National Mah Jongg League’s 2024 Card Analysis
By Philippe and Julie, I Love Mahj

It’s every Mah Jongg player's favorite time of the year! The NMJL’s 2024 cards are arriving in mailboxes all over the country, and just when we were all getting comfortable and feeling as though we’d finally mastered the 2023 card, it's time to learn a new one.

No matter your level of experience, learning the new card each year can be tough and somewhat intimidating. But we're here to help. Our aim is to make getting to grips with the new card as easy and as fast as possible. Plus, all this learning is wonderful exercise for our brains! 


Before we dive in, let's just clarify the way we'll represent hands in this article.

  • Hands will be labeled as <section>/<line><version> (eg: CR/3b represents the second version of Consecutive Run, line 3)
  • Hand patterns will be shown by the number of tiles in each meld (eg: pung-pung-kong-kong will be shown as 3-3-4-4)

First Impressions

The 2024 card is exciting, creative and quite unique, compared to recent cards. There are many new, never-seen-before, hands and unusual patterns and playing it should prove to be lots of fun!

Addition Hands are back again this year, along with multiplication hands in the odds and evens sections. More on these later!

Unlike last year, the "year" hands can be found only in the 2024 section (except of course the "Big Hand" in Singles and Pairs).

The Winds-Dragons section is interesting again this year, with excellent flexibility between hands. We also see a return of the beloved all-dragon hand.

Overall, the new card is very playable with great switchability between hands and sections. The card also seems somewhat easier than previous years. So, we expect faster wins and fewer wall games.


The instructions for each hand on this year’s card are pretty clear overall. However, there are still a few areas where further clarification would be helpful and we highlight these below:

  • 2024/3: The kongs can be either 2s or 4s but must match
  • Q/2: The quints can be any numbers as long as each quint uses a different number and suit
  • 369/2 and 369/4: The pungs can be 3s, 6s or 9s, but must match and be in different suits

Card Analysis

There are 73 hands printed on the 2024 National Mah Jongg League card (3 more than last year). However, when expanded to all permutations for each hand, the total number is 1683 playable hands (vs only 756 last year). This is a huge increase, but is due mostly to one hand (Q/2). Quints line 2 has an unusual "any 2 non-matching numbers" note and the flexibility this offers, results in a huge number of playable hands (864 to be precise - more than all other hands combined, and more than all hands on last year's card). 

As a result, the Quints section contains the most playable hands (57% of the card), followed by the Consecutive Run section (14%).

Most non-concealed hands are 25 or 30 points (except Quints, which are 40 or 45 points). Concealed hands are 30 or 35 points (except Singles & Pairs hands, which are 50 or 75 points). This year, there are six non-concealed 30-point hands, last year there were eight. 

As in previous years (perhaps even more this year), we note inconsistencies between the difficulty of a hand and its point value (particularly Q/2 and the "Big hand").

Only 4 hands are carried over from the 2023 card: CR/3 a and b and WD/1 a and b.

The 12 concealed hands printed on the card translates to 105 playable hands (6.24% of total hands).

Of the number tiles, 1s and 9s are in the least number of hands, whereas 3s and 6s appear most often. Therefore, competition for 3s and 6s will be the highest. Keep that in mind when making Charleston or discard decisions. Overall, Green and Red dragons are the least used tiles. 


Overall, there is a good variety of patterns this year, with a mix of classics and some never-seen-before hands.

Standard Patterns

The most common patterns this year are:

  • 5-4-5: this is the Q/2 hand with 864 variations, which by itself represents 54% of playable hands. It offers a huge amount of flexibility, so it’s a fantastic hand option if you’re lucky enough to have a few Jokers, and especially since there are some great backup hand options (such as  WD/3a and b, which has 11 overlapping tiles if you use consecutive numbers for Q/2) 
  • 3-3-4-4: this pattern represents 189 playable hands (11%) in total (2024/1, 2468/1a, 2468/1b, CR/7a, CR/7b, 13579/2a, 13579/2b, WD/3a, WD/3b, 369/1a, 369/1b). These hands are extremely flexible and jokers can be used in all groupings. These hands will be the bread-and-butter for many players.
  • 2-4-4-4 (a pair of Flowers followed by 3 kongs): this pattern is seen in 81 playable hands: AH/1, AH/2, AH/3, CR/3a, CR/3b, 369/3a, 369/3b. Although these hands require a pair of Flowers, there are eight Flowers in the set, so it’s not as tricky to achieve.

Other Observations

    • Bouquets of Flowers. There are no pungs of Flowers this year. Though there are plenty of pairs, kongs and even 2 quints. 
    • Math Hands. Additions are back this year, to the dismay of those who "don't like Math” (tip: if this is you, focus on the numbers and ignore the + and =). They all add up to 7, so consider these hands if you have 7s and the required numbers in the same suit. There are also some interesting multiplication hands in the 2468 and 13579 sections.
    • The Winds-Dragons section is very flexible (e.g. WD/1a and b, a carryover from last year). There is also an interesting crescendo pattern with Flowers (WD/4), which is a break from the usual symmetry of wind hands.
    • Dragons. When looking at total tiles, Reds and Greens are the least used tiles (1.24% of total tiles each), with Soaps being slightly more popular (1.48%), since they're also used as a zero. For Dragon lovers, there is a pretty hand that uses all 3 dragons, but unlike last year, Reds and Greens are not found as single tiles on the card.
    • The much-loved NEWS pattern is back this year in a Any Like Numbers hand (ALN/3) and in WD/6  with Dragons. It also appears in a slightly expanded fashion in the 2024 (2024/4) and the Winds-Dragons sections, including the aforementioned crescendo pattern FF NN EEE WWW SSSS (WD/4), and the concealed hand (WD/7). Finally, a variation of NEWS is featured in the so-called Big Hand (SP/6).
    • Like Numbers. There are many hands outside the ALN section that also include like numbers (for at least part of the hand). Some apply to only specific numbers (e.g. 2024/3 has 2 kongs of 2s or 4s), some may only require a pair (which can grow later in the game, so worth keeping in mind). A great exercise would be to go through the card, look for these hands and write them down. How many do you find?
    • Consecutive Runs. Besides the actual Consecutive Run section, there are quite a few hands which follow a run pattern. Some runs only apply to part of the hand (e.g. WD/3 or WD/5), some are number-specific (e.g. SP/3). As with like- numbers, go through the exercise of locating all these hands and make a note of them. This will help cement them into memory and will come in handy when it's time to make hand decisions.

Subtle Changes and Gotchas

There are a few carryovers from last year (see above), but there are also hands that are very similar, but different enough to throw you off, should you glance at them too quickly. Below, we highlight these differences, and also list a few gotchas to pay attention to. 

Several hands are similar to last year but now use a 3-3-4-4 pattern, instead of the 3-4-3-4 pattern that was used on the 2023 card. These are: 

  • 2024/1
  • 2468/1a and b (vs 2468/3 last year)
  • CR/7a and b (vs CR/6 last year)
  • 13579/2a and b
  • WD/3a and b
  • 369/1a and b

  • 2024/3: similar to 2023/2, but the two kongs are flexible (can be 2s or 4s)

    2468/2: similar arrangement as 2468/4 last year but the pattern is now 2-3-2-3-4 (this hand will be easier than last year since it contains only 2 pairs instead of 3)

    ALN/1: 4-3-4-3 pattern (vs 4-4-2-4 last year)

    CR/1: now follows the 3-2-4-2-3 pattern (we refer to this as the “citrus juicer” pattern!). This hand usually switches between two standard patterns, so this is definitely a significant change

    13579/1: follows the same pattern as CR/1, as it usually does, so this year it’s the new 3-2-4-2-3 pattern 

    13579/3: easier than last year as only 2 (rather than 3) pairs are required. The Dragons are a pung this year. Also note the new pattern for the number part: 2-3-4 (instead of 4-2-4)

    WD/4: the crescendo Wind hand now requires only 2 Flowers and the pattern for winds is 2-3-3-4 (1-2-3-4 last year)

    WD/5: winds are now kongs (pungs last year) and all 3 numbers are pairs. The value has been increased to 30 points

    WD/7: requires like numbers (last year it was consecutive numbers)

    SP/1: the numbers pattern is now 2-1-1-2 (twice), rather than 1-1-2-2 (SP/4)


    In this section, we’ll be covering strategy ideas when playing with the 2024 card.

    There are a few challenges awaiting you as you play this year's card. These include:

    • CR/1a: requires pairs of 2s and 4s (so no Jokers allowed here). This could increase the competition for these number tiles and thus make hands using a 2024 grouping more difficult to achieve.
    • Also, given that 2s and 4s are used in all year hands and the 2468 section of the card, the competition for these tiles could result in these hands being more challenging. 
    • 3s and 6s: Since the numbers 3 and 6 are used in the greatest number of hands on the 2024 card, it may be more challenging to build hands using these numbers. So, be sure to have the majority of what’s required of these particular numbers before settling on a hand.
    • S&P/3b: the League decided to show this hand in descending order on the card, which is proving quite challenging for some players! Let’s make things a little easier and turn it around. Here’s what it would look like in ascending order: 899 78899 778899. That’s so much easier on the gray matter! Remember, it’s these numbers only, so keep an eye out for these high numbers in all three suits after the deal.

    This year, there are no single exposures that would give your hand away. Even two exposures could still be reasonably safe. Though, as always, every additional exposure makes it easier for your opponents to identify the hand you’re aiming for, and therefore thwart your efforts. 

    There are only 3 exposures that will make your hand dead (since they don't exist on the card). These are: Pung of Flowers, Quint of Dragons, Quint of Winds.

    As is the case every year, Flowers are all over the card. Therefore, they're always in high demand (though, thankfully, there are 8 of them in the set). We would caution against passing Flowers in the Charleston. If you have Flowers and don’t need them, we would recommend discarding them fairly early in the game. Since there are quite a few pairs of flowers on the card this year, discarding them later in the game will be risky! 

    There are 3 tiles that do not appear as singles: Flowers, Red Dragons, Green Dragons. So, as long as you can account for three Reds or Greens, or seven Flowers (in the discards, exposures or in your own hand), you can fairly safely discard any of these towards the end of the game. Though be aware that there's always a chance your opponent could have Jokers and claim that tile for a pung/kong/quint. Jokers will always be the absolute safest discard, if you decide to break up your hand and play defensively. Be sure to check your opponents’ exposures and the discards to glean information regarding the hands they may be working towards.

    When considering hands, it's always a good idea to have a back-up plan. Thankfully, there is a generous amount of overlap in this year’s card, offering lots of flexibility between hands. So, keep your options open as you receive new tiles, and you might be surprised where you end up as the game progresses!

    In general, there are good opportunities to switch within a given category. So, if you're unsure of the actual hand you’re aiming for, you can always collect tiles for a particular category (such as all evens, all 3/6/9s, etc) and switch between hands within these, depending on the tiles that come your way. Be sure to also collect Flowers and relevant Dragons, if these are included in potential hands you may aim for.

    There is also a great deal of flexibility for switching between sections of the card, so be sure to study the card for suitable options. In particular, it would be a good exercise to look for groupings of tiles that are common to various hands and make a note of these.

    Learning the Hands on the Card

    Learning a new card can seem like a difficult task. Trying to learn the new hands by just playing is not necessarily the most efficient way. It will be frustrating as you will likely miss many opportunities. Plus, you’ll find yourself gravitating towards the same familiar hands over and over. Frankly, that’s no fun! Careful study of the card and lots of practice will lead to a much more enjoyable and fulfilling game, and significantly more wins.

    We recently wrote an entire article on this subject, our Top Tips to Learn the 2024 Card... Fast!. We also cover how to use the I LOVE MAHJ Exercise Room, which is designed to help you learn the card and will make the learning process an absolute breeze.

    If you'd like to try I LOVE MAHJ, including the Exercise Room and unlimited game play (with 3 levels of bots, from beginner to advanced), sign up for our free trial. This link includes the TML promo code, which will get you 4 free weeks (instead of the usual 2 weeks).


    We hope you enjoyed this article. If you would like to take an even deeper dive into the ins and outs of the new 2024 card, we’d highly recommend reading our full analysis of the 2024 card

    At I LOVE MAHJ our passion is to help players take their game to the next level and we hope we have inspired you to do just that.

    If you have any questions, don't hesitate to email us. We're always happy to help!

    Philippe & Julie

    Creators of I LOVE MAHJ (Online Mahjong) 


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