ID137-Verbal, Physical and Tile Tells

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ID137-Verbal, Physical and Tile Tells

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Question: Someone mentioned I was giving too many “Tells” during a game. What is a “Tell?”

Answer: “Tells” can be done verbally, physically with your body and or with your tiles. “Tells” give clues to your opponents about what is going on with your hand. Below are examples of the three types of “Tells”:

  1. Verbal:
    • I can’t buy a Joker if I had a million bucks.
    • There goes another one of my tiles.
    • When you receive a Charleston Pass, you comment, “I’ve seen these before.”
  2. Physical:
    • After someone throws a tile you bend over and start scanning the board.  (This might indicate you are counting to see how many of those tiles are already out)
    • After someone discards a tile you place your hand on your forehead (This might indicate another of your tiles has gone out)
  3. Tile:
    • Leaving spaces between your tiles (This is very telling and something done mostly by newer players. An experienced player can figure out what you need and pretty quickly)
    • Placing your discards spaced far from the rest of your tiles. (Well yeah, this is pretty obvious. If you have 3 tiles all the way to the right, it means you are still 4 tiles away from Mah Jongg)
    • Placing a tile sideways on your rack between tiles. (Might mean you need a tile to complete the Pung, Kong or Quint)
    • You pick a tile from the wall and place it in the middle of your tiles where it belongs. (An indication that you’ve just picked a tile you need)
    • You look at and pass the tiles you received during the Charleston and pass them right away.

What you can do to change this up:

  • Try Poker strategy and as we’ve often heard, using a Poker Face. Try not to give any indication with facial expressions and or any other bodily movements which can be giveaways.
  • When you pick up a Charleston pass, even if you don’t need them, put them in your rack and even among your tiles, even if you take the same 3 and pass them on.
  • NEVER leave spaces between your tiles!
  • If you pick a Joker or Flower, place them in the middle of your tiles and then a bit later move them to the front if that’s what you are used to doing.
  • Rearrange your tiles often during the game even if you don’t need to. This can throw others off. They might think you have to change up your hand and are far from Mah Jongg.

Please note this only encompasses a few “Tells”. Being aware of these will help you notice others Verbal, Physical and Tile “Tells” and make you an even better player!


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