The Mah Jongg Playing Card

The official Mah Jongg playing card is issued each year at the end of March or early April, soon after the Chinese New Year celebration! For 2023, the year of the Rabbit, players will need to purchase a current playing card. American Mah Jongg players look forward with much excitement and enthusiasm for the new playing card to arrive—as the card will be filled with unique hands to create and patterns to learn.

The background color on the front of the official National Mah Jongg League playing card alternates year to year from red to blue. All players in a game need to use the card of the same year when playing as a group. My group had a good laugh when we figured out our gal pal declared Mah Jongg on a former hand using an outdated card!!

The inside of the threefold Maj card has 9–10 categories with bold headings. The flip side panels of the card have condensed details of the most important rules of play. Many of the hands will be altered and the categories on the playing card can change from year to year. Some examples of categories include the following:
2022, 2468, Any Like Numbers, Quints, Consecutive Run, 13579, Winds & Dragons, 369, Singles & Pairs, Seven, Lucky 13 and Addition

Every line on the card is a hand or choice of two hands to be made with the tiles, and each Mah Jongg hand is comprised of 14 tiles. As written, the 2022 card has 66 hands from which to choose and over 900 variations of the hands can be created! Players will make choices of categories and hands based on the tiles they are dealt. The playing card is written in blue, red, and green ink colors, which can be the most confusing aspect of learning to decipher the hands. The color-coding indicates only how many suits are to be used but does not dictate which suit must be used. If the card had been written in random colors—silver, gold, and purple ink—reading and decoding the hands could be less baffling for many new players who associate the ink color with the suits or colors on the tiles themselves!

The parenthetical information following most of the hands gives specific instructions for that hand. Once you learn to interpret and understand the language on the card, or “Maj ease,” you will be able to play with ease and flexibility.

Many players use the year to attempt to keep track of making Mah Jongg on every hand on the card!

I have kept each of my cards from the year I began to play Mah Jongg in 2002. I find much joy in knowing I will leave a legacy by passing along my Mah Jongg playing cards and sets to my family! Now, I must entice them to learn to play this treasured game!

About Mah Jongg:
If you have wanted to learn how to play Mah Jongg, “The Game of a Thousand Intelligences,” this class is for you!

Mah Jongg, literally meaning "clattering sparrow," is an ancient Chinese tile game that originated during the Qing dynasty. Maj has similarities to the card game of Gin Rummy and tile game Rummy Q. The object of the game is to arrange a combination of tiles to construct a winning hand using the most contemporary playing card. Mah Jongg is a challenging, enjoyable game and a social experience for both individuals and couples.

Lessons will include:
~ learn to recognize and name the tiles
~ read and thoroughly understand the playing card
~ Choose a Section/Hand on the playing card
~ Set up and “deal” the tiles
~ Charleston Passing
~ Supervised play according to National Mah Jongg League rules—acquire basic strategies for gameplay
~  introduction to Maj play on both an APP and online version

Daron Barness:
Daron Barness is a certified Mah Jongg instructor who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. She earned a Masters in Education from UCLA. Daron has been playing Mah Jongg for 25 years and has been teaching American Mah Jongg for over 15 years. She has taught both beginner and intermediate Mah Jongg summer classes for the city of Scottsdale, as well as series of classes at Silverleaf Country Club, DC Ranch Club, Desert Camp Community Association, The Gainey Estate Club, and Phoenix Country Club. She teaches private Mah Jongg to individuals and groups.
~ May the Tiles Be Ever in Your Favor ~
Daron Barness