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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The 2019 Card

Every player knows the anticipation of waiting for the new card.  This year, I had mixed feelings.  You see, I am still in love with the 2018 card and I know there will never be another one like it.  It had a symmetry that other cards lacked, and I am so sad to see it expire.  I could play that card forever - BUT - we can't stop time, can we?  If only! 

So the new card has arrived, and it's time for the yearly breakdown - what's new; what's old; what's missing; what's added?  Take out your 2018 card and we'll see..  

The categories are the same, but it's obvious this card is distinctly different from last year's.

The "year" category has undergone a complete gut renovation.  The only holdover is the closed hand, which will please all those NEWS fans out there.  (It's the only NEWS hand on the card.)  Forget everything you knew about 2018, and start from scratch with 2019.
The first hand is an unusual pattern:  Four flowers, 2019, pung of 1's, pung of 9s, 3 suits.   
Next hand has no flowers, pung of 2s, kong of 0, pung of 1 pung of 9.  1 or 2 suits.  We've seen this hand in 2017, but it was in one suit only.  Remember, soaps are neutral when they are 0, so the 2's don't have to be dots.
Then we have an old favorite, Pair of flowers, kong of dragons, 2019, kong of dragons.  (2 or 3 suits)
This hand takes the place of the dragons with NEWS.  It's a little harder to make, though, because you need the 2019 in the second or third suit.  And don't forget if you use soaps for dragons, you must reserve one for the 0.   Tricky, tricky!

Well, thank goodness the first hand remains the same.  We all got used to that nice pung of flowers.  A closer inspection of the rest of the card shows that there are three hands with pungs of flowers, and no six flower hands.  
The second and third hands on the 2018 card are gone.
The third and fourth hands on the 2018 card are still there, but the pattern hand has changed.  2018 had pung/pung/kong/kong and 2019 has pung/kong/pung/kong. 
My old favorite hand has returned - the "gate" - pair of flowers, kong of 2s and 8s with pairs of 4s and 6s in the middle; any two suits.  Gives you a place to go when your 2s and 4s are different suits.
Dragon lovers will like the one-suit hand - 22 444 DDDD 666 88.  
Pung lovers will like the closed hand - 222 44 666 with two pungs of 8s (3 suits).  This is also an unusual pattern - and is repeated in the closed hand of consecutive run.

Any like numbers
The first hand has switched out the kong of dragons for a kong of a like number - so now you need three kongs of the same number in three suits.  (That sounds hard!) 
The six flower hand is gone, but the closed hand with dragons remains.  Only two hands in like numbers now, but like numbers pop up in other places, so don't despair.

Addition hands
Something new - the common kong is 5's - 5+6=11, 5+7=12, 5+8=13.  One or three suits, as usual.  Well, at least one of those hands is familiar (5+7) but, unlike 2018, there are only two hands that could have a kong of 5 and a kong of 7.   (Cue song:  Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide...)

All the quints have changed.  Some seem easier, some not so much.  The new "any" hand is now any wind, any number, kong of flowers.  There are two consecutive run quints.  One is a riff on an old hand that was two twos, three threes, four fours, five fives - only now its any four consecutive numbers in any one suit with the quint being the last number.   The easy part about this quint is you only need one joker - hence the lower value of 40.  
A little more difficult is the one-suited kong/pair/kong/pair pattern, with the kong/pair/kong being three consecutive numbers and the last pair a matching dragon.  
And like numbers show up in quints in an interesting fashion - two quints of like numbers with opposite dragon.  Three suits of course.  It's sort of like the 2018 like numbers/dragon hand on steroids...

Consecutive run
Ah, our old standbys.  When I teach mahjongg, I turn first to consecutive run.  Tried and true, classic hands.  No disappointments here.  The first two hands remain, with changed patterns.  1-5 and 5-9 are now pair/pung/kong/pung/pair and the pattern hand is now pung/kong/pung/kong.
The pair of flowers and three consecutive kongs remain - one or three suits.  That's a relief.
The three-pair hand has changed slightly to three pairs of consecutives and then kongs of like numbers; i.e., 11 22 33 4444 4444 (three suits).  There go like numbers again!
Brace yourselves, however.  The "knitted" hand of pungs and dragons matching is gone.  Believe me, I feel your pain....  In fact, all the knitted hands are gone, with the exception of 3333/666/9999/DDD.
But now for the new stuff:
The old snoozy standby FF 1111 2222 DDDD did not predictably change to FFFF 1111 2222 DD..  It's now a pung of flowers, two kongs of consecutives and a pung of dragons.  One suit only, and although it's not expressly stated, experienced players know this hand can be any two consecutive numbers.
The closed hand in 2018 consecutive has been tricked out and is now open.  But instead of two flowers and four pungs, it's now four flowers, pair/pung/pair/pung.  And it's not the only hand with four flowers and two like pungs - there's another one in 3/6/9.
And the final hand:  If you remember the pattern in 222 44 666 888 888, this hand, also closed, is the same pattern - The pung/pair/pung are any three consecutive numbers and the two like pungs at the end must match the pair.  This is sort of like the quint hand (1123 11111 11111) but the pair in this hand must be in the middle; i.e., 111 22 333 222 222.

Oh, gosh, there's more?  Okay.  The classics are still there, with the same pattern changes as in consecutive run - pair/pung/kong/pung/pair and the pattern hand is pung/kong/pung/kong.  Note: The 13579 hand is now in one or three suits.
The third hand has changed from two flowers and three kongs to four flowers and a pair in the middle.   Four flower hands have made a comeback with a vengeance!
The knitted hands are gone, as previously noted, as are the six flower hands, as is the hand with three pairs and two kongs.  Taking their place are the following:
A three-suited hand similar in pattern to the 2018 22/44/666/888/DDDD hand only with odd numbers instead of evens; i.e., 11/33/333/555/DDDD and one for 579 as well.
A three-paired, three-suited hand with like kongs of odds - 11 33 55 1111 1111.  This pattern appeared on the 2018 card in 33 66 99 3333 3333.  It now makes its debut in odds.
The closed hand is pungs and singles.  On the 2018 card it's the closed hand in 369, but on the new card it's a little more difficult as it's 111 3 555 in one suit and 555 7 999 in another suit.  Oh, I will miss the old closed hand in 2018.  I will have to learn to love this hand.  Check back next March.

I will say there has been an improvement in Wind and Dragon hands.  The League giveth and the League taketh away.  They have taketh away the first two hands on the 2018 card and there are no four flower hands with winds.  The pattern hand with four N/E/W and two S remains.  The "sandwich" hand (two kongs of winds with pairs in the middle) are now pairs of dragons instead of pairs of numbers.   The closed hand is the same (yay!)  And dragon fans, rejoice, there is a hand with three dragons, but the pattern is:  pung of flowers/kong/pung/kong of dragons.  Cool!
Two interesting debut hands:  NNNN E W SSSS 2019.  Fun!
And more like numbers - interesting because it's three pairs and two kongs.  It's a pair of flowers, pair of NN followed by two kongs of like odd numbers bookended with a pair of SS.  (Same of course for EE/WW/evens)  Save those winds, just in case!  And even though it's 3 pairs, it's only a 25 value...

This category is always being short changed, but there's been some switches made that may perk it up a bit.  Sorry to disappoint but the first hand is gone, replaced by a pair/pair/pung/pung/kong hand in three suits.  33 66 333 666 9999.  Same pattern as the dragon hand in 579.  The pattern hand is now pung/kong/pung/kong and the block hand is the same; pair of flowers, kong of 3/6/9 in one or 3 suits.  The knitted hand is the same as well, which is a good thing, although if you put out three sixes and three dragons, there's only one hand you could be playing.  More obvious hands on this card, I would say!  An old favorite is back, 33 666 FFFF 666 99 (2 suits), and two pungs of sixes could mean this hand or the hand in consecutive run with two like pungs.  So maybe not so obvious after all.
The closed hand is a pair of flowers followed by three pungs in 3/6/9 and a pair of dragons, so a familiar pattern from 2018, although on 2018 it was in odds.

Singles and Pairs
Lastly, we come to singles and pairs.   All the hands have been tweaked, with the exeption of the 369 pairs hand.  The wind pairs hand now takes three like numbers, the even pairs hand has gone back to the 22 4 6 88 pattern in two suits.  The odds pairs hand is odd!  It steps up like the 998 hand stepped down, so think 113/11335/113355, same for 579.   The consecutive run hand is any run of 7 numbers in one suit, which we have seen before.  
Nice dragon/number pairs hand!  FF 11 22 DD 11 22 DD.  Pretty - but certainly not easy.
And, old friend, BIG HAND is back!  Yes. pair of flowers, 2019 in three suits - 75 cent hand!  Play it while you can, since it can't be back in 2020!

So these are my observations - if you have your own, or catch any corrections that need to be made, please feel free to comment!  I think we have all been spoiled with the 2018 card and are in for a bit of a shock here, but change is good for the brain, so let the whining begin!


  1. FFFF 1111 2222 DDDD would never be a hand--it has 16 tiles.
    I've never heard the term "kitted hand" before.

    1. Thanks for the correction - my sleepy brain missed that one. Make that a kong of flowers and a pair of dragons. Knitted hand is a common term in Asian style mahjongg. It refers to alternating sequences of tiles in a pattern that mimics knitting.

  2. Thanks for this great analysis. I think I’m going to miss the symmetry of the 2018 card. But always up for new challenges.

  3. Always love reading your analysis!

  4. Missing the NEWS dragon hand already but looking forward to playing the 2019 dragon hand! Thanks for your insightful commentary, Linda!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I'm sorry I didn't get to play with the 2018 card that much, but looking forward to the new 2019 one and more opportunities to play. Thanks as always for your insights about the card!

  7. How do I subscribe to your blog?

    1. If you click on the "follow" button you will get notified of new posts. Or if you are on Facebook, I publish to the Fans of the National Mah Jongg League page.

    2. The "follow" button must be missing from browser. But I did get here from the Facebook page.
      Thanks for your analysis. Hope I can make it to Bryant Park this year.

  8. I actually I was so tired of the 2018 card and hands with 3 or 6 flowers that I am thrilled to see this new card and love some of these new hands. I've already won the first year hand and was very happy to do so. Yay for the new card!

  9. *Correction for you: The second 2019 year hand includes a kong of 9s at the end (not a pung).* Thanks for the analysis - very interesting read and helpful already for memorizing the new hands!

  10. Lingard, the new card for 2019.

  11. Why wouldn't they add "any consec. nos." after the FFF 1111 2222 DDD hand in consecutive run? When we played with card the first time, someone played that hand with two numbers other than 1 and 2, had a mah jongg, but then called it on herself that it wasn't because she didn't use 1 and 2.

  12. Great review of new card. Will share with MJ friends! Looking forward to playing only NEWS hand & three dragon hand! ��️��

  13. had a hand of 11 33 (circle) 333 555 (bamboo) and DDDD (green) was told it was not a mah jongg eligible hand - any comments?

    1. The hand you described is not a valid mahjongg. The hand is printed on the card in three colors, meaning it must be in three suits. Your 333 555 in bams matched the suit of your green dragons, making the hand two suits. The dragons must be red dragons. (Key: White dragon a/k/a soap matches dots; green dragon matches bam and red dragon matches craks). Your hand was DOT/BAM/BAM but should have been DOT/BAM/CRAK.