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A Mah Jong Handbook: How to Play, Score, and Win Paperback – September, 2001

3.9 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A convenient guide, simply written and easily understood, for achieving proficiency in this game." —Asia Scene --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Ellie Whitney, PhD grew up in New York City and received her B.A. and Ph.D. degrees in English and biology at Radcliffe/Harvard University and Washington Universities, respectively. She has taught at both Florida State University and Florida A&M University, has written newspaper columns on environmental matters for the Tallahassee Democrat, and has authored almost a dozen college textbooks on nutrition, health, and related topics, many of which have been revised multiple times over the years. In addition to teaching and writing, she has spent the past three-plus decades exploring outdoor Florida and studying its ecology. Her latest book is Priceless Florida: The Natural Ecosystems (Pineapple Press, 2004). --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing (September 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804832781
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804832786
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,378,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin Hing on September 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
Eleanor Noss Whitney has not only succeeded in writing a concise, understandable, and comprehensive Mah Jong handbook, she has elegantly and expertly distilled into a mere 176 pages the essential tools and strategies to achieve true mastery of this ancient and wonderful game.
Whitney's handbook is the only book that most players will ever need to become a knowledgeable, confident and winning Mah Jong player. The basics of play, including seating, dealer selection, wall-building, tile-dealing and play are laid out clearly with helpful examples and good illustrations. The scoring of Mah Jong is explained with numerous carefully-constructed examples, with helpful diagrams of each tile scenario for good visual reference.
The strategy of the game is brilliantly explained in Part III, again with numerous examples that gradually train beginning players how to quickly make strategic decisions to enhance their play. As Whitney explains, Mah Jong is a game governed by sheer luck of the draw, yet the "skillful player is actually one who knows how to adapt to his luck." Her extensive explanations and examples of both "offensive" and "defensive" strategies are the soul of the book, and I, for one, was amazed how quickly my comphrehension of the game improved after having read the entire chapter.
It is true that the focus of the book is primarily on the Japanese and American rules and variations, but Chinese equivalent terms are included in an extensive Glossary-Index. For the vast majority of players, this will not be a serious problem.
If you buy one book on Mah Jong, it should be this one.
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Format: Paperback
The Mah Jong Handbook presents an amazingly clear method for approaching the game. The book is easy-to-read, but deals with every aspect of the game in detail.
To get the most out of the book, I recommend taking the time to work through the example exercises yourself (before going on to the analysis discussion.) Once you've gone through the book this way, you'll pretty much know everything that an expert player knows. The only thing left is to get in enough playing time to put the theory into practice.
In addition to the game aspects, the book discusses the accompanying rituals and etiquette, as well as many variations on the rules.
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Format: Paperback
A good introduction to the game for beginners, with strategy advice that will be useful to more experienced players as well.

Whitney explains clearly and concisely, using easy to understand diagrams. She even manages to explain Mah Jong's rather complex scoring system, which can be a bit off-putting for beginners.

Her inclusion of the differences between Japanese and American rules is also quite helpful, although I've found that as with any game, some of the rules and terminology vary from region to region.

All in all a good book for those looking to begin playing Mah Jong, particularly those in Japan or with Japanese friends.
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Format: Paperback
This book says it has a section on American mah jong and alternate rules, but none of it has anything to do with what is played at National Mah Jong league games. The title should specify that. It is useless to me now, but this version of the game sounds very interesting and challenging. My star rating is meaningless, too, since I don't know how to play japanese mah jong and have no one to practice with.
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This book covers all the questions anybody would have about this complex game. I've searched all over the internet for answers but most rules and gameplay written on line seemed like poorly translated rules from Chinese or whatever with many mysteries left unturned. This book is great and with minimal reading gets you playing in no time.
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Mah Jongg is not the easiest of games to learn - especially because of the number of variants that exist. The best thing to do is to discuss with your friends which version you'll be playing so everyone is on the same page.

If you're the first member of the group, pick a rules set that is compatible with your tiles and go.

I have half a dozen Mah Jongg books, and this was the one that is most approachable by new players. It focuses primarily on the Japanese Classical set of rules, but has notes on how other variants are played. In some cases, it has enough information that you can play these variants.
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“A Mah Jong Handbook” by Eleanor Noss Whitney presents a comprehensive overview of the game, with an emphasis on the Japanese version. There is valuable information to be found for all levels of play. There is great scoring info, including a really useful table, outline, and chart at the end of the book (after the index).
Some reviewers have commented that they were disappointed by the lack of useful info pertaining to the American National Mah Jongg League version of the game. However, for a fan of the game who enjoys expanding their knowledge regarding all its forms and varieties, the book is very entertaining and worth the read.
Compared to other books on the subject, there were surprisingly (and gratefully) few typographical errors, and they were mostly grammatical and didn’t affect the clarity of the technical content. Because they may be useful in correcting future editions of the book, I’ll sum them up here:
Page 46, first sentence in “Points for Concealed Hand” section: “form” should be “from”
Page 76, captions for first 2 images: not sure, but it seems the captions (“End of terminal sequence” and “Middle of sequence” should be reversed
Page 100, third sentence in “Rounding Off the Score” section: “my” should be “may”
Page 113, line 6: first word of sentence should be “If” instead of “It”
Page 139, Example 39, under “Two chances”: second line “on” should be “no”

Although it may be personal preference, it may have improved readability if the statements in bold text on pages 98 and 99 were moved to the beginnings of the related paragraphs instead of appearing at the ends.
Overall, interesting and well written.
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