American Mah Jongg consists of actually 152 tiles which is the largest number of all the variations. That is because the set contains 8 Joker tiles which act as wild tiles for the hands played. (Jokers can never be used as a single tile or in a pair.) They prove to be valuable, however if you make your Mah Jongg without using jokers, then you will double your points. If you have played one of the singles or pairs hand, then you do not double the point value when you win since these hands are designed not to be played with Jokers.
The White Dragon tile may appear as a blank white tile or in most cases a white tile with a blue border or it could be an actual dragon. It is often referred to as “Soap” and can also be used to represent a “zero” in those hands that refer to the year, for example 2013 or 2014.The three dragons are matched to the various suits. The red dragon is matched with the cracks, the green dragon with the bamboo (bam) tiles and the white dragon with the dots.
American sets come with four or five racks, two or more dice, and some type of wind indicator. American players need a card. The National Mah Jongg League was founded in 1937 and produces the Official Standard Hands and Rules Card annually. The League changes the hands in the card annually to add more interest in the game. Some hands are kept and others are left off to appear another year.
All American players use this same card. The proceeds from the sale of these cards and other products from the League are donated to charitable causes. Often these sets contain extra tiles (extra flowers, jokers, and/or blanks), and colored chips (circular chips with a square hole, reminiscent of old Chinese coins).
NOTE: If you buy an American set, you can use it to play Chinese mah-jongg or Japanese Mah Jongg as well (there are more than the required number of tiles present). But Chinese and Japanese sets cannot be used to play American mah-jongg (not enough tiles). So if you might want to use your set to play American mah-jongg some day, you should secure an American set and you can’t go wrong.
The Object of the game is to be the first one to complete one of the hands on the National Mah Jongg League Official Standard Hands and Rules card. You must be playing with the proper year card. It is a good idea to practice matching your tiles in various combinations so that you can become familiar with the hands or memorize them. This helps you become a faster and more efficient player.