Hi all – and Happy New Year!!!
Believe it or not, it is time to place your order for your 2020 National Mah Jongg League card. Remember, the earlier you place your order, the sooner you will get your card when the mailings begin in late March/early April.
If you have followed my previous advice, you have saved your membership number (or look on the label of the NMJL newsletter that you recently received). Then, with membership number in hand, go to www.nationalmahjonggleague.org and click on the gray box that tells you to order your 2020 rule cards. It’s that easy! And, if you can’t find your membership number, not to worry! You can still buy your cards – it just is quicker and easier if you know your membership number. So, don’t delay – order your card right now!
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 know a player who, when she wants to exchange a tile for a Joker on someone else’s rack, she just sticks out her hand with the Joker and doesn’t say a word. She expects that the person with the Joker will know exactly what she wants and usually it works out that way. But I find it a bit rude and I personally do like to say something along the lines of, “may I have your Joker please?”
Also, when this same person wants to claim a discard and it is her turn to pick, she doesn’t say anything…she just picks it up. That used to be okay – albeit a little strange – but ever since last year’s card, the rule has changed so that now you must verbally make a claim.
Q. When we play in our home game, we just place our tile on our opponent’s rack, and exchange for their Joker. Or we put it on the table directly in front of them. We’re smart. We can figure out what they want. It’s the same with the new rule from the NMJL; why do I have to say “take,” when I want their discard if I am next in line for my turn. I don’t have to say “take” when it’s my turn to pick from the wall. Isn’t this the same thing? Isn’t this a bit much? Marlene
The wonderful Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American Style Mah Jongg, offers a Q&A in her monthly newsletter. This month there were a number of very interesting questions. Here are a couple of them with more to follow in a day or two. I’d love to hear your comments!
Q. Someone who winters in Arizona said that the white dragon should be called “white” during play. She got this instruction from a person who runs tournaments in Arizona. Is this now correct for all tournaments?
A. We call the white dragon “Soap.” The NMJL has called it “soap” for many decades. It’s common in Canada to name it “white.” Either name is acceptable in most tournaments. However, if a tournament Host states they want it named “white,” then you should abide by the Host’s rules.
Q. I don’t want to build walls, and I don’t want to throw the dice to break the walls. Too many additional things we have to do. Why?
A. We just love these kinds of questions. How about like what Mom used to say, “Because I said so.” In this case….’because the NMJL said so.’ It’s the rule. However, here is a wonderful response…on Facebook, “This is a game of ceremony, rules and etiquette. Building the wall is part of the ceremony. I cannot imagine forgoing this in the traditional four person game.” Moreover, breaking the wall arbitrarily by the throw of the dice is a method to prevent stacking East’s wall with Jokers; to prevent cheating. This process is used throughout the Mah Jongg playing world.
Does your group build walls and throw the dice to know where to break the wall? I recently played with a woman whose group always breaks the wall at 8. They never throw the dice. I personally like the rituals and ceremonies of the game and would not want to give up any of them. Also, as Gladys pointed out, throwing the dice to determine where to break the wall is a definite method to prevent any cheating. Let me know your thoughts…