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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Remember, we were all new players once

A common complaint I hear is this: How can a new player get up to speed if no one wants to play with a beginner? It's a variation on the theme of how can I get hired if they only want people with experience? Let's take a look…

My beloved Aunt Sally played with anyone. She taught me when I was nine years old years *ahem* years ago and she taught anyone who came along and was willing to sit and learn. Everyone remarked on how patient Sally was, how wonderful and saintly, but looking back on it now, I think I know what she was doing. She was cultivating players - players that became lifelong friends and players that accompanied her to tournaments and cruises and filled in when someone was needed. Too often I see players with great potential shut out of the opportunity to improve their game, and the Mahjongg table becomes a closed cocoon of "us" (the great players) who would never stoop so low to play with "them" (the learners).

Ladies, let's be real. Number one, mahjongg is not rocket science.  And when you play with the same people week after week, how are you improving your game? You already know that Esther plays 3,6,9 every chance she gets and you better not pass dragons to Frieda. When a tile gets thrown out and Debby turns a tile upside down, doesn't that tell you something?  How about opening your game to a trainee? Let her watch and learn. Before you know, it Frieda will go to Florida or Esther will be in the hospital and are you going to stop playing? Doubtful. But where will you look?

And newbies, here's what you can do on your end. Study the card. Make sure you know what the hands look like. A good exercise is to take a set and lay out the tiles to form all the hands on the card. When you play, keep up the pace. It doesn't matter how many mistakes you make in your hand, you may be the only one who knows you have nothing, but pretend you know what you're doing. The other players will appreciate it. If you have a question, ask at the end of the game. If you know the card well, you can make educated guesses about what other players are doing and be alert about what not to throw.

Be pleasant, ladies. Play nice. We all love mah jongg. You don't need the patience of my sainted aunt, but recognize the social attributes of the game. It is just a game, after all, no?


  1. "You already know that Esther plays 3,6,9 every chance she gets and you better not pass dragons to Frieda."

    LOL! You are so right.

  2. Linda this is so true and I'm so glad you wrote about it. Some friends taught me to play about 4 years ago and I got hooked. Then about a year ago I rounded up a few ladies who wanted to learn and we started a new regular game. I've since moved, but the group I formed is still going strong. And since I haven't been able to find a new game here in my new city, I've decided to "grow my own" and teach some of my sister's friends who want to learn to play.

    It's such a fun game.