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Monday, March 23, 2015

Playing Without a Card

There's one in every crowd

While we're waiting for the new card to come, here is some food for thought.  It's late in the year and those of us who are regular players pretty much know the card inside out.  Right?  But yet we still keep it in front of us as we play.  Why?  Do we think by now there is some hand that we may have missed? 

I went on a mahjongg cruise a few weeks ago - what a pleasure to get out of the snow!  I went with a friend who had not been to many tournaments and she drew my attention to the fact that several of the players played without a card!!  This meant little to me, as I often meet up with cardless players and it was almost March, for goodness sake, but my friend seemed intimidated.  The assumption is that someone who plays without a card is a great player.  Let's put that assumption to rest.

There are many reasons a player will play cardless.  She could have left her card at home.  More likely she has played enough times that she is confident that she knows the hands.  But oftentimes a cardless player will lean over and say "Let me look at your card for a second."  Should I refuse? After all, by playing without a card they are saying to the world that they don't need it.  Some will actually dispense with the card early in the season.  I once went to a tournament in April and saw a player without a card.  My assumption was she had a photographic memory, or else she played all day every day for a few weeks.

When the new card comes out there is a learning curve.  I wonder what techniques work best.  Rote memorization may help but we all know there is more to it.  Maybe an app with flash cards?

Even now, when the hourglass is running low, when I know I know all the hands, I will not play without the card.  I calculate that by playing every Friday night, four games an hour, at least four hours, for fifty two weeks, throwing in a few tournaments, pickup and fill in games, games where I was teaching others, rounded out, I have played at least 1000 games this year.  But I still feel the need to look at the card, to touch the card, to compare hands and let the numbers speak to me (or not).

It's also important to remember that each hand is not merely the hand that is written.  While there may be about 60 hands on the card, most hands have permutations and options in terms of suit, structure and number.  It is beyond my math capability to determine the exact number of possible hands on the card.  Maybe someone who plays without one can figure it out.

So the new card will be here soon.  And, like all of you, I am out on the steps, waiting for the mailman, disappointed to see nothing but the usual bills and circulars.  I am wondering what the League has cooked up for us and what is in the cards.


  1. I've noticed that my accountant friends pick up the game of Mahj very easily. Their minds just work that way. One retired accountant friend plays without a card because she says it makes her work her memory that much harder. I can appreciate that. And she's not afraid to pull out her card when she needs it.

    Can't wait to see the new card!!

  2. I don't see why so many players care whether another player uses a card or not. What is the big deal? Some people have incredible memories and the ability to "Xerox" the card into their brain. It doesn't mean they are better players, but I do believe they are faster players simply because they don't have to look at the hands. Faster, however, does not equate to better. Don't be intimidated.