Mah Jongg is not just a game. It has become a part of my life that allows me to entertain my Mah Jongg-playing friends, cook great meals to serve to them and test my mental skills during our game play (which, hopefully, is often).
But surely Fern was not calling me about her book…no, Fern was calling to ask if I would be a guest on her podcast, Mah Jongg Mondays. I was so honored to be asked! Fern has been doing these wonderful Mah Jongg-related podcasts for a while now with a new version airing each Monday. As Fern writes, “A podcast where we talk about all things mah jongg. Informative discussions and exciting guests help me create a fun and engaging podcast. Whether you are a new player or have been playing mah jongg for decades, this podcast has something for everyone. Bam! Crak! Dot! Let’s talk about mah jongg!”
So, I digress. As I said, Fern had called me and asked if I would like to be interviewed on her podcast. A date was set up for us to do the interview which would then be sent off to her producer for editing. Fern asked me to send her my bio and, at the same time, she sent me an outline of the interview. I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciated her professionalism.
At exactly the time on the date we were scheduled for the interview, my phone rang and it was Fern. The interview followed the outline and there were no surprises. Fern is a skilled interviewer and I enjoyed the entire process. And so, I hope you will listen to and enjoy Fern interviewing me on this podcast called – what else?!! – Mah Jongg and Me
P.S. Take a look at these Flowers…don’t be fooled into thinking they are Winds! Even though they have NEWS on them they are definitely the Flowers from this set! I talk about these beautiful Pung Chow tiles on the podcast!
I was just looking through my files and found this very interesting (at least it is to me!) article about the history of Jokers in Mah Jongg. People are always asking if I can tell how old their set might be. When asked this question the first thing I want to know is if your set has “natural Jokers.” Of course, that is not the only determiner of the age of a set – and, as you will read in this article, it is not always accurate – but it is a good place to start.
Unfortunately, I have no idea who wrote the following article or where it was published. If anyone knows, please email me so that I can give it the appropriate credit. In the meantime, enjoy this article on the history of Jokers.
“Before 1961, there were no Jokers. Flowers were wild, and the number of Flowers fluctuated between 8 and 24. Joker tiles were introduced into the American game in 1961. The number of Flowers and Jokers fluctuated for several years, finally stabilizing at 8F/8J ten years later, in the 1971-72 card.
The NMJL varied the number of Flowers and Jokers for several decades early in the league’s history. People had to cobble together sets to make the number of Flowers required.
In the 1920’s, the standard Mah Jongg set came with 8 Flowers and 0 Jokers (8F/0J). From the founding of the National Mah Jongg League in 1937, the NMJL treated Flowers as Jokers (wild Flowers). Beginning with the 1943 card, more Flowers were added to increase the luck ratio and to allow for more challenging hands.
Some, but certainly not all, American Mah Jongg sets came with Jokers before the NMJL first started requiring them in 1960-61. The number of Flowers and Jokers in a set isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator of the exact date of manufacture of an American set, but an understanding of the NMJL’s fluctuating use of Flowers and Jokers does give some clues.
If you have a set with only 2 natural jokers but 14 Flowers, it was probably made in America in the early 1960’s. Domestic set manufacturing began in the1920s and continued into the 1960s. At some point, though, cheaper Chinese imports caused all the American manufacturers to go out of business. Those Chinese companies aren’t always sure what the NMJL requires, so Chinese sets made today often come with extra Flowers and jokers (more than 8F/8J).”
I 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 previousblog 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!
Nothing like hosting a brunch and lots of Mah Jongg in the morning. What could be a better way to start the day? And what better way to end the day with this self-picked and really fun Mah Jongg hand of FFFF DDDDDDDDDD.
I was so lucky to pick those three Jokers because no one was discarding Flowers!
Even more terrifying than the mysterious disappearance of the hotel guests is that every single one of the hands in the mahjong game is a dead hand! Ahhhh!
Well, that was true when that top photo was taken, but Disney tour guides now claim that the hands have been reshaped by “professional” mahjong players to be an accurate portrayal of a mahjong game in mid-play, and should the mysterious guests ever return, they could pick up where they left off.
All your hands belong to us.
With the joker tiles on the table, and flower tiles being held in the concealed hand, they could only have been playing National Mah-Jongg League rules. Assuming the dice indicate East and counting the melded pung of 3-dots she has on the table, East holds fourteen tiles and is waiting to discard. All this is acceptable, but not even the NMJL rules can account for the bizarrely melded pair of Souths and melded pair of red dragons on the near edge of the table. Is she playing with eighteen tiles in the hand and melding pairs? Ignoring the similarly unexlicable melds for the rest of the players, South at least currently holds the proper number of thirteen tiles in the hand, but West still has only twelve tiles, and North has only nine! The horror!
Sometimes I am a bit late in checking my mail…I finally got around to picking up the past week’s mail late on Sunday evening…imagine my surprise to find an envelope from Meredith, one of my star students.I couldn’t wait to get upstairs to open it up and WOW, was I ever surprised to find the most fabulous eyeglass case that she had stitched for me. It is SO FABULOUS and I am SO THRILLED to have it…not to mention how impressed I am by her beautiful handwork. Her stitches are PERFECT!
Here is the front (and could those images be of my beloved Pung Chow Flowers? – Meredith is amazing!):
And the back:And even the lining is fabulous:I’m still trying to find the right words of thanks to give to Meredith – this is a gift I will not only use every single day but I will treasure it always.
Monday I went out to lunch with a friend and couldn’t stop bragging about this fabulous eyeglass case – my friend loved it and couldn’t get over the beautiful and perfect stitching. Thank you, Meredith!!!