April 27, 2022

Mah Jong, Mah Jong and More Mah Jong

Mah Jong, Mah Jong and More Mah Jong

Dara and Donna and I talk Flowers, Dragons, Bars, and walls, dice, tournaments, Mahjcon and new cards and a lot of stuff about Mah Jong that I still don't understand, but I am sure you will.


Disclaimer: Unedited AI Transcription


Larry (00:07):

I'm Larry Barsh and you are listening to specifically for seniors or as I like to call it. Wait, wait. You've already told me that

Larry (00:22):

This podcast is brought to you in conjunction with the Alzheimer's Association's longest day fundraiser on June 21st, 2022. If you are enjoying our podcasts or if you would like to honor or memorialize a loved with Alzheimer's disease, please consider making a donation@wwwdotspecificallyforseniors.com. Your donation will help increase awareness, support caregivers, and fund the research necessary to cure this disease, please visit www.specificallyforseniors.com to make a donation. Thank you today on specifically for seniors, we're talking to two ladies who found did modern Marja Dara and Donna Dara. Why don't you start tell us about yourself.

Dara (01:30):

Hi, my name is D Collins. I've been playing Maja with Donna for over 10 years now. Um, I was born and moved to Florida when I was 10. Like I think you're required to by law. And, um, we started playing Maja. Um, we'll get into this later, but the, the stereotype was that older women played and I always said I wasn't gonna start, but then eventually Donna and I started playing and the rest is history.

Larry (01:58):

Oh, we'll talk about the history in a minute. Donna

Speaker 4 (02:04):

I'm Donna classman. I am actually a Florida native. I was born in Miami beach. Um, I did not grow up playing Maja. My mother and her sisters played Ram van bridge, but not never Maja. I started, uh, so I was trained as an attorney. I worked very hard, but my children were young and my mother became ill and I had to quit working to help take care of her. And my friends were learning this game of Maja. So I went to learn and I was hooked ever since.

Larry (02:38):

And the two of you got together and started a company, modern Maja.

Speaker 4 (02:44):

Yeah, I mean, so yeah, we, my, my mother passed, um, and my Maan friends were there for me unbelievably. Um, and I, my mother looked at me and said, buy something for yourself. And I bought my first, uh, vintage Maja set and Derek can tell the rest.

Dara (03:00):

So she was so happy to show it to me. It's something that we both, both appreciate just the history and the design of the tiles and the tradition. So when she was unwrapping it, there was this tiny little, I wish I had an explan, uh, example of it, but a tiny little wood box with a slide on top. And of all things. The name of it is a dice call often. And I saw the expression on her face when she opened it and saw that it came with that. And it, it was just such a morbid term that I went home and I said, well, I'm, you know, very good on Google. I'm gonna go home and search, and I'm gonna find Maja dice to replace those that make her smile. And, um, we'll get into it more in detail later, but something interesting about national ma league ma they added, um, jokers and at the current there's eight jokers in a set.

Dara (03:44):

So I said, I'm gonna just find dice that have joke. I'll be happy for her and she'll smile. And there weren't. And I called her and I said, I don't know, you know, we take lemons and make lemonade, but I think we have an idea here. So we designed 10 pair. Um, of course the first ding we get on a, our computer, I look and it was Phyllis Moser. My mom bought the first pair, but after that, just by putting it on Facebook, we sold out in a day, kind of looked at each other like, okay, maybe we're not the only ones. I think this is a beautiful way to compliment the tradition of the designs of the tiles. And we just started expanding. We started with one pair of gold joker, and then people wanted, um, actually have a pair here. I don't know if people see it, but if you Google modern, if you look@modernmoja.com, you could see designs. We went for smaller, bigger, um, different materials that match vintage sets. And then we would go to different shows and people would say, well, there's gotta be accessories. What else do you do? <laugh> and Donna, I mean, we came out with pet toys. We came out with, um, just a ton of different products that people really appreciate.

Larry (04:51):


Dara (04:52):

Gifts to give tips.

Larry (04:54):

So I assume you use dice in the game <laugh> that's

Dara (05:01):

But we get upset if people don't <laugh>,

Larry (05:03):

Uh, <laugh> let's talk about,

Dara (05:07):

It's a rule. That's why <laugh>,

Larry (05:10):

Let's talk about Marjong. I may be the only person on the planet who knows absolutely nothing about the game. I think my wife used to play it. I was told she played, uh, when the kids were small and we used to be at a, uh, pool club. Tell me, tell me about the game. You mentioned tiles and dice and jokers.

Speaker 4 (05:37):

So Maja originated in China. Um, the, there are over 40 styles of Maja in two there's 144, very thick tiles that stand up on their own. Um, when it came to the United States, the national Maan league was formed and eventually they added extra tiles, which were joker tiles. And you can use them with certain hands and it gives you an advantage. So American ma there's 152 tiles plus racks, um, plus dice. Um, if you, the reason you use dice is because we actually dare, I did a video. You can actually stack the deck, basically stack your wall of tiles to add jokers. Um, if you know where you're gonna break the wall, I'll break the wall at five tiles, 10 tiles. Um, and it's, you know, it's actually, as Jr said, it's a national Mo league rule that you roll the dice to break the tiles, and then you deal the tiles to the other three players. Whoa,

Larry (06:35):

Whoa, whoa. <laugh> what's the wall.

Dara (06:39):

It's when someone cuts the deck and Julia Roberts actually had an expression when she was on the late show with Stephen Colbert, she said, um, she loves creating chaos, um, creating order out of chaos with the random distribution of tiles. So over 40 styles, like Donna said, all 40 of them that we know of. You've roll dice to decide where you break the people take their own tiles. And because of that, it keeps the integrity of the wall and it makes it random. And I don't know about that many people that play national ma league ma on, and it's not as important, cuz you're picking certain tile, but in some cultures you see people holding the tile and rubbing it. They know what tile is before they even flip it over. So without you, it would be very easy to stack the deck with tiles that are valuable.

Speaker 4 (07:26):

So to answer your question, there are four people playing the game, okay. There are four racks. And in front of everybody's rack, you have a sets of tiles which are too high and you distribute the tiles amongst the four racks. Um, and that, and that in front of the racks is

Dara (07:44):

That we know most about, oh, sorry. We know most about national Mo league plays. That's what we're describing, but there's other there's YouTube videos like Michelle frill has a ma central and she'll describe, um, I think she does Hong Kong and Chinese, but we're most familiar with the national Mo league version and the object of the game. It's most like Rummy, but imagine that every year Rummy hands changed. So every year the Maja in April, everybody gets all excited that the new card's coming out and this year there's 66 different possible combinations of 14 tiles that are a winning hand. So if you think of,

Larry (08:22):

It's not, it's not every combination. They have to be the ones on the card they're

Speaker 4 (08:29):

Specific on the card.

Dara (08:31):

Right? And it's interesting cuz there's 66 tiles and Don and I had this group called Facebook ma on community. And we love how into the card people are. There's several people, website designers as well that look at the card and figure out how many combinations based on the different tiles. So those 66 hands can be 1015 combinations of tiles because of the different suits. So in cards you have hearts and spades in Maja, you have, I don't know. I mean, I know this is a podcast, so you really can't see this, but if you go, um, there's bam, crack dot. Those are the characters and then there's dragons flowers and they're all represented by symbol on the car. So it sounds Greek. But once you sit there and you look at the tiles and actually Donna, you wanna tell him how we came up with Magens

Speaker 4 (09:23):

Oh, you can. I mean,

Dara (09:26):

So it, it's very confusing and it's really like, you're learning a new language. So what we can call Magens, which is just a tile matching game with the symbols of, so it kind of makes people get ready to learn Maan and then it makes it like you're not learning a second language.

Larry (09:43):

So it's almost like Domino's.

Dara (09:45):


Speaker 4 (09:47):


Dara (09:48):

So I dunno if we confuse you sufficiently enough, <laugh>

Larry (09:52):

You, you notice the quizzical look on my, in my face, no

Speaker 4 (09:55):

People get I Tim, by the symbols on the tiles and they are different set to set. But once you learn it, you can kind of figure out this is a dot, it looks like a circle. The BAMS look like a bamboo pole, you know, plant, you know, a crack, a flower, you can red dragon, green dragon, you figure it out eventually.

Dara (10:14):

And this is appreciate you.

Larry (10:16):

I appreciate you is showing things, but this is a podcast. Oh

Dara (10:20):

No, I know. I'm just showing you just so you could see, um, when it's, when it's written down, you could see that there's little symbols and each of those stands. So the letter F stands for flower. So once you start recognizing the ti the first lesson, I mean two or the first time you read a book, you're just learning what the SIM and then it just keeps building. And eventually the light bulb, you know, the light switch clicks on and you just get it. And it's a great moment when you see the recognition of players when they just get it and then they just kind of come addicted to it.

Larry (10:50):

Are there any men who play this or are we just too stupid?

Speaker 4 (10:54):

No, no, no. I mean, There are many men who play in, in China. It's mostly men who play and they gamble for money. Um, but what we found, interestingly enough, during COVID a lot of women were home with their husbands and they taught them how to play Maja. So a lot of couples now play. We have a lot of young men that play Japanese form of Maja called Richie, and they meet at gaming clubs and comic bookstores and they love the game. So there's a lot of men that play

Dara (11:27):

And interesting. We do a feature called hashtag menage. And it's interesting because they think they're the only one. And when they see on our Facebook group, another man that loves the game, other men playing and we've had, um, card reviews with a player, New York, Barney. And we've had discussions with Tom Sloper who has a website. If you're confused, now wait a little bit, before you go to his website, it is slope ramma.com and it covers every question you would have about Maja. But

Speaker 4 (11:56):

It was funny during COVID really Crystal's wife plays Maja, and she taught him how to play. And he did a fun video of him playing. And then we have an opera singer in San Francisco, fully dressed in costume, sends us pictures of them playing Maja during breaks or during rehearsals. So yeah, there's a plenty of men that play really enjoy it.

Dara (12:15):

I see. And as Donna was saying, oh, go and Donna was saying about the stereotype, um, in China and other cultures actually there's there used to be a negative aspect since it's it a gambling game, the negative aspect was that it wasn't ladylike to play. So it's just so interesting how the different cultures regulat, whether it was an acceptable hobby or not. And now in Japan, some of the female Maja players are almost like, um, supermodel status. They a follower, you know, beautiful outfits that they wear. So it really is interesting to see the cultural change. And there's a great book. We actually had the author anise times on our zoom, um, Maja, a Chinese game and the making of modern American culture, because the stereotype is that it's a Jewish older women game and no one really ever traced one of accepted. So she traces the history of Chinese games and the rumor that it was from Confucius time, which it's not. And she traces it through to the 1920s and then all the way through to modern day.

Larry (13:21):

I think I may start, uh, stay with something simple, like quantum mechanics <laugh> rather than <inaudible> <laugh>

Dara (13:30):

No, you would love,

Larry (13:32):

I've read somewhere this symbolism in the way the tiles arranged. Is that right?

Dara (13:41):


Speaker 4 (13:42):

As you said on the hands on the card, they have to be arranged, um, in the order of the card, the hands on the card, basically.

Larry (13:50):

No, I read somewhere that, uh, the different players tiles have to touch at the corners

Dara (13:57):

In, oh, I think in China, there's a lot, there are a lot more, um, traditions and like certain times when you're dealing yourself, the tiles, if you get the last of one wall and the next two tiles of another people tap the tiles, Chinese expression hop toy, um, it's supposed to be good luck. Um, you'll see a lot of butterflies bats. He there's a lot of symbols that mean good luck in China. So those will be on a lot of tiles. So I think a lot of those elements might get lost in translation when coming over to the states. But yes, in the, in the history of China, you could, um, written about it. Um, just the way that the suits became like eight dot or eight a, I don't know if it's eight or eight crack, but a lot of people find when they buy vintage sets, there's certain tiles that are missing and it's because that tile is known to be very good luck. So people keep it as a good luck char. So if you saw crazy rich Asians, um, there's an article about symbolism of how they played and how it represented the plot of the movie, which I won't go into. Cause it would give away the plot, but there could be a lot of symbolism in the game. <laugh>

Larry (15:06):

Uh, there's also a language to Majong. Uh, I was reading somewhere, uh, the words like Majong Excel P Kong, am I mistake it's or was I reading the, the wrong thing?

Dara (15:24):

Well, it depends if you're playing reachy or, or Hong Kong, there's a lot of other words that you would have to learn, um, for, um, national model John league Maja. I think I could only think of punk Kong. Isn't Don, I'm trying to think. Can you think of any other words besides pong and Kong,

Speaker 4 (15:43):

Just P and Kong

Dara (15:45):

And they're defined on the back of the card. And also there's a, an instruction book that the national loon league puts out, um, every few years and it has a glossary in the back. So a lot of people think you have to learn a whole other language. Really. You just have to recognize the

Speaker 4 (15:59):

No, a pong just means three finals and a Kong is four tiles. Most people just say three or four in America. So you don't have to learn Chinese terms or anything,

Dara (16:10):

But both of us are interested. I mean, we find vintage sets. I mean, Donna got us started when she first got that first video sets. If you find a set that you can't complete with jokers, then you can't play national Mo league rules. So we're both really should learn other styles. Cause then you could use those sets for a variety of Hong Kong and Richie and other, other types of play.

Larry (16:31):

And there are special leagues for people who play the different types.

Speaker 4 (16:36):

There's different rules for different types. Um, there's instruction, manual and manuals. Um, the national ma league rules are on this car that we had talked about earlier. Um, yeah. And, and EE Japanese Majong there's leagues, you can join and go play. But for the most part, most people go to each other's homes or the clubhouse or the pool, like set and play with, you know, three other women.

Larry (17:01):

Okay. Uh, I'm still scratching my head, but we're getting there. <laugh>

Dara (17:07):

Just picture, picture instead of using cards, you're using tiles and have, do you play poker?

Larry (17:14):

Uh, a little bit.

Dara (17:16):

So imagine the, instead of a full house and a street that each year those changed and the value of those changed. And instead of now I'm forgetting, is it set pen tiles wait full hand, but instead of that, many, you have 14. So it's very similar to kind of like if poker and Rummy Q are combined

Larry (17:38):

And, and the rules of poker change every year.

Dara (17:41):

Well, the rules don't change. The rules are pretty steady. It's the hands that change, right? The winning combinations change. And that's Why it's a great segue you were saying about, um, Alzheimer's, um, it keeps your brain active cuz every year you need to put away what was from last year and how many times Don and I hear, oh, we're looking at our tiles and we say, oh wow, this would've been a great hand two years ago because you remember hand that you loved, and then you're looking at your tiles and you're like, oh yeah, that doesn't fit for of this year. So you're retraining your brain either.

Larry (18:14):

I can just envision a bunch of guys who play poker, where the rules change every year, where the hands change the value of the hands change. Every, this is why men play poker for the most part, just don't confuse me. Uh, you mentioned, uh Alzheimer's and Majong, there's been some research about warding off dementia with the game.

Speaker 4 (18:41):

Yeah. And it's not just Maja, they've done studies on any kind of game playing even crossword puzzles, but in particular Maja, because as dare said, every year, the hands changed. So you really have to learn the new hands and use them in your gameplay. And just actively working that brain is, um, stays off early stages of dementia and they're doing a lot more studies on it, but that's what they have found. There's also a lot, we haven't talked about, about socialization because people are very lonely and, um, just getting together with friends. I know for me, when my mother was sick, um, just being able to be with my friends helped a lot during COVID. We found a lot of widows were very lonely. So we did a lot of, um, zoom calls once a month. Uh, we do online tournaments. People just enjoyed seeing each other and being here. So socialization is a big part of the game and, and helpful in, you know, the study of dementia.

Dara (19:39):

And when we first started, oh, go ahead.

Larry (19:42):

I was gonna ask if the game was as satisfying online as it is in person

Dara (19:50):

<laugh> it depends. I mean, in the beginning of COVID, I would say yes, because we didn't have any other options. So we, we would, we actually, we would get matching, set or matching sets and put 'em out on our table and figure out a way to do it live, but it just didn't wouldn't work that way. Um, in the beginning it was a great alternative. And what we decided is like Donna was saying about, um, doing virtual zooms. There were so many people, people that miss that weekly connection that we combine Maja in mitzvah. And we hosted tournaments where people could buy any website that ha hosted Maja. And we either teamed them up with three other players or they signed up as a group and we would send them custom score sheets, and then they would send us back their scores. And it was just something for them to look forward to.

Dara (20:33):

And we kicked off the one in June of 2020 thinking we'd get, you know, 10 tables of players playing and we've done a month. And every month we pick a charity to donate to and people have, you know, the, the, the emails back saying this was something I look forward to and people would add, some of the sites have, um, built in chat and then other people would use two things and they would play on their computer, but they would FaceTime while they were playing. Yeah. So, um, sometimes Don and I laugh that will just, you know, call each other with the same idea. And one day we saw that the Alzheimer's association does the longest day and they do Maja is one of the things that they do to raise shine light on the darkest day. And we just were coming out with purple dice, right.

Dara (21:18):

When we saw that. And we're like, that's it for every pair of purple dice we sell, we donate to Alzheimer's. And it was just such a great connection because a woman that it's very active with Alzheimer's as a volunteer, she sent us a thing of the 10 healthy brain. Um, wait, where is it? Um, it's like the 10 ways to love your brain and benefit your mind. And three of them are being physically active, challenging your brain and staying socially engaged. And those three are all satisfied by the game of Maja. So it's such a great tie in, and that's why we are on the national committee for Maja, for memories every year. And we just like to spread the word of people doing fundraisers each June,

Larry (22:00):

If there's anybody listening, who hasn't started Maja, how do you get started?

Speaker 4 (22:10):

I mean, if you're a computer person there, you know, there are videos online as, as dare mentioned, Michelle frill on YouTube from the very basics. Um, and she will teach you based on a card, you know, she created, um, you can get a copy of a card and start reading it, get your first set, put the tiles out on the table and start to try and make hands on the card just by picking the tiles. So the first thing is dare said, you have to learn what the tile symbolize. And number two, you have to learn the ma card if you're gonna be playing with it. Um,

Dara (22:45):

Yeah. And, um, ma meetings

Speaker 4 (22:46):

First learned by going to temple. I mean, I did not have a mother. I, as I said that, you know, played Maja growing up the temple had an event. I went, I watched my friends play and learn, and then I just jumped in and take it slow. And, and a lot of events have beginner table medium. You know, it just depends. You can go to some tournaments and they have beginning tables. So you just have to look for events in your area where they're gonna teach Maja.

Dara (23:11):

Yeah. And Maja made easy is the national Maan league's official instruction book. And it's a little pamphlet that we have on our website. That's a great, it, it's, it's confusing, but it's not detailed, detailed oriented. It's very, you know, cuts to the point of what you need to learn. And then there's a new book out by, um, Greg Swain and, and they it's American Maja for beginners. I think it's for beginners or for everyone. And in the back of the book, they actually have a tear out page that you could cut out tiles and then, and have a mockup card. So you could learn that way before you invest in the set. Cuz what we learned is a lot of times people will buy a set and then after playing on a bunch of different sets, realize that they like a different style of set better. So there there's a lot of ways we highly recommend reading the back of the card, the rule book and, and searching out. We have a directory on our website of teachers throughout the us and some even do it on zoom. So it's just a great way to make sure you learn the actual rules. Um, rather than just learning what that teacher thinks is what the rules should be.

Speaker 4 (24:17):

And also on our website, modern ma.com. We said, where is our Maja community? And we have listings in every state oh, where people play, whether it's a civic center, a temple, a church. Um, and so you can call those and say, do you have beginning lessons? I'm a beginner. And there's a listing of, I mean, I don't know how many there at this point where, but

Dara (24:36):

Every state. Yeah. And, and we, and we love it. It brings us such joy when people are traveling and they go on our Facebook group and they say, Hey, I'm gonna be in, you know, whatever city, you know, does anybody wanna play? And we get emails from people saying, thank you so much for the introduction. We had such a great time. Every time I Covis, you know, you know, wherever I'm gonna play with this group again. So it's such a great, it's almost like how everyone knows the tune, happy birthday, if you know the right way to play your style of ma whether it's national Mo con Singapore, when you go somewhere that plays that you could just sit down, pull up a chair and play the game.

Larry (25:13):

I'm gonna ask you a little more about your website and what you provide on it. But tell me about Majong tournaments and something called maj con

Speaker 4 (25:25):


Dara (25:26):

You've done your research. <laugh>

Larry (25:28):

You dress up as tiles

Dara (25:31):

Or <laugh>,

Speaker 4 (25:33):

It's not ComicCon

Larry (25:35):

Trek character. What

Speaker 4 (25:36):

I've been to ComicCon no, it, it is not

Dara (25:38):

No two women ju the first night. Yeah.

Speaker 4 (25:41):

Yeah. Two women Michelle FRA Brazil, um, from Georgia and Debbie Barnett from the villages in Florida started the first MOJ con last year, um, in Orlando. And it's all it's for MOJ and players to get together. They have speakers, they have gameplay socialization. This is the second year they're gonna have it. And this year it's gonna be in Boca. Um, October

Dara (26:03):

In October,

Speaker 4 (26:04):

We have to give them the exact date, but it's moj.com we can out. And it's just a gathering of ma on enthusiasts for plays lectures, learning how to become a teacher, learning how to play. Um, so it's gonna be a great time this year

Dara (26:18):

And they have different tracks. They have tracks for players, and then they have tracks for instructors. And it's funny that you said dress up. So the first night, last year, they actually had a Jubilee where the theme was the great Gadsby. And it was such a great icebreaker because people just had so much fun. And if you didn't wanna dress up, you didn't have to, but they had some, you know, little accessories you could put on before you walked in. And then this year it's, the theme is a sock cop for the first night. So it's just a great way for a lot of people who went by themselves just to have something to talk to people about. And what was great is since it was, um, it was during COVID during a break in COVID little bit lower numbers of COVID. Um, a lot of people recognized each other from playing online. So they would be like, wait a second. You're so, and so we play on ma on time or, oh, we play on real Maja. So it was very interesting meeting people that you've feel like your friends and haven't met yet. So that would, and just to, to be able to bond like in any hobby with people that share the love of the game.

Speaker 4 (27:20):

So this year it's October 9th through the 11 at the Boton Marriot at Boca center. So dare and I will be speaking this year, um, with other speakers. So it's gonna be a fun time. We

Larry (27:32):

Think. How do people register?

Speaker 4 (27:35):

Just go to Maan

Dara (27:38):

Mam, a H

Speaker 4 (27:39):


Dara (27:40):

It's M a HJ, C O n.com. And there's general admission. There's the Jubilee. And then the last day, cuz people last year was like two days, they added a full day of open play or a mini tournament. So a lot of people were really asking for that. So I think that'll be a lot of fun and they're very quick to respond. If you have any questions, you could email them. Their email is on there and, and they'll tell you all about it. Um, last year we were exhibitors there and then this year, like Donna said, we're gonna speak and also be vendors

Larry (28:12):

Before I get to your business. End of your company, tell me a secret about Majong that nobody else knows.

Dara (28:22):

Oh, but then we'd have to make this a lock have to, then you'll

Larry (28:27):

Have to, you'll have to kill me. Yeah,

Speaker 4 (28:29):

<laugh> right. I, I think for myself, one of the things, since I didn't grow up learning Maan um, you have to have several hands in mind when you're playing. So if you get a bunch of 2, 4, 6 eights, you pick this paragraph, but you, you can't commit to a hand right away, cuz you don't know what's gonna be thrown out. What's gonna be passed. So you really have to be flexible in changing up your hand. And that's the best way to, to win games is my opinion.

Dara (28:57):

Yeah. And my secret is, um, I think that the way someone plays Maan really gives you insight into the way they live their life. I think there's some people <laugh> Donna, I, not that I know this is a podcast, so you can't see our expressions, but Donna just laughed at that. Um, there's some people that are very, um, consistent players in the fact that you know exactly what hands they're gonna do. You can read them, you can, you know, figure out and then there's other people that take risk and um, go for harder hands, follow where the tiles lead them. So I think that it's a very interesting tell and you can learn a lot if you're a poker player, I think you could pick up on cues. Um, when you pass tiles to other people, you could see if they look at them and smile, you could see if they put 'em in their rack, you could see if they just pass 'em along. So there's a lot of body language. And a lot of other things that go into this is not something that you expect a beginner to player to pick up at all. At first you're just playing, you know, to, to focus and your hand. But as you go, there's a lot of defensive play. So I think a lot of aspects of personality can be seen at the Mo table,

Speaker 4 (30:08):

But as you can see, the brain is constantly working. I know it sounds silly, but the reality is there's a lot involved in the game.

Larry (30:16):


Speaker 4 (30:17):

You can do it, Larry. We know you can do it.

Larry (30:23):

Uh, yeah. I, I, I think I wanna stick, as I said to quantum mechanics, it sounds a lot easier.

Dara (30:29):


Speaker 4 (30:29):

Well, you had also asked us about tournaments. Um, yeah. I believe either you're a tournament player or you're not, I think tournament players go for the socialization. They'll travel to several states and cities, um, to see, but it's also a competitive person that plays in tournaments because you can actually win money. Um, they mark their cards and I got, I won this hand and this hand and this hand, um, if you don't wanna play tournaments, you don't have to, and just have a fun game where you chat with your friends and take it slow. So it just depends as dare said on your personality.

Dara (31:03):

Yeah. And, and it's interesting, there's a mother and daughter team that just took over a very well established, um, tournament company or two different tournament companies. And they are, you know, they'll go to Charleston and Sarasota and um, new Orleans and, and Vegas. And it's just amazing because they're are some people that do the tournament circuit. Um, I met a gentleman the other day and I think he said he did 60 local and national tournaments a year, which just is amazing. Um, the main thing about tournament play is you have to recognize there's gonna be really sweet sociable players and there's gonna be very cutthroat players, but you go in with the attitude of, this is fun. This is an experience, uh, maybe the first hand at your first tournament, you'll be nervous and you'll just be playing defensively. But after that, the kind of fear washes away.

Dara (31:52):

And, um, Don and I once did a local tournament and someone looked at one of the tiles and handed it, showed it to us and said, you know what tile is this? And for some reason that just put me at such ease, knowing that, okay, not everybody here is a, you know, gungho diehard tournament player. So it really is what you make of it. A lot of people just enjoy the camaraderie, the travel, the just seeing, you know, and, and it's, it's really interesting to see how it's grown. Um, we see pictures and the demographics are changing. There's a lot of younger play layers going. Now there's a lot more men going now

Speaker 4 (32:29):

And also part of the tournament, just so you know, is, is the charitable aspect of it. So the national ma league was founded by Ruth uner and it was charities from the sale of the cards. They donate to charity from the sale of the cards we sell for them. We donate to Alzheimer's associates. So a lot of these tournaments, like our online tournaments, we have given a lot of money to different charities every month. And I like that aspect of to like,

Dara (32:55):

And, and to too our own horn because, you know, if we don't know, no one else will. Um, the first year we collected pre-orders of the card that we discussed before and we thought, okay, maybe we'll sell like 40 cards. And we sold 743 cards, which was a $1,500 donation to Alzheimer's. So we're like, okay, let's do it for 2121. We sold 2000 cards. And we were like, wow, that's a lot of cards. So this year the card orders kept coming in. We raised at least $20,000 for Alzheimer's from the sale of those cards, which we were just thrilled. I mean, it was, it doesn't sound like a lot of work because you're just selling a card, but it you're double checking. You're following up if people didn't get their card yet you're but it was really rewarding to be able to raise that amount of money. <affirmative>

Larry (33:41):

This is more than a game.

Speaker 4 (33:43):

Yes. Yes. <laugh>

Dara (33:46):

I just got chills the way you said that <laugh>,

Speaker 5 (33:49):

It is

Speaker 4 (33:50):

Money for charity. It's socialization, it's for your mental health. It's for fun. It's for Reasons.

Dara (33:58):

And not that celebrities or any different than us, but when you hear Julia Roberts gush about it, and Sarah, just like a Parker's Instagram is filled. I mean, she had a video of somebody giving her a vintage set and she's like, so beautifully worded. Like if these tiles could talk the stories, they would tell, like it's handed down from generation to generation. My mom and my 96 year old grandmother still plays, which shows the benefits, the, the game on the brain. My mom still plays and I didn't play as a kid. But when I sat down with Donna, I didn't go to the temple event. I just went to a friend's house after, and it just kind of came to me. I just kind of remembered it from osmosis of listening to my mom's friends, sitting, throw out the tiles and hear the names. So it's definitely more than a game to a lot of people

Speaker 4 (34:41):

Also love when we see grandparents playing with their children and their grandchildren, the grandmothers love playing with their grandchildren. We had a picture the other day sent to us, four boys, teenage boys, sitting at a table playing. So it's just a wonderful way to connect people and families together.

Larry (35:02):

Tell me more about your company wa Mahaw.

Speaker 4 (35:08):

So as Dar said, um, the first set I bought, um, comes with tiny little dice and a dice coffin, um, just plain little dice. So we started, um, making, um, dice, as dare said, we go out and sell them out right away. He people said, I want pink. You know, I want green. I want, so people like the dice to match their set. Um, so that's how our dice line evolved. And then as we said, when people were intimidated by the tiles and also some of these majo sets are worth thousands of dollars. So grandparents didn't want the grandkids playing with their sticky fingers. We created MAOS, which is a domino type of matching game with the Maja symbols. So kids could play and you don't feel like we have a video of my friend's nephew. Who's won playing with the child, cl them together. Um, so that's how we created MAOS. Um, which everybody loves there. You can talk about other things.

Dara (36:05):

And then, uh, we noticed, cause we have a Facebook group. So what happened is we started a Facebook page for our business and we noticed that a lot of people, like you said, it's more than a game. They wanted a comment and we kind of felt like we didn't wanna have all these comments on, you know, to make it feel like it was a business. So we instead started a group that we could connect people. And we called it Maja community because really Maja is such a community of really helpful players. And we noticed that we kept seeing pictures on Maja, community of cats and dogs getting excited for game day. And I'm sure it's because, well, I guess cats, it depends. Cats, love, cats, love playing with the tiles and the dice. We've had several people send us pictures of cats, like rolling around playing.

Dara (36:46):

But I think the dogs just love that all the food was being served because like we said before, it's socialization, people love to feed each other. They love to have snacks. So we came up with the whole pet line. So we have the big bark Maja, tile floating, sweet toy for dogs. And we have a little catnet <inaudible>. I mean, I know our dad jokes are horrible, but we say it's always a perfect time, perfect time for Maja. And then from that people said, well, what's next? And we keep getting asked that wherever we go, what's

Speaker 4 (37:14):

Why don't you sell a Maja set itself?

Dara (37:16):

So, so we came out with a set. Then we came out with custom jokers. People love, it's kind of like, Frank's hot sauce. People love putting their name on everything. So we have jokers. You could customize with your name. You could do. Um, we had one person that I just loved how they came out. They did all their last name is rice and all their dogs except, and cats, except for two, have something to do with rice fried rice, sticky rice. So we did Jasmine rice. So we did a set of eight jokers with all the different lucky pets names on them. So it was just such a great next step of coming out with the set. Then we did the tournaments, we did key chains. Um, a lot of people love collecting and they, it sounds like a horrible, you know, first world problem to have, but the are about to host and they say, oh, where did I put my rot game set?

Dara (38:03):

So we came up with little indicators that you hang from your Maja box, that show what the set is inside. So we came up with tile indicators. Um, and then the funny thing is a lot of players who play Maja also play Canasta. And they said, well, we need Canasta products. We love your, your products we need. So we came up with a little, um, kind of like in poker where there's the dealer thing. We came up with a Canasta dealer and I can't give it away yet cause we don't have it on our website, but we have other great Canasta products coming out. We have another people want gifts and accessories for Maja whenever they go to someone's house. So we have other great, um, items coming out with that too.

Larry (38:43):

Here's you mentioned, um, that some people like to feel the tiles. I Here's my idea. <laugh> how about a braille embossed set for visually impaired people?

Dara (39:01):

Someone just asked that the other day and there are, I don't believe I've ever seen a commercial braille set, but there is a website that sells large print. Actually we had one large, very large for a, yeah.

Speaker 4 (39:15):

That's different braille is

Dara (39:17):

Actually yeah. Brail. Braille would be, it would be terrific. I think that would be such a wonderful cause now, I mean, even when we do YouTube videos, I mean, I love when it automatically does. Um, for, I mean, I know it's hearing a pair, but it automatically does the captions, but braille would be a wonderful addition. Mm-hmm

Larry (39:33):

<affirmative> it it's yours.

Dara (39:37):

See, we never knew what we'd come up with from talking to you today,

Larry (39:40):

Ladies, this has been terrific. I, you gave me a new realization of what the game actually is all about and that's what I was hoping you'd talk about. So thanks so much for coming on specifically for seniors,

Dara (39:59):

Larry, we really enjoyed it. Thank you for having us. We

Speaker 4 (40:01):

Hope to teach you how to play soon.

Dara (40:03):

Yes. Check out our YouTube channel. There's great tips.

Larry (40:07):

<laugh> what is it?

Dara (40:09):

It's youtube.com/modern ma on, and there's actually one series. It's a four parter and it's learn the card and that's a great place to start. We just read the card to you the back of the card.

Larry (40:22):

Thank you again.

Dara (40:23):

Thanks. Have a great one.

Larry (40:26):

If you found this podcast interesting, fun or helpful, we'd appreciate it. If you tell your friends and family and click on the or subscribe button, wherever you listen to podcasts until next time I'm Larry bar and you've been listening to specifically for seniors.

Modern Mah JongProfile Photo

Modern Mah Jong

Dara and Donna have been friends for over 16 years and started playing mahjong together over 10 years ago. Dara Mosher Collins was born in New York, moved to South Florida and graduated from University of Texas at Austin. Dara attended University of Miami Law School and worked as an attorney in Miami for several years. Donna Miller Kassman is a South Florida native that graduated from American University in Washington, D.C. After graduating from the University of Miami Law School, Donna practiced commercial real estate law in South Florida.

Both Dara and Donna were interested in finding vintage mahjong sets. They noticed that the mahjong tiles, racks and cases were works of art but the dice did not complement the beauty of the designs on the tiles. Mahjong Dice™ was born. After creating Mahjong Dice™, we expanded our small women owned business to include other mahjong themed gifts and accessories which are designed to complement your mahjong tiles vintage or modern while preserving the history and culture of the game.

On several of our styles of Mahjong Dice™, the Joker used in games played by National Mah Jongg League rules represents the one dot and the two through six are engraved dot designs. We also have Mahjong Dice™ that are Jokerless like the Lotus Dot series. For the Lucky Bam series, the one bam is represented by an elegantly engraved black and green peacock. We continue to introduce new designs, colors and styles and we love and listen to your feedback. Our products are available on ModernMahjong.com.

We love combining mahjong and mitzvah and believe in giving back to the community. We are proud of fundraising for the Alzheimer's Association The Longest Day and being members of the Alzheimer's Association Longest Day Mah Jongg for Memories Committee. We also donate $1 per pair of purple Jokerless Lotus Dot dice sold and are excited for upcoming opportunities to be involved with this important cause.

For every virtual tournament we held during the pandemic, we selected a charity and donated a percentage of proceeds. Since hosting the first virtual mahjong tournaments across several platforms that play according to NMJL rules, we have donated to:
the Alzheimer's Association
The Women's Alzheimer's Movement
The ALS Association
The Tutu Project
Good Karma Pet Rescue of South Florida
The Actor's Fund
Gilda's Club of Westchester, NY
I Care I Cure Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
Cancer Schmancer
Cancer and Careers
Stop Asian Hate
the American Heart Association
The Worldwide Wildlife Foundation