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FAQ 2a. Choosing a Mah-Jongg Variant

Before You Buy A Mah-Jongg Set or Book, Make Sure You Buy The Right Thing

Like it says in FAQ 1, Mah-Jongg is played in many different ways. The first thing you have to do is make sure you know which kind of mah-jongg you want to invest your time and/or money in.

a. So, if you are new to mah-jongg, first you need to choose a rule set to study.
b. If you are already playing mah-jongg, and are not sure which of the 22 known varieties of mah-jongg you play, you need to find out.

This FAQ will help you with both. Click the following links to jump to the appropriate section of this FAQ.

I live and teach in Los Angeles. Sometimes somebody asks me to teach but doesn't know which variant they should learn. I narrow it down to two choices:

But if you want more choices (or if you don't live in North America), you can take the questionnaire below!

"Which Mah-Jongg rules should I learn?"

This questionnaire is intended to help people who are interested in learning Mah-Jongg but don't know where to begin. Print this FAQ. For each question, circle any and all answers that apply to you (including the mysterious letters that follow the answer).


When you circled an option, you should have also circled some capital letters following that option. Count up all the times that each letter was circled. For example, if you are female, you circled "AVWONTC" and if your heritage is Jewish American, you circled "A" -- you now have two A's circled, along with one V, one W, one O, and so on. Figure out which letter you circled the most, and look for that letter in the list of "Mah-Jongg Rules" below. That is the game that you should study. See FAQ3 for books to help you get started. For example, if you're female, speak only English, are Jewish, and live on the East Coast, then you should consider learning the American game (rather than, for example, scouring the worldwide web for English-language rules for Japanese Mah-Jongg). If you're male, love gambling, and live on the West Coast -- then you should consider Modern Japanese Mah-Jongg (rather than, say, joining an American group). These results are by no means scientific. You only used the questionnaire because you were clueless, right? -- well, now you have some clues! That doesn't mean you shouldn't study American rules if you live on the west coast -- you certainly could (there /are/ groups on the west coast who play American rules; it's not strictly an East Coast game). Do what you want -- but now you know a little more about it.

MAH-JONGG RULES YOU SHOULD STUDY (which letter did you circle the most?) Note: the names of the various flavors of MJ are not necessarily universally recognized. Some authorities may call a particular style of MJ by a different name.


Thanks to Alan Kwan for helping fine-tune this questionnaire.

Want to know more about the various kinds of mah-jongg existing in the world today? Click here to go to PART B: "How to find out which version of Mah-Jongg you or your friends play."

Got a question about this FAQ? Ask the expert -- visit http://www.sloperama.com/majexchange/bulletinbd.htm to get answers to your mah-jongg questions. Like this...

Archive-name: mjfaq02a.htm
Newsgroups: rec.games.mahjong; fj.rec.games.mahjong
Posting-frequency: n/a (only FAQ 0 is posted on the NG, and it is posted weekly)
Last-modified: January 2, 2002
Version: 2.20
The other mah-jongg FAQ articles are located at: http://www.sloperama.com/mjfaq.html



FAQ 2a (How to choose a rule set)

Feb. 9, 1999 -- added clarification about names of various MJ rule sets. ("Note: the names of the various flavors of MJ are not necessarily universally recognized. Some authorities may call a particular style of MJ by a different name. ")
June 22, 1999 -- more clearly differentiated "American" MJ from "Western" MJ.
October 26, 1999 -- changed "Filipino" to "Philippine"
November 24, 1999 -- added American MJ to the computer question.
July 8, 2000 -- combined two older FAQs together into one concatenated FAQ.
September 29, 2000 -- changed FAQ URL from activision.com to thegameguru.net, added Glass book to list of Western authors.
October 18, 2000 -- corrected the FAQs' URL to match actual direct URL
December 8, 2000 -- changed thegameguru.net to sloperama.com
January 3, 2001 -- updated the Babcock Red Book information; updated info re the HKOS-VS.-CC controversy and added info to the Vietnamese section; changed "Philippine" back to "Filipino"
January 5, 2000 -- added Chinese Official style (CMCR).
January 28, 2001 -- various wording improvements throughout.
February 19, 2001 -- added WMPA style and made a couple of adjustments. Finished a sentence.
March 15, 2001 -- changed the Taiwanese/Filipino question in Part II, thanks to a suggestion from J. R. Fitch.
May 4, 2001 -- added Hunan style mah-jongg. Thanks to Sehat Nauli for the information. Added details regarding WMPA and Zung Jung styles.
May 25, 2001 -- added info about Korean mah-jongg.
May 25, 2001 -- clarified the info about Korean mah-jongg (I ought to research before I publish!) Thanks very much to Sangchol Sheen for all the help!
May 25, 2001 -- further clarified the Korean info
June 4, 2001 -- added carriage returns (this is a TXT file and displays as is)
July 13, 2001 -- added the Tjoa and Lo books under the New Style category
July 16, 2001 -- cleaned up the Overview section; Lo describes not only New Style but also Taiwanese and HKOS.
July 30, 2001 -- modified references to Hakka style, now that I've learned it's HKOS.
August 21, 2001 -- minor cleanups
September 2, 2001 -- Added 12-tile mah-jongg.
October 1, 2001 -- added Pritchard book.
November 17, 2001 -- added Mhing to the list of mah-jongg variants.
December 12, 2001 -- changed a couple URLs is all.
December 14, 2001 -- converted FAQ to HTML format. And of course I had to touch up here and there in the process.
January 2, 2002 -- divided the FAQ into its separate sub-parts again. It wasn't a mistake to combine them in the first place, but it's just easier if they're separate.
September 16, 2002 -- heretofore, all updates are logged at http://www.sloperama.com/mjfaq/log.html


Copyright 2000-2019 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this and my other FAQs by written permission only.