screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-2-36-50-pmI recently received a question from our dear friend Joy H regarding Atomic hands in a Mah Jongg game. For those of you who do not know about Atomic Mah Jongg, I wrote about it several years ago in a previous blog posting. Since that posting the OM’s (my Wednesday Mah Jongg group) have amended the rules to say no Flowers as well as no Jokers are allowed. Here is Joy’s question:

Hi Ann – Our group has started playing Atomic hands when possible and now we are wondering if you could answer a couple of questions.

I read your posts about going ‘Atomic’ and understand that since it is not recognized by the NMJL, table rules must therefore be applied.  We would like to follow your table rules, although we don’t play for money.

 I’m assuming that your group declares when one is going ‘Atomic’, due to the fact that there is no line on the card.  Is that correct?

 Also why does your group follow a rule that if you pick a Flower or Joker you must change your hand?  

 I can’t understand this one but another in our group does not think 4 of a kind makes two pair, so I’m also assuming that is another table rule you have implemented.

 So many questions… so many rules ….. so much FUN!

 Think of you often, my friend,



My response to Joy was as follows: 

Flowers and Jokers disqualify your hand for Atomic simply because there are so many of each and it is too easy to get pairs of them. That would give Atomic hands an unfair advantage so we say that if you pick a Flower or Joker then you are no longer Atomic (and hopefully you have a backup hand). This is not just a table rule for our group – this seems to be the standard accepted rule for Atomic hands. Also, you must declare yourself Atomic BEFORE the Charleston so that no one is allowed to pass you a Flower. And yes, with an Atomic hand, 4 of a kind is considered two pairs. Having said all of this I must also tell you that I do not “approve” of Atomic game play. It changes the nature of the game and I totally understand why it is not sanctioned by the NMJL. I only mention it briefly when teaching Mah Jongg and make it clear that I don’t like it. I personally do not play Atomic hands – I prefer to stay with the NMJL accepted hands on the card…but, that’s me. I would love to hear your thoughts on this game-changing hand. Let me know what you think! 


  1. Mah Jongg and Me Post author

    I first was introduced to Atomic a few years ago in Florida. I rarely tried for the hand only because it seemed a bit alien to me and not within the NMJL rules. However as I played with this group, I started also to play the hand. I brought it back to VT with me and we started to play with it as well, but only when we played 13 tiles. We would play it as follows: You MUST declare you are atomic prior to your first right pass. You turn your mahj card over so that you can’t look at any other hands. You cannot have any jokers or flowers in your hand when you declare. No other player is allowed to pass you a pair during the charleston. However, you can be passed a flower, but you must pass it on. IF you pick a flower or a joker, you are off atomic. My suggestion is that you try to set up your pairs so when you do (because we know how often that happens) pick a flower or a joker, you have something of another hand to convert over to. We play the hand for .50. No, it is not NMJL rules, it is a table rule.


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