3 exposures
-point penalties for peeking at the blind pass
-point penalties for “dead” hands
-a penalty for not putting your exposed mah jongg hand in order – when requested to do so
-verifying scores
-replacing a miscalled tile if you have the correct tile in your hand (especially if it is claimed for an exposure)
-removing disrespectful and rude players; etc

As we strive to establish sanctioned and standardized rules for tournaments, we feel that clear-cut rules contribute so much to add to the credibility and integrity of what we do.

Wishing you a Happy New Year.

Gladys Grad


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