Here is one reason why I find playing mahjongg so compelling.
Each hand is a compelling story. When the tiles are dealt out and face down, my hand is an unopened book. The story begins when the tiles are on the rack in front of me. Sometimes I can see how the story going to go - there's enough there to show me the way. Other times it's a book I have trouble getting into, requiring more effort and concentration. As the passing occurs, a hand starts to emerge. It can be strong and emphatic like a well-drawn character or just the muted beginnings of a pattern, like a mystery with many doors still closed. Then the picking and throwing fills in the hand, but I am now subject to the vagaries of my opponents. How will this story come out? I know how I want the story to end, but my wishes mean nothing here. I can only keep a sharp eye out for clues to the mystery, like who has my 2 dot. I can make educated guesses about what will happen next, but I must keep turning the pages until a resolution comes one way or another. And then it starts all over again.