ID11-Strategy, Beginning, Middle and End Game

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ID11-Strategy, Beginning, Middle and End Game

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Question: Are there different strategies used during the beginning, middle or end of a game?

Answer: There are no two players who will play Mah Jongg in an identical manner. Each player adopts their own style and sees their tiles differently. Implementing strategy in Mah Jongg provides a vision or guide for where a hand can go and sets up every hand for a potential win. Good decision making changes as you move through the phases of the game: beginning, middle and end.

Strategies for the BEGIN-GAME (First 33 tiles used from the walls):

  • Arrange tiles in order: Jokers, Flowers, Winds, and Dragons; each Suit in numerical order, no spaces.
  • Prioritize multiples (pair, pung, kong) over singles. Build your category(ies) around multiples and keep tiles that fit that category regardless of suit.
  • If no multiples, visualize or arrange your tiles by category (e.g., 2468, 13579, 369) and then select the category that uses the majority of your tiles.
  • When possible, also keep tiles that may fit into the Consecutive Run category. This is one of the most flexible of all categories.
  • During the Charleston, pass as defensively as possible (but do not jeopardize tiles you want to keep in exchange for a defensive pass); different numbered tiles from each suit, single Wind or Dragon with mixed numbered and suited tiles, all the same category, all the same suit, White Dragons (avoid passing them if possible), Flowers (pass a a last resort or if someone passed to you and you have no other choice but to pass it), pairs (pass as  last resort).
  • Don’t focus on the hand you will play until you have no discards.
  • Reassess your hand after each pass, especially if a new multiple forms.
  • Discard “fresh tiles,” a term coined by Debbie Barnett. (See ID179-Fresh Tiles)

Strategies for the MIDDLE-GAME (Second 33 tiles used from the walls)

  • Stay concealed as long as possible.
  • Reassess your hand if a new multiple forms.
  • Call a discard when you are ready to commit to a hand.
  • Check before exposing that you are playing an exposed hand.
  • Observe opponents’ discards and exposures to identify their category, then adjust your strategy accordingly.
  • Commit to one category towards the end of the second wall.
  • Commit to a single hand towards the end of the third wall.
  • Keep pairs, flowers, and dragons as “joker bait” for potential joker exchanges before the end of the 2nd wall. (coined by Tom Sloper of Sloperama)
  • Redeem jokers from another player’s hand to prevent someone else from benefitting; leave at least one joker amongst their exposures to avoid paying for a jokerless hand.
  • Continue to discard “fresh tiles,” a term coined by Debbie Barnett. (See ID179-Fresh Tiles)

Strategies for the END-GAME (Third 33 tiles used from the walls)

  • Avoid claiming a discard if you need to use a Joker that is still available for exchange.
  • Avoid claiming a discard if you are unable to win, to avoid giving valuable information to other players.
  • Be cautious about throwing a winning tile to someone with 3 exposures.
  • Discard safe tiles that have been exposed or previously discarded. Discard number tiles where 3 are out (except year tiles or any other tiles that go single groupings).
  • Discard jokers (they cannot be claimed).
  • Be cautious about discarding Flowers unless you can account for at least 7 of them in the discard pile, in your own rack or in your opponents’ exposures.

Other useful resources:

Also see ID124





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