Tag Archives: nmjl

WE LOVE SIAMESE MAH JONGG…AND GLADYS GRAD!

So many of us are now playing Gladys Grad’s Siamese Mah Jongg that it really was only a matter of time before Gladys created a special card for the game. As Gladys says, “Siamese was originally created to be played with the NMJL card.” But, as more and more people became interested in this new version of the game, a new card needed to be designed “specifically for the new strategies and excitement of Siamese Mah Jongg…with extra challenges included for 3 & 4-handed Royale Siamese.”

So, leave it to Gladys to create this card and make it available at a very inexpensive price to add to our Mah Jongg pleasure. The card is the same format that we are used to with rules and how-to play on the back of the triptych card. Once again, Gladys rules! Order some cards for your group and get into the newest form of Mah Jongg that we are all playing and loving!

WHEN DID JOKERS START TO APPEAR IN OUR MAH JONGG SETS?

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.

1937-1942 8F
1943 12F
1944-45 14F
1946 16F
1947-48 18F
1949 20F
1950-55 24F
1956-57 22F
1958-60 20F
1960-62 14F/2J
1962-66 12F/4J
1966-67 8F/6J
1967-68 10F/6J
1968-71 6F/8J
1971-Present 8F/8J

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 LIKE A POLITE AND FRIENDLY GAME…

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. 

Interestingly enough, the wonderful Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American-Style Mah Jongg, just wrote about these very subjects:

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

Continue reading

EVERYWHERE…

Perhaps the Mah Jongg craze sometimes goes a bit too far…my wonderful friend Charlotte sent the following photo to me from the June issue of Hamptons MagazineJoanna mahjong set, Ralph Lauren ($4,495). 31–33 Main St., East Hampton, 631-324-1222; 41 Jobs Lane, Southampton, 631-287-6953. Bellamy clover tall vase ($350) and clamshell bowl ($345), AERIN. 83 Main St., Southampton, 631-353-3773

Continue reading

DID YOU KNOW?

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…

A SHOUT OUT FOR HELP!

Quite a while ago I posted a shout-out for help for Babs, a good friend of this blog. You can read the original post at the bottom of this message. Babs has now sent an update and we are appealing to you for help. Here is what she wrote:

Hi Ann! It’s me again! I am just checking in with your readers one more time. I have almost accumulated all the images of the NMJL cards. I am still missing 1946, and pre-1940 cards. I have managed through the generosity of fellow Mah Jongg players nationwide to find images of all the other years! Absolutely amazing! So, if you could post another plea for help I would be most appreciative. Someone must have a friend-of-a-friend with one tucked away somewhere! Feel free to share my email with anyone who can help! Thanks so much! Babs 

If you can help – and I hope you will! – please contact me and I will put you in touch with Babs. 

Here is the original posting: I received an email from Babs, a good friend of this blog. Babs is working on a very interesting and novel project. As she wrote,  “I am looking for older Mah Jongg cards. I am trying to make a complete image collection of all cards from the first year the NMJL made the card to the present. A big task, I know….do you or your “friends” have any  images of cards from the following years: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1993,  1992, 1979, 1978, 1977, 1975, 1974, 1972, 1971, 1970, 1969, 1967, 1966, 1962, and all earlier years. Hope you can help or point me to a friend that can…

I am not aware of anyone else who has tried to put this together. I think it would be fascinating to see all the different hand combinations since the early days of Mah Jongg. Yes, I did get a number of images off eBay, but they are not complete. Most are missing the rules page which tell you the number of Flowers/Jokers for the years, or the images are too blurry to see all the hands. I have googled umpteen hundred searches for every year from 1938 and on (searching: NMJL, Mah Jongg card, Mah Jongg rule, Mah Jongg hands) so far to try and complete this, but there are not enough images online to make complete renderings of all the years. I have managed to buy a lot of cards when they are reasonable in price…but some people are charging $40.00 or more dollars for a single card…ridiculous! Considering I have 78 years to find, that’s quite expensive. Any help is appreciated. I don’t care if they have 6 separate images for each card’s panel or have 2 images , one for each side. I am stitching together what I can….and if anyone wants to donate their cards in the years I noted, I am happy to provide an address to send it to….:)  My oldest card, that I own is 1944.  Let me tell you, there have been some crazy hands……….Thanks! Babs

So, if anyone has cards from the years that Babs has cited, please let me know and I will put you in touch with her. It would be such fun to see the finished product so let’s try to help her, even if we are just loaning her cards to use for the images.