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Monday, January 7, 2013

Mahjong: a game of 3 dragons

Whether it be in one's own home for sport, or being played secretively with hard cash, mahjong has always been a key component of Chinese culture. Mahjong is a game that has been played for centuries if not millenniums. The game is played with small tiles with special markings; with many of the tiles having a piece of Chinese culture on them. Many of the tiles are $20s worth of plastic that you can pickup at the local dollar store, while others are engraved with fine artwork, representing the tile's culture and heritage. Each variation of Mahjong comes with its own history, but they all play a role in the social bonding and piece of mind of the players. Hong Kong Mahjong style, which is the variation I have played, can be found in local Chinatowns. These games are late at night and typically played by the older generations with high stakes but still considered social gaming. Every loss is still accepted by the old folks and they continue to play nearly everyday until the early hours of morning. Sometimes these games are considered illegal to many American state governments (see here if you apply). Even in the states where social gaming is prohibited, many Chinese immigrants disregard these laws and continue to play anyway. Some court cases had instances where defendants were able to evade the gaming laws claiming that mahjong wagers are not forms of gambling as gambling is defined as wagers on games of chance. These defendants were able to prove that mahjong is almost entirely based on skill (which is controversial in my opinion). In Macau, it is very common for international tournaments to be held. Many professional players inhibit bets similar to poker. The only difference between these bets and inhome mahjong games is that in tournaments, the only money wagered is a high buy in fee--the winnings being a fixed amount. In regular mahjong, the payout is determined by the consistency of the winning hand. Ironically, in Hong Kong, Chinese authorities are very strict with gaming, with gaming fees rather high compared to the United States and Canada. Only licensed parlors referred to as "schools" are allowed to host mahjong games involving cash. Even then, stakes must be kept low, otherwise the school's license gets revoked (see South China Morning Post for articles regarding gambling raids).

Where can I play it?
Mahjong Time offers numerous tournaments with chips (games for fun), coins (tournament buy-ins), and cash which is the transaction method. It is safe and I have paid for all myself using paypal. I'm unsure about credit transactions though. The cash games are using REAL CASH and you must be 18+ to submit transactions. Under law they are not defined as an online casino as they have argued with district courts in southern California that mahjong is purely based on skill. Their headquarters is based in San Diego, California. 

On Facebook's search app bar, there is a decent version called Mahjong Hong Kong. Just type that in and you will be led to a logo with a mahjong tile surrounded by a blue and yellow back round. It is pretty good if you run out of chips on Mahjong Time and serves its purpose. I recommend it for practice as you can take your time on this version.

Special Thanks to Google, Bing, Dmoz, and Free Web Submission for search engine and advertisement work!

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