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Friday, July 6, 2018

Trending: Social Mahjongg

The fifth annual 4th of July Mahjongg Social at Bryant Park, NYC

Back in the late 1950s and '60s mahjongg was a weekly affair, held at the same time with the same players and the same pie.  Players took turns being hostess, which meant putting out the set, snacks and ashtrays.  Players played by League rules prevalent at the time, and it was not uncommon to see games that lasted 30 or 40 years.  (Some people are still playing by those rules...)

By the mid '80s, tournament play caught on, and lately the field has mushroomed.  From small fundraisers to transatlantic cruises, single-day, multi-day or mini-day tournaments have come to towns and cities all over the country.  Using National Mah Jongg League rules as a base, tournaments have developed their own structure and style, adding rules which enhance the competitive spirit at work in this milieu. 

Enter social mahjongg, a relatively new phenomenon fueled by waves of retirees looking for a way to meet people, have fun and exercise some brain power in the process.  With very little effort you will find social mahjongg in community centers, libraries, parks, senior centers and clubhouses; organized through Meetup or municipal recreational facilities or just wonderful folks who want to share their love of the game.  Social mahjongg has become my game of choice.

Social mahjongg is open to all; beginners and seasoned alike.  As the organizer of Bryant Park Mahjongg, I've developed some do's and don'ts of social mahjongg:

DO - Expect to play National Mah Jongg League rules - period, full stop.  Table rules may fly in home games, but the social aspect makes it likely that not all players at a table will agree to ____ (fill in the blank here; mush, hot wall, cold wall, put your tile on the rack, in the rack, etc., etc., etc.)

DO  - Abide by the rules of the venue.  If the library doesn't allow playing for money, DON'T pass your quarters under the table.  You may, however, keep score on paper and settle up later, or use chips like they did in the '50s and '60s (see above)

DO - Appreciate your facilitator!  Usually they are volunteers and some things are out of their control.   If the equipment is limited to X number of sets, DON'T whinge about having to rotate in.  Or better yet, bring a set!

DO - Tell your friends to come, but DON'T act like it's your weekly game and exclude people because you're "saving a seat" for someone who may or may not arrive.  The whole point of social mahjongg is to be ....(get ready for it).... SOCIAL!!

DO - Be kind to beginners.  You were there once yourself.  If someone is playing too slow for your taste, change tables! 

DO - Mix and mingle.  Meet and play with new people - even men!  Even young people!  Even Chinese people who know how to play Chinese mahjongg and are very interested in learning American style!  Let people sit next to you and watch and learn.  DON'T just play with people from your building, club or zip code. 

And, most of all, DO have fun!  As I've heard many, many, many a time - It's a GAME!!!!