The National Mah Jongg League was formed in 1937. At their first meeting in New York, 200 women showed up, all of them Jewish and mostly of German descent. The league standardized the rules and published them in a booklet that raised money for charity (and still does).
American Mah Jongg is the only version in the world that uses Jokers. They were not introduced to American Mah Jongg until 1961.
The Bird Bam is said to have a bird rather than a single bamboo to prevent players from cheating by drawing extra bamboo
on the tile.
Mah Jongg was brought to America in the 1920's by an engineer from the Standard Oil company, Joseph P. Babcock, who imported the sets. He added western numbers to the tiles and deveoped his own rules.
Mah Jongg was developed in China about 150 years ago (not in Confucius' time) as a game using currency-based suits. The Dots represented coins, the Bams represented strings of coins (not bamboo), and the Craks were a Chinese symbol for 10,000 coins.
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My name is Marjorie Tomaso. I live in St. Louis and have been playing Mahj for 15 years and teaching for the past 8 years. I love bringing this fascinating game to groups from all over the country.
Shuffling is also referred to as "washing" the tiles.
Joseph Babcock invented the name Mah Jongg, rather than use the Chinese name Mah-Que which means sparrow. He then trademarked the new name, hence other spellings developed.