Fairness in Mah Jongg – My Take on the Miscalled Tile Rule

Fairness in Mah Jongg – My Take on the Miscalled Tile Rule

Fairness in Mah Jongg – My Take on the Miscalled Tile Rule~

If Mah Jongg was an easy game, we wouldn’t have questions, controversies and disputes.

In fact, what other game do you know of where four people who have a combined total of a century of playing time, can still have a disagreement over a rule?

The complexity of Mah Jongg invites controversy; some things are simply not clear cut. However, a rule should make sense in the context of the game.

This is why I take issue with the ‘Miscalled Tile’ rule.

Case in point:
Karen throws a 1 Dot and says, “1 Bam” (in error). Another player says, “you mean 1 Dot.” Karen replies sheepishly, “oh yes, 1 Dot—sorry.” The game continues, no harm, no foul. This scenario happens frequently enough during a typical Maj session, depending on how tired or distracted you or your friends may be. No big deal, right?

The big deal comes when Lisa calls Maj on that miscalled tile. When Karen discards the 1 Dot and mistakenly names it a 1 Bam, and Lisa calls the 1 Bam for Maj, all of the sudden, Karen’s act becomes so egregious that she has to pay 4 times the value of the hand to Lisa. This rule strikes me not only as unfair, but illogical for a number of reasons:

First off, the game requires that we look and listen when tiles are discarded. Lisa obviously wasn’t looking very carefully. If she was paying better attention, she would have seen that the ‘1 Bam’ was really a 1 Dot, and not her Maj tile. The way I see it, she is the one making the error by calling Maj. I know Lisa was excited and waiting to hear the words, ‘1 Bam’, however she jumped the gun, by not seeing that the tile actually thrown was a 1 Dot.

Lisa, after making an error by calling Maj on a misnamed tile, becomes the de facto winner of the game. Not only did Lisa not really win the game, because the 1 Bam–her Maj tile–wasn’t actually thrown, she erred because she wasn’t listening and watching. To make things worse, she’s rewarded–paid 4 times the value of the hand– for not actually winning and not paying close-enough attention to the game.

Lastly, poor Karen, who simply misnamed a tile (a fairly common occurrence for which there is normally no penalty whatsoever), is now the big loser, penalized with having to pay not only as the thrower of Maj, but for the rest of the table. Just because Lisa wasn’t paying close attention and called Maj in error, should Karen be penalized? If Lisa hadn’t jumped the gun, the game would have continued — no harm, no foul for Karen, and no reward for Lisa, who didn’t really win anything.

My solution to the miscalled tile situation? After Lisa mistakenly calls Maj on the misnamed 1 Bam, why not simply correctly state, “1 Dot”, then continue the game? The players now know that Lisa needs a 1 Bam for Maj, however she can still pick it herself (or a Joker, depending on the hand), but this would be the natural consequence for her not paying close attention. Karen is not penalized at all, and the game continues with all players still having the opportunity to win. This seems like a compromise that is fair for all players involved.

What do you think? I welcome your comments.

7 Comments

  • MRltn Posted February 2, 2016 2:43 pm

    I agree with you . Everyone needs to be paying attention. If we let it slide when it is not a Mahj tile, we should always let it slide.

  • Julie Griffin Posted February 2, 2016 6:05 pm

    I absolutely agree with you. I think it’s time for you to fly out to New York and have a talk with those rule makers!!!

  • Frayne Posted February 2, 2016 9:31 pm

    Tracey, I like your suggestion! We all need to be responsible to pay attention in the first place. And no one should have a ride on Maj without the right tiles. Good comment.

  • Roni Posted February 2, 2016 9:50 pm

    You make many good points, I believe however it will be difficult to change how this is handled for those whom have played for years. And, with tournaments enforcing the rule players will expect the caller to be penalized. If this ever comes down to a vote you have mine.

  • Marilyn Barris Posted February 9, 2016 9:40 am

    If the player who miscalled the tile has the correct tile in her or his hand it should be thrown and mah jongg can be called.

  • Sandy Ritter Posted February 11, 2016 5:10 pm

    As usual Tracey, you make a very good point. Also food for thought. After all, isn’t mahjongg exercising the thinking processes. This is a good one.

  • Ellen Francis Posted February 29, 2016 6:30 pm

    Playing by the exact rules always comes up in our group—-are we adhering to closely to the rules, doesn’t each player have to play by the same rules, aren’t the rules the only way to play the fairly? I enjoy reading how universal these “quandaries” are in every group!! Enjoyable reading!

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