Become a Mahjong Player

And then join us in support of the North Texas Food Bank during Moonlight, Martinis and Mahjong, April 29.

Image courtesy Adobe Stock.

Whether you’re a seasoned mahjong player or a first timer, there’s room for you at the table during Moonlight, Martinis and Mahjong.

Hosted by the North Texas Food Bank on April 29 at Park City Club in Dallas, the fundraiser supporting NTFB will give tables of four the chance to play several rounds, all in the name of closing the hunger gap in North Texas.

“This is definitely an event where you can make it what you want,” says Bethany Williamson, who will be acting as mahjong host for the evening. “It’s really a time to enjoy.”

Bethany is among the growing number of North Texans who’ve taken up mahjong as a hobby in recent years. She’d seen her stepmom play over the last decade, but pulled up a seat at the table herself when she and some neighborhood friends decided to learn the game together.

“It took off like wildfire and the rest of is kind of history,” says Williamson, who now teaches the game and also helps run tournaments.

Mahjong originated in China in the 1800s and came to the U.S. in the 1920s, where it became a mainstay for many families. In recent years, the game has also taken off among millennials and Gen Z players who gather at neighborhood kitchen tables, libraries and cafes. The DFW Mahjong Facebook group now has more than 1,000 members and clubs have popped up at UT Dallas and other campuses.

If you’re not part of the mahjong craze yet, Williamson says you can still enjoy Moonlight, Martinis and Mahjong. She suggests reserving a seat with players who have a similar level of playing experience as you. Aside from that, focus on the fun and fundraising.

“I tell people at all of my lessons, give yourself grace,” she says. “It takes five or six times playing before you’ll feel comfortable with the game, and then the strategy and defensive moves come over time as you play more and more.”

Prepare for your first game with a few Mahjong basics:

  • Bethany says if you’re new to the game to think of it like gin rummy and begin by looking for pairs and runs. The goal is to achieve mahjong, which occurs when you put together a pair and four melds (a meld is a set of three or four identical tiles or a consecutive run of three tiles that are all in the same suit).
  • To start, select a dealer. You’ll do this by either rolling the dice and having the highest role act as dealer or by drawing wind tiles and assigning dealer to whoever draws east.
  • From there, shuffle the tiles and lay them in the center with illustrations face down.
  • Each player then chooses 36 tiles and builds a wall in front of them, 18 tiles long and two tiles high.
  • There are three main suits (dots, bamboos and cracks) and each suit contains four copies each of numbers one through nine, which means there are 36 tiles of every main suit. Additionally, there are dragon, wind and bonus tiles.
  • Once walls are built, each player takes turns drawing (or being dealt) 13 tiles from the pool.
  • The player to the right of the dealer goes first, drawing a tile from the center. They can keep it and discard a different tile or discard it right away.
  • This process continues around the circle until someone achieves mahjong, which requires 14 tiles.
  • When a tile is discarded, it can be picked up by anyone if it is being used to create a meld.

Looking for more directions? This video provides an overview of the game:

Reserve a table of four at Moonlight, Martinis and Mahjong here.