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Mah-Jongg Snags Younger Players

The ancient Chinese game of mah-jongg is making a comeback, especially among female boomers.

“It’s caught on,” says Ruth Unger, president of the National Mah Jongg League, which governs the rules of the most popular U.S. version. Unger estimates there are 400,000 American mah-jongg players today, about double the number 10 years ago.

The game is similar to gin rummy except it is played with tiles, not cards, and the familiar suits are replaced with Chinese symbols.

Elaine Sandberg of Los Angeles began playing 20 years ago. Now in her 70s, she has written a beginner’s guide to the game, and has seen many young people hooked on mah-jongg: “I’d be rich if I had a nickel for every time I heard a woman express shock at playing their mom’s game."

Caroline Mayer is a consumer reporter and lives in Arlington, Va.

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