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A Korean-Japanese player I occasionally play Mahjong with insists that it's okay for the next player to take a tile from the wall and contemplate it while the previous player hasn't yet discarded. She keeps pushing players to do so to move the game along speedily. That obviously clashes with chī and pong calls sometimes, at which point she simply "rolls back time" to accommodate that.

Is this practice actually officially allowed or encouraged, in any of the Mahjong cultures?

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As far as I know this is merely a "common bad habit". I vaguely recall at least the European ruleset to state that this practice is not allowed in tournament play - it does give the hasty player an unfair advantage in cases of tile calls after all. –  mafutrct Feb 6 '12 at 12:30

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Tom Sloper, an apparently very experienced American player, writes about etiquette. It turns out that "One person's bad etiquette is another person's official rule" - so you have to adapt. There is a huge difference between tournament play and casual games with friends. Also, you need to consider house rules. In the end, there is a definite answer to your question in the rule book, but its usage in practice depends on the circumstances.

DISCARDING AHEAD -- When I play with my Japanese friends, they yell at me if I claim a discard and then make the exposure before discarding (nobody can play until I discard, and they want to PLAY!). But when I play with my American friends, they call me dead if I discard before making the exposure. One person's bad etiquette is another person's official rule! Why it's a bad habit -- Do it with players who strictly follow the rules (like in a tournament) and you'll be called dead.

PICKING AHEAD -- Many American players think "picking ahead" (AKA "playing with a future") is the correct way to play. But when these players come to a tournament... watch out! Old habits die hard. And picking ahead is the surest way I know to get called dead in a tournament. In case anybody's been living in a cave, picking ahead is a no-no. That other mah-jongg association (I'm not naming names, but their initials are NMJL) HATES picking ahead! Read their rulebook and yearly bulletin sometime if you don't believe me. Why it's a bad habit -- (1) It causes too many conflicts when someone wants to claim a discard. You might think that it makes the game go faster, but it really doesn't. (2) Do it in a tournament and you'll be called dead.

He adds a few more points to consider (including "avoid making everyone wait"), it's a very interesting read.

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Very nice, thank you. So there's even a name for it... :D –  deceze Feb 8 '12 at 13:02

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