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By Tom Sloper
Valentine's Day, Year of the Tiger

Column #440

American. This past week the Marvelous Mah Jongg card was released. It's an alternate card for American mah jongg, as is the annual card of the American Mah Jongg Association. The Marvelous card, in fact, borrows some concepts from the AMJA card: the cute names for the various "families" of hands, and the spelling of words and names using the letters representing various tiles. For instance, the word FRIENDS can be spelled, if you take a small liberty in having the letter I be represented by the number 1 (the #1 tile of any suit). In fact, the AMJA card has perennially featured a FRIENDS hand in all pairs:


Pair of flowers, pair of red dragons, pair of 1 in any suit, pair E, pair N, pair any dragon, pair S.

In the 2010 Marvelous card, the FRIENDS idea is used, but with a small twist:


The Marvelous idea is that the letter M can be represented by simply using a W tile, since M is W upside-down. J, of course, stands for Joker.

Another feature of the Marvelous card is also probably inspired by the AMJA card; the use of people's names. The 2009 AMJA card used names as part of the "family" names: "Lauren's Fine in 2009," "Michael's Good NEWS," "Even 2468 Steven." One presumes (I never asked Lois Madow, the AMJA president) that Lauren, Michael, and Steven are the names of grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, or something. In the 2010 Marvelous card, there are a couple of name hands:



Possibly these are the names of Powell family members (I haven't asked Kimberly Powell, the creator of the Marvelous card). It could be that they're just names that are easily spelled using the available letters.

One other "word game" hand of note in the Marvelous card is in Quints:


(Few Flower Gardens.) Noteworthy that there's just one quint in the hand, and that it's flowers. Another noteworthy quint hand:

1 22 3 11111 11111

This differs from the NMJL hand (you know, the one that always generates much confusion) in that the quints can be any number in the run, not only the pair. I guess the pair has to be in the middle of the run.

There's more that's noteworthy about the Marvelous card; we'll continue this next time.

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Question or comment about this column? Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board.

Where to order the yearly NMJL card: Read FAQ 7i.
Where to order the yearly AMJA card:
Where to order the yearly Marvelous card:

Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book in existence about the American game. AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the official rulebook from the NMJL (see FAQ 3). Linda Fisher's website is the only website that describes American rules:

Watch the video by Jay Firestone of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, about a young man (himself) learning to play American mah-jongg. You can see it at

© 2010 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.