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I am humbled and completely speechless by this review by Tom Sloper on www.sloperama.com. Tom was so generous and kind to agree to write a chapter in the book for us and, along with Michael Stanwick and our other experts, provided amazing gravitas, accuracy, and credibility to Mah Jongg – The Art of the Game.


By Tom Sloper (湯姆 斯洛珀)
November 2, The Year Of The Horse 馬 

Column #622

A beautiful new book is coming this month: “Mah Jongg, The Art Of The Game,” by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain. The book gives a rare accurate accounting of the history of mah-jongg (thanks to Michael Stanwick and yours truly), and some gorgeous photographs of exquisite collectible mah-jongg sets, taken by Michel Arnaud.

Renowned mah-jongg historian and scholar Michael Stanwick wrote the text for the first chapter, “A Brief History of Mah Jongg.” I wrote the text for the second chapter, “Mr. Babcock Invents Mah-Jongg™.” I put together facts from an interview with Lisa Lethin (the granddaughter of Babcock’s partner, Anton Lethin) on mahjongmuseum.nl, and facts from Philip Orbanes’ book on the history of board games company Parker Brothers (“The Game Makers”), Milton C. Work’s 1924 book “Mah-Jongg Up-To-Date,” and even patent filings from the nineteen twenties. My chapter thus puts the Babcock story together in a more complete way than has ever been seen in print before. 

But enough about me, and my small part of the book. The photos are simply stunning. The authors contacted numerous collectors and obtained photos of some beautiful sets and amazing rare sets, including some historically significant sets that Michael Stanwick has described in his excellent scholarly pieces in the journal of the International Playing Card Society, “The Playing Card.” There are also photos from the early days of mah-jongg. History and stories and spectacular imagery – what more could you want?

The book is hardcover, 8.5″x8.5″ (or if you prefer, 215x215mm). It’s published by Tuttle Publishing, ISBN: 9784805313237. It’s slated to be released on November 18 – just in time for Christmas! It would be a great gift for a mah-jongg enthusiast or collector.



As the OMs get to the very last wall and the remaining tiles of the game – our
“Hot Wall” –  we recite the following mantra (created by X):  “Hot wall, hot wall, not that it means anything…” I always thought there were certain rules you were supposed to follow when the “hot wall” goes out in but in our table rules the OMs just treat it as a signal that the game will be over when the last tile from this wall is discarded. And so, I was surprised to read the following question and answer from Gladys Grad’s monthly column and particularly this sentence:

  The NMJL and  Standardized Official Tournament Rules do NOT use a hot wall or a cold wall.


“Hot Wall” photo courtesy of Tom Sloper and sloperama.com Continue reading



The other day I posted information about a Mah Jongg teacher extraordinaire for people living on the East Coast – Linda Feinstein was my teacher and any skill I have in the game is a direct result of her great teaching skills. Here’s Linda:


But what about those people on the West Coast – don’t they deserve a great teacher too? Well, today many people in and around the Bay Area in California will be very happy – meet Toby Salk, once a corporate executive and now THE Mah Jongg teacher to know on the Left Coast. Here’s Toby:


Toby’s website, Mah Jongg for Everyone (I love that name!) lists her complete schedule of classes and events (along with a calendar showing the class dates), a listing of her services, and testimonials from her very happy clients.

Now that I have brought joy to future Mah Jongg experts living in New York and the Bay Area, how about some other referrals telling us about your Mah Jongg teachers? I know they are out there, all over the country, and I would love to profile them in this blog…send in their names and bios and I will write about them in future postings.