Tag Archives: mah jongg madness


No real food in this posting…just something to think about…

I’m thinking about East as the dealer. That’s the title she (or he!) has won by throwing the highest number on the dice. It’s true that she also has won an advantage by becoming East because she starts with 14 tiles when everyone else just has 13. But what else is her role? Although there is no official rule on this – and your table rules may dictate otherwise – I live by the rule that no one should be dealing out the tiles except for East because she is THE DEALER. I am of the school that I don’t want anyone else to touch the tiles until they are all dealt out. Interestingly enough, the wonderful Gladys  Grad, the Grand Master of American-Style Mah Jongg Tournaments wrote about this in her Mah Jongg Madness March 2019 newsletter:

Q.  In the old days, we thought nothing of exchanging a tile for a Joker from our friends’ racks.  Now, every time you go to a game, someone tells you not to touch their tiles; don’t deal them for me; don’t exchange for my Joker; don’t touch my wall, don’t, don’t, don’t. Barbara CA

A.  This isn’t something new…it’s been going on for a long time.  Bingo players don’t want you to touch their cards or their daubers; domino players don’t want you to straighten their double 6’s; and you wouldn’t think of touching your poker buddies’ cards.  It might have something to do with superstition….but there have also been some mistakes when players exchange for a Joker in exposures….like replacing a 1Bam for a Flower, or a West for a North.  Please don’t take it personally.

When I teach Mah Jongg I tell the beginning students that no one should ever touch anyone else’s tiles or racks. When you want to exchange a tile for a Joker you extend the tile out to the player with the Joker and politely ask for her Joker. You do not take it off her rack yourself.

Why do I teach this way and why am I so adamant about this rule? As it was explained to me, all of this prevents any hint of cheating. I’m not sure that I think too much about that aspect because I would never play with anyone who is suspected of cheating. I think I am just superstitious about this!  So, don’t touch my tiles and I won’t touch yours!

Let me know if you agree.


It’s been a while since I posted the Q&A from our dear friend Gladys Grad’s Mah Jongg Madness newsletter. Here are some questions (and answers from Gladys), which are frequently asked by Mah Jongg students and experienced players alike.screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-11-42-05-amscreen-shot-2016-11-17-at-11-42-35-am



IMG_1029Here’s another Q&A from the wonderful Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American Style Mah Jongg, and the brains behind the website, MahJonggMadness.

Q. I played with new people yesterday at the community club house.  When they put up their exposures, they didn’t separate them, even when I asked them to.  I never played that way.  They said that’s how it’s done, and that’s how they do it!  They gave me the impression that if I didn’t like it – too bad. Mary M, FL

A.  Nice, huh?  That’s a rather clear (if bloodthirsty) way of telling you “it’s their way-or-the-highway.” By “packing the exposures” it’s a strategy to throw other players off.  Some will also put their jokers at the end of the individual exposure, so you won’t know which exposure it belongs to.  Nasty way of not giving you a “clue” about what they’re playing. We won’t condone this in tournament play….and I can almost guaranty that the NMJL won’t either.  Find a more sporting game.

I agree with Gladys although sometimes you have to decided if leaving your group is going to be worth it. Can you find another group? Can you just somehow ignore the problems that certain people cause? It may not always be so easy to find a new group.

When I am teaching Mah Jongg, I always instruct my students to a) put the Jokers in the middle of the exposure on their racks and b) separate out the exposures, including when you call for Mah Jongg. The above photo is from a hand by one of my beginning students who completely understands where to place her Jokers and how to display her winning Mah Jongg. I try to instill within my students the fact that Mah Jongg is a friendly game (at least it is under my roof!) and that the most important part of playing is to have fun! Do you agree?


Wonderful Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American Style Mah Jongg, and the brains behind the website, MahJonggMadness, came up with a terrific Q&A this month. I’m guessing that we all have played with people who fit the following descriptions…I’m afraid I could fit some of these descriptions myself from time to time…!

Q. Do you play with them?

     1) “Mine’s better than Yours.”  Even though you made the Mah Jongg, her hand was better….and just to prove it, she’s going to describe every tile she had in her hand, and dissect every move she made.

     2) “The Joker Whisperer.”  With one or two exceptions, she exchanges every Joker from the existing exposures.

     3) “Show me the Joker.”  Every time she picks a Joker, she just has to show it.  S/he alternates between this and when s/he shows you your Mah Jongg tile – that she just picked; and then buries it in her rack.

     4) “I Can’t Pick a Tile!” After every pick. Alternates between this and “I Can’t Pick a Joker!”

     5) “With my luck, I’ll never make this hand.”  Oh, sure.


The wonderful Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American-Style Mah Jongg Tournaments, has told us about something very exciting in the May, 2015 issue of her terrific newsletter, Mah Jongg Madness. Thanks to Gladys, there is now a way to play our beloved game with only two people. Read on…


Sometimes something comes along that you just have to share

             TWO HANDED


The following is Gladys’ explanation of how to play with two people:


    When I taught this version of TWO-HANDED MAH JONGG to a group of 8 players last week, they liked it so much that they gave up playing their regular group games, and split into four groups of two.

   There is absolutely no reason to have to play a drawn-out or less thought-provoking game with only two players.

     You will love this simple yet challenging method of playing Mah Jongg. It can be fast, stimulating, and fun, fun, fun.

  1. Two players face each other; and place 2 racks in front of each player.

  2. Build two (2) full walls of tiles, 19 stacks long, parallel to each other.

  3. East throws the dice to break the first wall arbitrarily.

  4. 28 Tiles for East, 27 Tiles for opposite player: Each player deals themselves four (4) tiles from the two (2) walls in front of East, until East has taken the last 4 which would give her/him 28 tiles. Player opposite then takes three (3) tiles, which gives him/her 27 tiles.

  5. Players may arrange their tiles on both their racks…as many as desired; and may exchange tiles back and forth between their racks. It does not matter how many tiles are on each rack at any one time. (see Item 8).

  6. East discards the 28th tile to begin the game; picking and discarding proceeds.

  7. Even though the tiles are interchangeable on the racks, players must be cautious to NOT put their exposures on the wrong Rack. A player’s hand should be declared “dead” if the exposures do not match a hand on the NMJL card. The player may continue playing to try to build a 2nd Mah Jongg on the 2nd rack. If player is declared “dead” for two hands, the game ceases, and “dead” player pays opponent 4 times the value of opponent’s existing Mah Jongg, or 4 times the lowest value on the card – whichever is relevant.

  8. Once a Mah Jongg is declared by a player, that rack with the Mahj must hold only 14 tiles.

  9. NOTE: There is no benefit to concealing the fact that you have a Mah Jongg.

  10. You may exchange your own Jokers from your own exposures; but you can NOT exchange a Joker from any existing exposed Mah Jongg hand.


  12. SCORING AND PAYOUTS: Payments are made at the END of the game.


     – The 1st Mah Jongg by a player receives the value on the card, regardless if it is self picked .. but if it JOKERLESS, the value is doubled.

         Sometimes, if both players have the same score for their 1st Mah Jonggs, e.g., a 25 point hand – then the payment might be a “wash.”

     –  If a player declares and wins with two (2) Mah Jnggs, the payout for the 2nd Mah Jongg is doubled, regardless if it is self-picked.  Payout is doubled again if it is JOKERLESS (excluding singles and pairs).

              THE SET-UP AND DEAL




 ©Mah Jongg Madness® 2015 – Gladys Grad


Another interesting question and informative answer from

Gladys Grad‘s Mah Jongg Madness newsletter


Q. I have been playing for over 40 years and just love this game.  My friends are all experienced players and we live in Canada. This week during a game, I had one exposure and no other player was exposed.  The last tile from the wall was picked by a player opposite of me and she put it in her rack.  She then took a tile from her rack,  discarded it , but did not name it.  I was just about to say mah jongg when she picked it up from the table and put it back in her rack, and replaced it with another tile.  The fact that she did not say what the tile was, does this make this move okay?I think that she should not have taken the tile from the table because it was discarded  But she feels that because she did not name it, that it was okay.  Was it okay? Sheila

A. Your opponent did you wrong.  First, once a tile has been placed on the table – or named….it is considered discarded.  No-take-backs.  The National Mah Jongg League says “Down-is-Down.”  Further, once Mah Jongg has been declared…that ends the game.  It doesn’t matter that this was the last tile.  Would she expect to retrieve a tile she threw to someone in the middle of a game, so it wouldn’t give her opponent mahj?