Author Topic: Watching out for mahjong cheats.  (Read 5262 times)

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Watching out for mahjong cheats.
« on: March 24, 2013, 10:44:07 am »
In 2007 the Open European Mahjong Championship had to expel a player for cheating, when he was caught with two extra tiles in his lap by two of the referees. So how does one look out for such cheaters?

In live play, a hustler's first opportunity for cheating is to stack the Wall in his favor. For example, during the initial deal, there are specific positions in each wall that can NEVER be drawn by the player to its left, or to its right. If two players have zero chance of getting certain tiles in the initial deal, then a charlatan can double his odds of getting them for himself, and if he doesn't get them, since he knows where they started, he'll know exactly where they went.

One way to stack a fixed Wall is to control the tiles as they are being shuffled. Watch for grifters who are guarding a set of tiles (or even more obvious, holding on to them) while shuffling; be weary to ensure that every player is making a valiant effort to shuffle the tiles properly before building the Wall. Then, while building the Wall, a shyster doesn't even need to necessarily look at a tile to know what it is and where to put it. Any serious mahjong shark will have learned to identify tiles by feel (like brail), so be mindful of a swindler who is feeling all the tiles as they assemble the Wall. Even automatic shuffling mahjong tables can be rigged to preposition specific tiles into specified areas of the wall.

Brazen dodgers will also use slight of hand to switch out tiles from their hand with those from the Wall at some point during game play, up to and including switching out their entire thirteen tile hand in one quick pounce. Since it is very difficult to both conceal and manipulate individual tiles in the same palm, many of these slight-of-hand techniques require the use of both hands. For this reason, many tournament rules forbid drawing with one hand and discarding with the other.

If the cheater provides the tiles, they could simply opt to use a marked set, allowing them to know which tiles are where even when seen from their back. And even if the cheater didn't provide the tiles, he can ink them during play so he can know where those marked tiles are at all times. An out-dated way of marking tiles is on display at the Mahjong Museum in Chiba, Japan. The tiles there take advantage of polarized light as seen through a pair of polarized glasses, which are common and wouldn't be useful for a modern-day cheater. Nowadays, professional cheats use luminescent inks which can be seen only when viewed through special lenses. It is my opinion that tournament referees would be well advised to obtain a pair of these special glasses, and use them to examine the tournament tiles from time to time to ensure no one is marking the tiles during game play. But for the cheater, since sunglasses indoors are just way too obvious, the lenses are typically worn as contact lenses. They are fairly dark lenses, so if worn in both eyes, the hustler would likely bumble around in dim-lit rooms as if he were partially blind, and if worn in only one eye, he may be caught winking a lot, or covering one eye frequently while looking at the tiles.

If you suspect this, at this point, you're clearly running with the wrong crowd, and really just need to find a better venue to enjoy the pleasures of mahjong.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2013, 08:09:00 pm by SDMiller »