Four or so weeks ago, I was invited to pass the afternoon with several ladies that play Mahjong. As I had nothing to do I said “yes” and now I hooked. Mahjong is a game for 4 people that orginated in ancient China. It is a game of skill, strategy, calculation and chance. In Asia it is a very popular gambling game. When I started 4 weeks ago it was with several other beginners. The instructor had learned to play over 30 years ago and has a beautiful traditional chinese poceilin and bamboo set of tiles. As beginners, we did not keep score and played a very basic/simple or ordinary mahjong hands. Mahjong is similiar to cards in that you have a hand of 13 tiles and you make runs (a chow), or 3-of-kind (a pung), or 4-of kind (a kong). There are 3 suits (charactors, circles, and bamboo) and then honors (winds [east, south, west, north] and dragons [red. white, green]). You draw and discard and reveal your tiles when you have the 14 tile hand completed. Now summer holiday is over and we are playing more seriously. The rules were tighten this week. There were no open hands, all hands had to be concealed or kept hidden from other players and no on one could play an Ordinary Mahjong. I have an 11 page handout of Special Hands (a bit overwhelming) and thus, as a beginner, after drawing my tiles I tried to pick a hand and play for game. I was successful once out of four games. I completed a Big Robert which is a pair of winds and 3 runs of tiles, one in each suit. I tried 3 other hands including Gerties Garter which is a run 1-7 in one suit, and second run of 1-7 in another suit. I missed by one tile – I was “fishing” for the last needed tile. I tried a Hovering Angel which is a pung (3 tiles) of my own wind (I was South wind) a pair of dragons and a chow in each suit. I missed that hand by 2 tiles. Lastly I tried the Wriggely Snake which is one of each wind and a run 1-9 with any tile paired). So see, I am learning a new language (of Mahjong). Yes, I am hooked. The afternoon flys by, especially when you are trying to obtain game against others that have played for 20-30 years.
Mahjong – getting ready to Twitter the tiles. When the game is over one returns all the tiles to the center of the table, turn them face down and mix them up (twitter) prior to building 4 walls of 18 tiles stacked 2 high.