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Monday, May 23, 2016

Cry and You Buy - the Oral Tradition of NMJL Mahjongg

Mel Bochner, 2011

Recently, on the popular Facebook Page Mah Jongg, That's It!, rising mahjongg celebrity Barney Gallassio channeled his inner David Letterman and compiled a top ten list of things heard at a mahjongg game.  The thread garnered over 300 comments and what emerged was a compilation of utterances that were familiar to players all around the world.  Even more interesting, 98% of those utterances were kvetches.  

According to dictionary.com "kvetch" means complain.  Its derivation is from the high German "quetsch," meaning to press, squeeze, pinch or injure.  Hmmm...

Reading all the comments I channeled my inner Alan Lomax and developed a theory, as follows:  When mahjongg was brought over to the US in the late 20's it was a wealthy player's game.  As sets were mass produced, it trickled down to the masses.  The masses had difficult lives, and mahjongg provided a respite from that difficulty.  Why?  Because it provided an opportunity for kvetching - kvetching like you can't do about your life because nobody really cares.  But if you kvetch in a game everyone understands.  We all speak the same language.  We are a tribe.

So what I did was collect the comments and organize them chronologically. When new players are learning, they can refer to this list so that this integral part of the game carries over to new generations.   Enjoy it, and forgive me if your comment was omitted - they were still being added as of the time of this writing.

            
Choosing East:
Am I east again already?
Who’s east?
Weren’t you east last time?
Another double!
12 again?

After the deal:
No, one and three.
I needed these in the last hand!
Are there jokers in this set?
No jokers again!
Can we play atomic?
Can we play Chinese?
More crap.
Same old s—t
Oy, it’s that kind of night.
This isn’t a hand, it’s a foot.

 The Charleston
First Right:
Oy, I have to make a decision already.
I shouldn’t do this, but I’m forced to.
Too bad it’s not last year.
 You might like these tiles.
 First across:
You’re going to love this pass.
Don’t tell anybody I gave you this.
 First left:
 I have a pretty pass for you.
Is this the first or second left?
Go slow on your second.
Can I steal on this one?
No peeking!
Sorry, I’m stopping.
 Second left:
Wait on your second.  Oh, that was the second.
 I better break this up.
Somebody should have kept them all
There’s a whole hand going around.
Don’t tell my mother I gave you a pass like that.
This is a gorgeous pass I’m giving you.
This pass can change your life.
I’m giving you mahjongg.
Same stuff going around.
Must across:
Did we do a second left?
Where are we?
Is this a must?
I hate the must across.
Can I get my tile back?
You can thank me later.
 Last right:
 Last rites.  Thank goodness.
Happy birthday!
Merry Christmas!
Who passed these?
Stealing.

Option:
How many do you want?  I have 12.
Give me something good.
Gee, thanks a lot.
Not those three.
Pass me this one (pointing to space in rack)
Can we start over?
Just give me one, I don’t know where I’m going.
Just one.  I have two hands
I’ve seen these tiles before.
How did I get (14, 12) tiles?

Betting
Just bet on (name).  She’s hot tonight
I can’t find the bettor.
I got nothing.
Don’t look at me.
Pass me by, please.
This is embarrassing.
I don’t know.
Don’t ask me.

Starting game:
Who’s East?
Your turn to throw up
This is the worst hand.
This isn’t a hand, it’s a foot.

During game:
Whose turn is it?
Is it your (my) turn?
Are there jokers in this set?
May I have your joker?     
It’s always the one you throw away that comes in
Who has all the jokers?
You’re the joker queen tonight.
So that’s what jokers look like.
Woo-hoo, my first joker.
I think I have a partner.
Hold on a sec, I have to think.
Sorry.
Whose wall?
My wall?
I’m getting everyone’s tiles but my own.
I knew I should have gone the other way.
This hand isn’t on the card.
I’d sell my soul for a joker.
I’d kill for a North.
Stupid game.
Did I pick?
Count your tiles.
You’re dead.
I can’t believe I threw that!
When did that go out? 
Wait!  What did you throw?
Oy!
Call the 9 crak.  I don’t know why.
Here you go, vultures (showing jokers)
Time to go shopping (showing jokers)
Call the 9 bams.  Because I can.
Again with the 9 bams?  You called that last game.
Are you dead?
I can’t figure out what she’s playing.
Can I take your joker?
I needed that!
Exchanging.
That was my plan!
Your wall.
Please, someone call mahjongg and put me out of my misery.
Wait!  Never mind.
Take!
Sorry, I already racked.
Why do I play this game?
I hate this game.
I used to love this game.
This is a cruel game.
I really miss the (X) hand.
OMG, this hand is on last year’s card.
It’s just a game.
If I only called (X) I would have been set.
S—T!  Now I have to switch.
Decision time.
It’s the last wall and I just found a hand.
I’m sitting in the no-joker seat.
It isn’t the seat, it’s the tush.
I’m taking up bridge.
What a crappy hand!
Garbage!
What to do, what to do.
Do I pick from this end?
I could use those jokers.
I’m so far away, I could use a choo-choo train.
Flower?
How could you throw that?
Were you set?
I hate to do this, but I’m set.
I know I’m going to give somebody mahjongg.
If she can, I can.  Same.
You have balls.
That was brave.
The mahjongg gods have forsaken me.  I shouldn’t have thrown those jokers last game.
She can’t figure out what to do with all the jokers.
You can’t do that at a tournament.
Please somebody mahjongg.
I’m so confused.
I have no hand. Oh, wait.  Mahj!

Declaring mahjongg
That’s it!
Mahj!
Exchanging for mahjongg.
Very nice.
Oh, beautiful.
No one is happy for you.
Not again!  How many games did you win tonight?
Of course, look at all those jokers.
Oh, thank God.  I’m out of my misery.
Who has my tiles?
Why did you hold that tile?
I’m on FIRE today.
Wait!  What hand is that?
You won the poison pot.
But I’m set!
Again it happens!
If I knew I was going to get so many jokers I would have gone for a quint
I knew I should have stayed home.
Not my night.
And I gave up doing laundry for this.

 After game (autopsy)
Look at my hand, look how close I was.
Did you pick it yourself?
How much do we owe?
Did you need this tile?  I was holding it.
Who threw it?
You can’t win second.
What time is it?
How long are we playing?
Whose house are we playing at next week?
OK, one more game.
I can’t believe I’m almost pie


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Synopsis of the 2016 Card



Nothing says Spring like the arrival of the new card.  Yes, it's here.  It's been spotted in the northeast - Long Island, Queens, New Jersey and as far away as San Francisco.  Texas, Ohio, and Venice, FL.  If you haven't gotten yours today it will surely come soon.

So let's not waste time.  Those of you who have the card know what's inside.  For those who don't have it, here's a breakdown of what's new and what's not.  Copyright laws forbid a photographic representation, but if you use your imagination (or a few markers) you can figure it out.  So get out your 2015 card and follow along.

The categories remain the same, as do the number of hands in each category, except for like numbers. Some patterns have changed from pung, kong, pung, kong to pung, pung, kong, kong.  Some patterns have changed from pair, pung, kong, pung, pair to pair pair pung pung kong.
Got that?   You will.

2016 - 
Forget 2015!  Sixes now rule the roost!
The first hand changes - take out the EW and put in the 2016.  Add two flowers and you have the new hand.  Flip that around, so instead of  Norths and Souths with 2016 in the middle, use Easts and Wests with 2016 in the middle and you have the new second hand in the category.  Cute!
2015 with 1's and 5's is out.  2015 between two kongs of dragons is out as well.
Change the 15 at the end of four flowers, four twos, four soaps to 16 and you have the fourth hand in 2016 on the new card.  Change the pung of fives to a pung of sixes in the last (closed) hand and you have the new last closed hand in 2016.  To replace the lost dragon hand, a new third hand in the category is added:  A little tricky but interesting... pung of two's, pung of soaps, kong of one's, kong of sixes - any three suits.  Think about that one for a bit.

2468
Some tweaks to old friends.
Change the first hand to kong of flowers, pair of twos pair of fours, pung of sixes and pung of eights.
Second hand pattern changes to pung, pung, kong, kong.
Twos and eights with dragons is out, replaced instead by old favorite, kong of twos, pair of fours kong of sixes in one suit with two pairs of eights in the other two suits.  (Value 30)
2-4-4-6-8 hand remains.
Hand with pairs of fours and sixes in the middle is out, replaced by a new interesting hand, similar to the pair of eights hand - kong of twos, kong of fours, kong of sixes pair of eights - all one suit.
Closed hand replaced by:  Pair of flowers, pung of twos with pung matching dragons; pung of eights with pung matching dragons (any two suits), closed, value 30.

Like Numbers
The like numbers hand has gone back to four flowers with two kongs and a pair of like numbers.  A little easier hand to make, IMHO.  But added hand like numbers with dragons:  pair, pair, pung, pung, kong.  Closed!  30.

Eleven Hands
Seven has now become eleven.  No sixes in this batch.  It's 2+9, 8+3 and 7+4.

Quints
First hand gone.  Old favorite second hand remains.
New quint consecutive run, any three consecutive numbers:  Quint-kong-quint in 1 suit or 3.
Any wind, any dragon, any number is now kong of flowers, quint of wind, quint of number.
Last hand new - Two flowers, quint of ones, pair of sixes, quint of sevens.  One suit or three.

Consecutive run:
The classic first hand is now pair, pair, pung, pung, kong.
Flowers 1-2-3 is gone.  After a good, long run, 1-2 dragon is gone!  Will miss that one.
The "knitted" hand with middle number matching dragon is now pung, kong, pung, kong.
1-2-3-4 is now pung, pung, kong, kong.
Replacing Flowers 1-2-3 is....the "sandwich" hand.  Consecutive numbers, kong-pair/pair/pair-kong
Replacing 1-2 dragon is...one-two/one-two/three!  pair/pair/pung/pung/kong.  Yay!
The closed hand is a new one to me:  Pair of flowers, pungs of any four consecutive numbers.

13579
Classic hand is now pair, pair, pung, pung, kong.
1-3-3-5 and 5-7-7-9 is now pung, pung, kong, kong.
One-nine dragon is gone!
Pairs of one/three/five has been replaced by:  kong of ones, pairs of 3/5/7, kong of 9.  Two suits.
Flowers 1-3-5 and Flowers 5-7-9 remain.
Old favorite:  11 333 DDDD 333 55 (3 suits) and 55 777 DDDD 777 99 are back!
The two closed hands are gone, replaced by: 11 33 555 777 9999 in three suits (open hand, 25)
and closed hand two flowers, pungs of 1/3/5/D or 5/7/9/D in one suit.

Winds - Dragons
First hand is the same.  Second hand remains as well.
The hand with the six like numbers has changed.  It is now similar to the like number with dragons hand.  pair/pair pung/pung kong - either pair of north and pung of south with odd numbers in three suits or pair of east pung of west with even numbers in three suits.  Closed!  30 points.
To compensate for 2015 with kongs of dragons being removed, and with apologies to those who were hoping for NEWS - a little twist is added:  kong of dragons/ NN EW SS/kong of dragons.  Two suits, no flowers.  Something for everybody - 30 point hand.
And last but not least Flowers with Dragons remains.

369
First hand gone.  New hand is kong of flowers, single three, pair of sixes, pung of nines, kong of dragons, one suit.
Second hand pattern changes.  Now pung, pung, kong, kong.
Third hand stays, as does fourth.  For some inexplicable reason they have changed position.
3-6-9 Dragons is out, replaced by old hand with six like numbers:  333 66 999 333 333 (3's 6's or 9's)
Closed hand is out replaced by old favorite: 333 6 999 333 6 999 (2 suits)

Singles and pairs
Forget all you know about singles and pairs.
They have all changed with the exception of the "big" hand, which is now 2016.
First hand is:  pair of norths pairs of odds - 11 33 55 77 99 - pair of souths - one suit C50.
Followed by:  pair of flowers, pair of easts, pairs of evens - 22 44 66 88 - pair of wests - C60
Third hand:  pair of flowers, pairs of any five consecutive numbers with pair of matching dragons.
Fourth hand:  The old pairs hand:  FF 11 22 11 22 11 22, any two consecutive numbers in 3 suits.
Replacing 998 is the 369 variation:  336 336699 336699 in three suits.  C50
A new singles and pair added for some panache!  FF 11 22 33 DD DD DD.  Any three consecutive number in one suit, dragons in three suits.  Closed 60 points.  A tournament hand of the day for sure.

In addition, a new line has been added to the back of the card:  To claim a discard, the player must verbalize their call, letting the other players know that they are claiming that discard.  They may say "call," "take," "I want that," etc.
Do you hear that, my silent friends???????

So there you have Mrs. Unger's last gift to us.  A card that brilliantly blends the challenge for the experienced player with accessibility for the new player and keeps us playing for another year.

Happy mahj!