Mastering Mahjong (麻將).

My wife, my parents-in-law and myself had a nice little Mahjong session just now. Real chinese Mahjong is played with 136 tiles which contain about 30 different characters, so that each one is about four times to be found in the game. Sounds a lot like Poker, doesn't it? Wikipedia tells me that the game may have been invented 500 years before christ by a guy named Confucius, and since all the history of the world seems to come from China, this might just be true. And Poker? "English actor Joseph Crowell reported that the game was played in New Orleans in 1829"... I can really imagine how some Texas-Ranger looking dude on his horse passed by a couple of chinese migrant railway slaves and studied them playing Mahjong, only to come up with the idea of Poker later. The very first version of Poker may even have been played on self-made cards using toilet paper, who knows? But then again, did the cowboys have toilet paper in the west? Thinking about it, I can't recall a western movie where you ever saw a cowboy take a dump, but hey, whatever. Would've been too much to ask Russell Crowe in 3:10 To Yuma to make more history lesson out of the movie than action. The indians probably used the scalps, no?

I am getting of the subject. So every player gets 13 tiles in the beginning, and then player after player take a new tile and drop one. The mission is, to get three similar tiles or what would be a "little road" in Poker, like 4-5-6. There are some special in-between rules, like if you have two 3's and one player drops another one you can scream "PANG!", take it and reveal the three 3's. It sounds confusing and the very first rounds are tough, but once you're in the game, it's so much more fun than Hold 'Em or whatever is in style now. The cool thing is that you play without a poker face, because you don't really gamble during playing, but you set a price for the round before the game.

I lost around a dollar in one hour, but if you go to the right place in Shanghai, you can probably loose a lot more in that time. But what do the french people say? "Gambling is the son of avarice and the father of despair." So we'll leave it to the family table here in Xi'An...

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