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A Mah Jong Handbook: How to Play, Score, and Win Paperback – May 15, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is not a handbook for American Mah Jong, but for various other types. Sadly, although I perused it carefully, the game(s) it describes are so different that its strategic... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Judy in NY
This is the book for everyone wanting to learn mah Jong, and a great resource for experienced players. Read morePublished 5 months ago by shotgun1
We used this to learn how to play and learn strategies. A good book to start with, handy reference and cover the Japanese variant that can be played with 3 players.Published 5 months ago by Alan Frost
Works best for someone who has already learned the basics. The strategy chapters are instructive.Published 13 months ago by Dr. S. Dunbar
This book was written in the 60's and teaches a form of proto-riichi mahjong, basically riichi mahjong without the riichi rule. No mention of any of the chinese hands are made. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Jennifer Riordan
bought to go with a gift for a friend's sister. Have not heard if she liked the book but she loved the game so most likely likes the book as well.Published 16 months ago by Delania Lefever