Mahjong is more than just a game. In many Asian cultures, it has become a way of life. It has easily become a favourite pastime for many, and has been fully absorbed into part of the lifestyle.
In other societies, the normal topic of many conversations, may be the weather, or sports, but in the Chinese community, the most prevalent topic, is often the previous Mahjong game players' score.
The Mahjong game is played almost everywhere, at home, in private clubs, and it is played on social occasions, such as birthdays, weddings, holidays and almost any occasion for entertainment.
Mahjong is idolized in almost the same manner as the game of golf is revered in the west. There is a now an almost cult-like following, with associated theorizing that insinuates that Mahjong truthfully expresses individuality and provides the opportunity to express personal freedom and indulge in self-satisfaction
Perhaps an immediate reason for the increasing popularity, is that it is easy to play and simple to learn. Players also claim that it relieves hypertension and improves mental concentration and alertness. The therapeutic effects, can often be noticed by playing the mahjong game after an exhausting work week.
The game offers opportunities, not only for socializing, but also the chance to demonstrate the ability for independence, without being influenced by adverse comments or actions from opponents.
The Mahjong game is played with a set of 136 tiles, of Chinese characters and symbols. Four players are seated on each side of a square table. Different regions may use a different number of tiles, but generally, each player receives thirteen tiles. The objective is to match all the tiles in his or her hand before the other players. Players, in turn are allowed to draw a new tile from the table or pick up a matching tile discarded by another player. The second objective is to assemble the highest -scoring hand. The score is based on the probability of achieving a certain combination. The lower the probability of achieving the combination, the higher the score awarded.
Very few devotees of the game, can actually explain the captivating appeal, and why the Mahjong game itself can be so engaging. Some avid players claim that the strategic manoeuvres that are involved, simulate challenges that may occur in real-life. Once the game begins, reality is often suspended, and players can easily become immersed a world that overflows with expectations and anticipation.
Endless variations make it difficult to evaluate the strength of opponents, and this may also contribute to the intrigue. No two games are the same, and each session presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities. With so much variety involved, the mahjong game, involving skill, calculated strategy and a certain degree of luck, will always be interesting.