Mah Jongg exercises brain and social skills

Carole Parker assesses her collection of tiles in the first round of the Fallbrook Woman's Club Mah Jongg tournament on Jan. 27. Lucette Moramarco photos
Carole Parker assesses her collection of tiles in the first round of the Fallbrook Woman’s Club Mah Jongg tournament on Jan. 27. Lucette Moramarco photos

On Jan. 27, a clubhouse full of guests had a good time playing in the Fallbrook Woman’s Club (FWC) semi-annual Mah Jongg tournament fundraiser. A few of the players came from out of town but most were from Fallbrook, according to FWC members who organized the event.

Players included just two men this year although the ladies know that there are several men who play the game as there are at least three couples groups that get together for Mah Jongg, they said.

The FWC has been hosting two tournaments a year for almost 20 years, while the Fallbrook Senior Center and the Fallbrook AAUW also hold Mah Jongg tournaments every year. That’s how popular the game is in Fallbrook.

Mah Jongg is played with four people per table and a set of 144 tiles based on Chinese characters and symbols. The game is similar to rummy and other draw-and-discard card games; it involves skill, strategy and calculation along with some chance.

Before the tournament, one person in each group of four was asked to bring their Mah Jongg set. So, there was quite a variety of unique looking sets of tiles being played at the different tables.

Each player is given 13 tiles to start with and then players take turns drawing and discarding the tiles to form four groups and a pair, including the 14th tile. Four rounds are played; in the tournament, each table group submits its high scorer to determine the overall winner.

Besides the top prize of $50, the club provided prizes for the high and low scorers at each table. Guests were given boxed lunches to eat before the tournament started and raffle tickets were sold for quite a few gift baskets to raise more money for the club’s causes.

Part of the money raised goes to the woman’s club scholarship fund and the rest to the various local charities it supports.

Local Mah Jongg expert Araxy Moosa said she recently saw a report that recommended brain exercise and socializing as the best ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Since Mah Jongg exercises the brain and requires socializing, Moosa said it is good for everyone to play the game. So, Mah Jongg tournaments benefit players as well as raise money for charity.

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