American mahjong

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Mahjong tiles with Latin letters and Arabic numerals added for an American audience

American mahjong, also spelled mah jongg, is a variant of the Chinese game mahjong. American mahjong utilizes racks to hold each player's tiles, jokers, and "Hands and Rules" score cards. It has several distinct gameplay mechanics such as "The Charleston",[1] which is a set of required passes, and optional passing of the tiles.

American mahjong is played with four players using mah jongg tiles. The goal of the game is to be the first, by picking and discarding, to match one's tiles to a specific hand from the annually distributed scorecard published by the National Mah Jongg League (NMJL) and American Mah-Jongg Association (AMJA).[2] Scoring is done by matching the points assigned to each pre-determined hand on the annually distributed NMJL card & AMJA card.

History[edit]

Joseph Park Babcock, a representative of the Standard Oil Company in Shanghai, was importing mahjong sets to the United States in great numbers by 1923. To increase interest in the game, which was sometimes impenetrable to Westerners, he rewrote and published new, simpler rules that became the American standard. When the National Mah Jongg League, Inc. published a volume of "Official American Rules" in 1935, the American style further morphed into a very distinct form.[3]

American mah jongg tournament standards and rules were established in 1986, when the National Mah Jongg League and Mah Jongg Madness jointly conducted their first annual Mah Jongg Tournament at Sea. This tradition of championship tournaments at sea continued for over 34 years. Now there are American mah jongg tournaments conducted throughout the United States, and consist of players from America and Canada. Mah Jongg Madness conducts more than a dozen tournaments a year and an annual NMJL cruise culminates in the National Mah Jongg Convention in Las Vegas every March.

Tournaments are now played according to the Standardized National Mah Jongg Tournament Rules, which were codified and published in 2005.[4] In 2011, Mah Jongg Master Points (MJMP) were established to post an individual's tournament scores. The MJMP website formulates the scores (awarding bonus points to the top 10 winners of an event), and ranking the individual players. There are 10 ranks for players, based on the accumulation of these points.[5]

Using tiles[edit]

A set of American mahjong tiles

The total number of mahjong tiles in the American mahjong is 152, as shown below.

Dots[edit]

From one dot to nine dots, four tiles of each type, 36 tiles in total.

one dotstwo dotsthree dotsfour dotsfive dotssix dotsseven dotseight dotsnine dots

For the convenience of American players, Arabic numbers are usually written on the tiles, stating how many dots it is.

Bamboos (bams)[edit]

From one bamboo to nine bamboos, four tiles of each type, 36 tiles in total.

one bambootwo bamboosthree bamboosfour bamboosfive bamboossix bamboosseven bambooseight bamboosnine bamboos

The one bamboo also known as the bird.

For the convenience of American players, Arabic numbers are usually written on the tiles, stating how many bamboos it is.

Characters (craks)[edit]

From one crak to nine craks, four tiles of each type, 36 tiles in total.

one craktwo craksthree craksfour craksfive crakssix craksseven crakseight craksnine craks

For the convenience of American players, Arabic numbers are usually written on the tiles, stating how many craks it is.

Winds[edit]

The four types of winds are: East, South, West and North, four tiles of each type, 16 tiles in total.

EastSouthWestNorth

For the convenience of American players, letters "E" (for East East), "S" (for South South), "W" (for West West) and "N" (for North North) are usually written on the tiles, stating which wind it is.

Dragons[edit]

The three types of dragons are: Red dragon, Green dragon, and White dragon (also known as soap), four tiles of each type, 12 tiles in total. Among them, the red dragon is even used to replace the red "中", and the green dragon is even used to replace the green "發", avoiding the use of Chinese characters.

Red dragonGreen dragonWhite dragon or Red dragonGreen dragonWhite dragon

For the convenience of American players, English words "Red", "Green" and "White" are usually written on the tiles, stating which dragon it is. Besides, some will say letter "C" (for "中" in Cantonese Romanisation), "F" (for "發" in Cantonese Romanisation), "P" or "B" (for "白" in Cantonese Romanisation).

Flowers[edit]

In the demonstration of NMJL, the two groups of flowers are "Spring(春), Summer(夏), Autumn(秋), Winter(冬)" and "Fortunate(福), Luxurious(祿), Longevity(壽), Noble(貴)".

However, the two groups of normal flowers commonly found in mahjong tiles, i.e. "Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter" and "Plum blossom(梅), Orchid(蘭), Chrysanthemum(菊), Bamboo(竹)" can also be used. [6]

Each flower associated with an Arabic number and a specific direction, as below:

Flowers
No Image Name Character Direction
1 Plum blossom Plum blossom East
2 Orchid Orchid South
3 Chrysanthemum Chrysanthemum West
4 Bamboo Bamboo North
Seasons
No Image Name Character Direction
1 Spring Spring East
2 Summer Summer South
3 Autumn Autumn West
4 Winter Winter North
Two patterns of American Mahjong flowers, the upper one is "Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter; Plum blossom, Orchid, Chrysanthemum, Bamboo" and the lower one is "Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter; Fortunate, Luxurious, Longevity, Noble".

For the convenience of American players, English words "Spring", "Summer", "Autumn", "Winter" and "Plum.B", "Orchid", "Chrys", "Bamboo" are usually written on the tiles, stating which flower it is. Besides, some will say Arabic numbers 1 to 4.

Jokers[edit]

American Mahjong also has 8 Joker tiles, they are all-purpose tiles.

Joker

Examples[edit]

There are a number of regional designs for mahjong tiles from different regions. Here are some examples.

Rules[edit]

The hands are usually placed on the rack, and the cards called and shown must be placed on top of the rack.

Compositions of tiles[edit]

The compositions of tiles are: single, pair, pong, kong, quint, and sextet.

There is no chow. At the same time, the traditional composition winning hands (four compositions and one pair) is not present in the American mahjong.

Joker tiles[edit]

Joker tiles cannot be passed to the other player when charleston (exchanging tiles). When 3 Joker tiles goes together, they can be a composition.

Game processing[edit]

There is no difference between the banker and the player in the calculation of the score, there is no mechanism of consecutive banker, all we need is just deciding who will be the East player. Each player then stacks a row of 19 tiles, two tiles high in front of them (for a total of 38 tiles). Then the East player will decide the opening position with two dice, and each person will take 13 tiles in hand (14 tiles for the East player). After the tiles in hand have been sorted, charleston -- exchange 3 tiles with other players -- will be conducted. It takes three stages, usually twice, the second time in reverse order.

  1. Give 3 of your unwanted tiles to your bottom player, then get 3 tiles from your top player.
  2. Give 3 of your unwanted tiles to your opponent player, then get 3 tiles from your opponent player.
  3. Give 3 of your unwanted tiles to your top player, then get 3 tiles from your bottom player.

After charleston, you can negotiate another exchange with your opponent (up to 3 tiles).

When the game proceeds until all the tiles are taken from the walls of tiles or a player calling Mahjong or self-draws.

Scoring method[edit]

NMJL publishes an official rulebook every year, and the winning hands will change every year.

The minimum score for a winning hand is 25 points. In the case of calling Mahjong (winning), the player who discarding a tile from which another player calls mahjong must pay twice the number of points, while the other player pays only the number of points. In a self-draw, the other three players pay twice as the points.

References[edit]

  1. ^ How to Play American Mahjong
  2. ^ Sandberg, Elaine (2010), Mah Jongg for Fun (1st ed.), Yellow Mountain Imports, p. 4
  3. ^ The History of Mahjong Archived August 15, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Standardized National Mah Jongg Tournament Rules
  5. ^ Mah Jongg Master Points
  6. ^ Flowers (Tiles) From Mahjong Wiki

Links[edit]