Faux-Jong - Oh My Mahjong


Don’t be a FAUX-jonger 

Embarking on the intricate journey of mastering Mahjong unveils a challenging yet rewarding path, demanding patience, perseverance, and a fair share of trial and error. The euphoria of exclaiming "Mahjong!" after dedicated efforts is an unparalleled joy. However, amid the highs of this ancient tile game, there exists a pitfall that leaves players in a state of both disappointment and amusement – the faux-jong.  

Picture this: you think you've achieved Mahjong mastery, only to realize it was a mirage, a faux-jong. In this blog post, we'll explore the disheartening world of faux-jongs, shedding light on the most common pitfalls so that you can navigate the Mahjong landscape with confidence, steering clear of the infamous label of a faux-jonger. 

Misuse of Jokers  

Jokers, those game-changing tiles that bring delight when employed but frustration when rendered useless. In the intricate world of Mahjong, rules envelop every facet, and the use of these wild cards is no exception. In American Mahjong, it is commonly known that Jokers can only be deployed in combinations of three or more identical tiles.  

What does this stipulation precisely entail? Consider a scenario where the objective is to assemble a pung, meaning three, of 7 Bams. In this case, the use of Jokers knows no bounds. Whether you have all three 7 Bams without a hint of Jokers, two 7 Bams accompanied by a single Joker, one 7 Bam flanked by two Jokers, or even a scenario devoid of 7 Bams with three Jokers, all configurations are permissible as long as they adhere to the grouping of three or more identical tiles. 

However, there are instances when the coveted Joker cannot be brought into play. Let's delve into two such scenarios. 

Situation 1: No Jokers in Singles or Pairs  

I'd bet my last tile that somewhere along your Mahjong journey, someone dropped the classic line, "No Jokers in singles or pairs," and you were likely nodding along, trying to absorb that rule while your brain juggled a million others. Let's dissect this rule because, let's be real, it's easy to get lost in the Mahjong maze. 

We know the drill in American Mahjong – you need a killer combo of 14 tiles that matches what's on this year's NMJL Card. Inside those combos, we've got groupings, also sometimes called melds. Singles (1 identical tile), pairs (2 identical tiles), pungs (3 identical tiles), kongs (4 identical tiles), and the grand quints (5 identical tiles) – you got the lineup. 

Here's the kicker: when you're rolling with just a single or a pair, those tiles need to be exactly what The Card says. No Jokers allowed in those solo or duo acts. 

Let's say your game plan is calling for two 5 Bams – you must have exactly two 5 Bams, no Joker shortcuts allowed. Need just one 5 Bam? Same deal – no swapping with a Joker. 

Sure, most beginners hear this spiel before the real game kicks off, but let's be honest, in the heat of the action and the pursuit of that Mahjong magic, this rule tends to pull a vanishing act. The result? A rookie shouting "Mahjong," flaunting what seems like a winning hand, only to realize it's a faux-jong because a Joker snuck into a solo or pair spot. 

It's so common, we've even slapped a reminder on all our Oh My Mahjong mats – "No Jokers in singles or pairs." Let's dodge that faux-jong trap, shall we? 

Situation 2: No Jokers in Unlike Groupings 

Building on what we just learned, let's chat about another Joker no-no that's lurking in the Mahjong shadows. Brace yourself – Jokers are rebels without a cause when it comes to groupings that throw different tiles into the mix. Confused? Don't worry; we're here to clear the Mahjong fog. 

Picture this: the line you’ve chosen includes a meld such as 2023 or NEWS. It's important to know, that these melds are not considered “kongs” because the tiles within them are not all identical. For example, a two is different than a three is different from a zero.  As a result, Jokers can't crash this party because those tiles aren't the exact same.  So, instead of thinking of these mash-ups as kongs, wrap your head around them like they're singles, just without the spaces between them.  

Now, don't get confused – if you are going for a line with four North winds, feel free to sprinkle in as many Jokers as you please. In that case, they're like the identical-tile VIPs – roll out the red carpet for those Jokers! 

Exposing in a Concealed Hand  

Just when you thought you were the Mahjong maestro, reality hits like a rogue tile. You're cruising through your chosen line, feeling invincible, until an opponent tosses out the very tile you crave. Instinct kicks in – you call for it, expose it on top of your rack, and start envisioning that triumphant "Mahjong!" moment. The game progresses, you proudly declare victory, but there's a plot twist – a sneaky letter 'C' cozies up next to the value on your line. What does this mean? Turns out, it's a concealed hand, and you weren't allowed to snatch that tile earlier or flaunt it like a prized possession. Translation: your Mahjong high is now a low, and your hand is most likely called Dead.  

So, how do you dodge this common faux-jong pitfall? Simple – before you get trigger-happy calling for tiles and flashing them like a Mahjong rockstar, check for that trusty 'E' for "exposed" in front of the value on your line. And here's a pro tip: concealed hands often lurk at the end of a section, so if you're eyeing a bottom line, triple-check for the 'C' if you're planning to call for a tile and expose. Oh, and remember, the singles and pairs section are permanently concealed! 

Mistaking a tile  

Last but not least in the lineup of faux-jongs is the classic mix-up of tile identities. If you've ever shuffled tiles on different Mahjong sets, you're well aware that one set can look like it's from a completely different tile universe. So, here's a golden nugget of wisdom: take a moment to familiarize yourself with the tiles BEOFRE diving into gameplay. Give the Flowers, Dragons, Suits, Winds, and Jokers a once-over. And also – make sure you identify Bird Bam! Keep an eagle eye on those Flowers – they tend to have the most variance between various sets. Trust me, you don't want to be the player who mistakes a Dragon for a Flower – it's a faux-jong faux pas you won't live down! 


Consider yourself duly warned – steer clear of the faux-jong pitfalls! Now armed with the savvy to navigate the Mahjong maze, you're well on your way to avoiding those cringe-worthy moments of faux-jong glory. Remember the rules, watch out for those cheeky Jokers, and don't let tile identities play tricks on you. Stay sharp, play smart, and revel in the genuine Mahjong victories ahead. Happy tile-tapping!