Wisdom from our favorite Mahjong Man

We are happy to share with you Barney's evaluation of the 2022 NMJL card. Barney is a self-described "crazy person" when it comes to Mah Jongg. While he's only been playing for 6 years, he loves all aspects of the game: social play, tournament play, online play, teaching, and collecting sets. Barney currently lives in Bergen County, New Jersey. Enjoy this fun review of the new card. 

Let me steal a line from All About Eve.  “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Perhaps Margo Channing (played by Bette Davis) was on the card committee this year.  Unquestionably the most interesting, and potentially challenging, card I have seen since I started to play 7 years ago.

Before I start, I hope each of you, and your loved ones, are well.  2021 was better than 2020 but not by much.  I hope 2022 improves with each passing month.  2020 was like no other and we are all hoping for a much better 2021.  Of course, only time will tell, but my initial reaction to this card is VERY positive.  Many unique hands, many varying patterns, no complete “give-aways” like last year’s NEWS hand.  I’m feeling good.  May the card bring you lots of joy in 2022.  It’s the year of the TIGER - so ROAR!!

  • There are 9 sections of the card this year. All 9 are the same as last year.
  • There are 66 different hands that appear on the card this year – down 1 from last year. (NOTE:  If there are 2 different hands printed on the same row of the card, I count them as 2 hands.)
  • As is always the case, the common patterns of Pung Pung Kong Kong and Pung Kong Pung Kong alternate with years. This is a year of PPKK which is good to keep in mind as it helps you remember the proper patterns for some (7) hands on the 2022 playing card.  As I said earlier, this card is filled with many different patterns – but at least there are no PKPK patterns (that would have been truly evil – hehehehe) that were last year’s common pattern.
  • My biggest disappointment already – there are no addition or multiplication hands this year. They didn’t appear on last year’s card either, so I was hoping they’d return. Maybe in 2023.
  • The League has again positioned all of the concealed hands as the last row(s) within each section. It was not always that way in the past.  Many people prefer them listed last. All of the concealed hands this year (not including the Singles & Pairs hands and the Big Hand) are valued at 30 cents, so no need to wonder if the hand is 30 or 35 cents like in years past.
  • If you like DRAGONS, this card should make you happy. There are dragons in each and every section of the card.  And my hunch tells me many people are already in love with the all-dragon hand – FFF DDDD DDD DDDD.   Fun hand for sure.
  • MOST INTERESTING HAND ON THE CARD? This is an easy call for me this year.  The even Quint hand is definitely going to be one of my go-to hands.  You only need a single Joker to win this hand and 2468 hands are typically in our easy-hand wheelhouse.  I think we will see many people win this hand over the next year.  I would also say that the entire Quint section of the card is better than last year’s Quint section.
  • Many people refer to the last hand within the Singles and Pairs section of the card as the Big Hand – probably because it’s the highest value and most difficult of any hand on the card. Well, this year, the “Big Hand” has been moved to the 2022 section of the card.  It’s the last hand and pays out 85 cents.  I think this is an extremely difficult hand as the odds of getting 9 natural twos are staggering.  (NOTE: The card also has that special red message above this section. It reminds us that JOKERS MAY NOT BE USED IN A 2022 GROUPING.)  Good luck with this one!
  • Every year the League receives questions from players who are not sure about the hands/notes that appear on the card. There is only so much “real estate” on the card so not every comment/note can be printed.  The notations all seem very clear to me.  Pay close attention to the 4th hand down in the Winds and Dragons section. The notation points out that odd or even numbers are acceptable for this hand even though we see the odd number 1.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll see the common questions that pop up – hopefully very few.
  • Any knitters out there? Unfortunately, there are no “knitted hands” this year, again!  I was hoping they would return this year.  Maybe on the 2023 card. (NOTE:  a “knitted hand” is one where the middle part of the hand is the same suit as the dragons at the end of the hand.  For example, 333 6666 999 DDDD, or 1111 333 5555 DDD.)
  • I was extra curious at first glance of the new card to see how many of these hands are repeat hands. As I suspected, fewer than normal.  Only 7 hands (11%) came back from last year’s card and only 29 hands (44%) have appeared on any card from the past 6 years.  Both of those percentages are down considerably.  Meaning what? New hands and new patterns to get familiar with!
  • Every year I enjoy calculating the “average price” of a hand on the card. It’s 29.70 cents this year – down about 2% from last year’s value of 30.22 cents.  
  • Pay attention to pay-outs this year. There are a number of 30 cent hands (Exposed) that are scattered through their specific section of the card.
  • Always good to know if there is a single exposure that would make a hand dead. There are two for this year.  If someone exposes a Quint of flowers, her/his hand is dead.  The same is true for a Pung of any Wind. Those Pungs of Winds appear only in concealed hands.
  • Another big year for flowers. 26 hands (39%) call for 2 or more flowers.   And with the return of 6 flower hands (2 sets of flower Pongs) we all need to be really familiar with the flower count among those 26 hands.
  • It’s gone! For the first time in 7 years, FF 3333 6666 9999 is gone.  It was the only hand that appear on each of the last 6 cards.
  • But 3 of them are out!! How many times have you thrown “the safest tile in the world” – 3 are out and you have the 4th, but someone still calls Mah Jongg when you discard that 4th one? GRRRR. That was a big problem last year with the NEWS hand. Since the hand only calls for 1 of each wind, discarding any wind was never truly safe. Some similarities this year.  The only truly safe tiles this year are North and South winds and Red and Green dragons. If you can account for 4, you can discard any of them.  Unless someone is saving Jokers to call for an exposure, they cannot call Mah Jongg with that single tile.
  • I cannot find any changes on the back of the card – so all the basic rules and guidelines remain the same.

Last year, I had a number of people asked me how I get familiar with the new card.  Here is what I told them:

  • I write this article – preparing to do so really helps!
  • I play Siamese with my patient friends
  • I play online with robots. Start a 4-week free trial playing online mahjong using The Mahjong Line's tiles. 
  • I write down on paper every hand from the new card – the act of writing helps me
  • I build every hand on the card on a rack with tiles – I am a visual person
  • I play the 14 tile game that I have described before. Grab 14 tiles that are a winning Mah Jongg hand. Turn them face down and mix them up. Replace 7 of them with 7 random tiles selected from the rest of the tiles.  Now turn up all 14 and see if you can spot the original Mah Jongg among those 14 tiles.
  • Start creating a list that shows when 2 exposures can only be one hand. This will take time, but it is so helpful in truly understanding the card.
  • Start a second list that shows what your back-up plan is when your Plan A hand goes dead. Nice to have a Plan B for most of your hands.
  • (Nerd alert!) I have a photo of each panel of the card on my phone.  Whenever I need to kill some time, I look at the 3 photos.

Kudos to the League for creating a truly unique card this year.  Can’t wait to play with it!  Thank you for all you do!

Until next year,


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