Mah Jongg Strategies to Live By – Fresh Tiles

So, you’ve learned to play American Mah Jongg, now what? Now, it is time to add some strategy into the game. All strategy is not created equal, nor is all strategy foolproof or a guarantee you win the game. Strategy does, however, make you a stronger player, increase your odds of winning, and teach you how to become a more defensive player. Mah Jongg Strategy will make you a stronger player.

Strategy Lesson #2: Throw Fresh Tiles!


Teaching is a tremendous passion of mine. I would instead teach than play as crazy as that may sound. I love watching the journey and the evolution of a new player as they go from knowing nothing to understanding the game. And, when my students get excited about playing, I do too!

In this blog, we will cover the FRESH TILE strategy. This strategy is as essential if not more

essential, a tool as keeping safe tiles. I include this strategy in my book, Unlocking the

Secrets of American Mah Jongg,. This strategy is a player’s first line of defense once the game has started.

Fresh Tiles Defined:

A Fresh Tile simply put is the tile each player picks at the beginning of their turn. They are

considered fresh because they are being looked at for the first time. Whether the tile picked is already in someone’s rack or not, it is still a brand-new tile being looked at for the first time.

 How to Use Put the Fresh Tile Strategy into Action?

The Fresh Tile Strategy is put into action as soon as the game begins by picking a tile from

the wall, and if you don’t need it, discarding it immediately on the table (that is after you’ve properly racked it). The Fresh Tile Strategy is most successful during the first half of the game or until there is still a full wall and a half from which to pick.

 Why Use the Fresh Tile Strategy?

  • The Fresh Tile Strategy is used so that you get any tiles out on the table that might be needed by another player.
  • By getting tiles out early, as in the first half of the game, you are discarding

tiles that another player might need but is not yet able to calll because they might not have enough tiles and or jokers to complete an exposure. If you’ve accomplished this, you’ve just made a players’ hand one step harder to make.

  • In the instances where someone can call a tile early, well, be it. Better that they call it early than to call it later for Mah Jongg!
  • Putting the Fresh Tile Strategy into play can make other players’ hand dead, early in the game.
  • Most players’ give a lot away with verbal cues. You will most likely know that you’ve just buried their hand in the ground as you watch them huff and puff and scramble their tiles around trying to find a backup hand.

 Teaching the Fresh Tile Strategy:

The same confusion I get when first teaching the Fresh Tile Strategy occurs while teaching the Safe Tile Strategy. The question often asked by a novice player is, “Shouldn’t I hold onto all tiles that aren’t on the table in case someone else needs them?” The answer is not unless you want to sabotage your hand from the get-go.

By holding onto every tile you think someone else needs, you become what I call a “Tile Collector.” The Tile Collector worries about every tile they are about to throw. During the first half of a game, I don’t think twice about what I am throwing. I discard, each Fresh Tile without hesitation.

Think about it for a minute…or two. If you collect all the tiles you think someone else needs, how are you ever going to make Mah Jongg? By the time you are entering the second half of the game, the chances are much greater that the tiles you’ve collected might be someone’s Mah Jongg tile.

Final Thoughts on Fresh Tiles:

  • The earlier you get them out, the better.
  • Better someone call a tile you’ve discarded early in the game than they call the tile later for Mah Jongg.
  • Tile Collectors can sabotage their own hands.

Please check out my book Unlocking the Secrets of American Mah Jongg and the newest in futuristic learning at my online school, School of American Mah Jongg, where you can take one of my strategy classes. Remember, Mah Jongg Strategy will make you a stronger player!

Happy Mahjongging, everyone!


This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Beverly Becker

    I have been playing for well over 30 years, you are still providing me with new ideas and strategy!!

    1. Debbie Barnett Author

      That’s wonderful. If I can help someone with one new thing, I am happy! Thanks for be a faithful subscriber Beverly!

  2. Glo

    Great strategies. Thanks.

    1. Debbie Barnett Author


  3. Laura

    Debbie, thanks so much for your joker strategy —opened the mind to new possibilities!
    Laura Berkowitz

    1. Debbie Barnett Author

      Your are so welcome Laura!

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