Everything you need to know about the new 2023 Mah Jongg card



Well, time flies, doesn’t it? Here we are again, at the start of the American Mah Jongg year, and it’s time to learn the new 2023 National Mah Jongg League card. Just when we were all getting comfortable and feeling as though we’d finally mastered the previous one.

Fear not! It’s Philippe and Julie here from I LOVE MAHJ, and we’re always keen to go above and beyond to offer all the tips and tools needed for every level of player to improve their game significantly. In addition to articles such as this, the I LOVE MAHJ online platform offers a plethora of resources to help newbies get up-to-speed with the game, and for the more experienced players to really stretch themselves against the advanced bots (we offer 3 levels). 

No matter how many years you’ve been playing, or your level of experience, we all get to start over every Spring, with a brand new card. We’re not going to sugar-coat it, learning a new card can be tough and intimidating, but it’s also absolutely fabulous for our brains! Our aim is to make getting to grips with the new card as painless and as quick as it can possibly be!

This is a comprehensive analysis and we’ve got lots to share with you. So, grab yourself a cup of coffee, and be sure to have your 2023 National Mah Jongg League card to hand, so that you can follow along, and we’ll get right to it. This may be a lengthy article, but we promise that by the end of it, you’ll feel so much more prepared for the Mah Jongg year ahead and you may even wish to refer to several sections below as the year progresses. 

What We’ll be Covering

Rather than running through every single hand on the new card, we decided it would be more helpful to touch on themes, insights and data to help you quickly familiarize yourself with the new hands and be able to confidently navigate your way around the new card. Our ultimate goal is for you to improve your knowledge of the card, so that you can win more often and thoroughly enjoy playing and strategizing with the 2023 card.

As you move through the sections of this article, we will:

  • Share our first impressions
  • Discuss common patterns
  • Clarify points of confusion
  • Point out carryover hands
  • Highlight subtle hand changes from last year, as well as gotchas 
  • Provide interesting analysis on the 2023 hands
  • Suggest strategy tips specific to the 2023 card (including how to switch between particular hands)
  • Point you to our method for learning the new card at record speed 

So, buckle up, as we test drive the 2023 National Mah Jongg League card!


Before we dive in, let’s just clarify the way we’ll represent hands in this article.

  • Hands will be labeled as <section>/<line>
    • The section will be abbreviated by its initials (e.g. 2023, ALN, CR)
    • When the card shows 2 variations for a particular hand, the first one will be marked “a” and the second “b” 
    • For example:
      • ALN/1 represents Any Like Numbers, line 1
      • CR/5b represents the second version of Consecutive Run, line 5
  • Hand patterns will be shown by the number of tiles in each meld (we find this format visually easier to follow). For example, pung-pung-kong-kong will be shown as 3-3-4-4.

First Impressions

The 2023 card is a little more conventional than the 2022 card. There’s a return of some tried-and-true hands and more consistent patterns. But, there are also a few interesting new hands to keep things fresh.

Addition Hands are back this year, to the dismay of those who “don’t like Math” (tip: if this is you, focus on the numbers and ignore the + and =). More on this section later!

“2023” can also be found in the Winds – Dragons category, in addition to the 2023 section of the card, and the “Big Hand” is back in its rightful place in Singles and Pairs.

The Winds – Dragons section is interesting, with excellent flexibility between hands.

Overall, the new card is very playable, with great switchability between hands and sections (more on this later).


The instructions for each hand on this year’s card are pretty clear. However, there are still a few areas where further clarification would be helpful and we highlight these below:

  • 2023/3: The note in parenthesis states “2023 any suit, pungs any dragon”. Some may interpret this to mean that both pungs can be any dragon, potentially the same dragon. However, the League has confirmed that while the dragons can match the suit used for “2023”, the 2 pungs of dragons need to be different suits
  • 2023/4: The note states “any 2 suits, pair of 2s may be in any suit”. This is a wee bit misleading, as the pair of 2s has to be in a different suit than the 222 33 part of the hand (since this is shown in a different color)
  • 2468/2: The two kongs are shown as 2s, but can be any like even number, so both kongs can be either 2s, 4s, 6s or 8s
  • Addition hands: Only the numbers shown can be used
  • CR/5: The note states “Any 1 or 3 suits”, but does not say “any run” or “any consecutive numbers”. This is only due to the limited space available. It should be assumed that all hands in the Consecutive Run section of the card can be made with any consecutive numbers, unless otherwise indicated (as in CR/1, which states “These numbers only”)
  • 369/5: Even though the 2 kongs are shown as 3s, they can be made in either 3s, 6s or 9s, but both kongs must use the same number, in a different suit (and those suits need to be different from the 3 66 999 part of the hand)

The League has also removed the note at the top of the card that stated “Jokers may not be used in a 2022 grouping”. This note was meant to help but actually caused more confusion, as some players interpreted it to mean that Jokers could not be used in any grouping in that section (including pungs and kongs). Even though the note is no longer there, the rules remain the same: “2023” is made up of 4 single tiles (it would certainly help if they were shown on the card with spaces between). 


Hands are 25 or 30 points, unless the hand is in the Quints or Singles & Pairs sections of the card (where points range between 40 and 75).

This year there are eight non-concealed 30-point hands, last year there were only six. Definitely consider these eight hands if you’re playing in a tournament. Yes, they are a little more tricky than the standard 25-point hands, but there are still elements that can be exposed and where jokers can be utilized. Those few extra points could make all the difference to your ranking! Obviously, a Quint or Singles & Pairs hand would be even better…but these eight are great back-up hands. 

The non-concealed, 30-point hands, are as follows:

  • 2468/2
  • 2468/4
  • CR/4
  • 13579/4a
  • 13579/4b
  • 13579/7
  • WD/6
  • 368/4

We’ve discussed in an earlier article why we believe the point values listed on the card are not in line with the true difficulty of the hand (i.e. some hands are 10 times harder but only worth 5 more points). Sadly, this is true again this year, and may be even more pronounced. For instance, 2468/6 and CR/8 each contain 4 pairs AND they are concealed, yet they’re worth only 5 more points than easy, run-of-the-mill pung/kong hands. Unless the tiles really lead you this way, you may want to think twice about attempting these particular hands, as the extra risk just doesn’t seem worth the reward of a measly 5 additional points.


Eight hands have been carried over from the 2022 card. These are:

  • 2468/2
  • CR/5a and b (was CR/3 a and b in 2022)
  • 13579/1a and b
  • 13579/3a and b (was 13579/2a and b in 2022) 
  • SP/5 (SP/4 in 2022)

The Card in Numbers

Before diving into card insights and tips, we’ll start by looking at raw numbers. Note that, unlike our stats articles, these numbers are purely theoretical (based on statistical analysis), and not empirical (based on game play). We will provide real-world game stats over the next few months (once we have gathered a significant amount of data from games played on the I LOVE MAHJ platform). Be sure to follow us on Facebook, if you’d like to receive notification of these results.

There are 70 hands printed on the 2023 National Mah Jongg League card (4 more than last year). However, when expanded to all permutations for each hand, the total number is 756 hands (around a 25% reduction from 2022). 


At this time of year, there are many articles and videos reviewing the new National Mah Jongg League card. There is much to be gleaned from reading and watching as many of these as possible. However, most reviews focus solely on the 70 hands that are actually printed on the card. Unfortunately, this results in misleading data analysis (eg: when stating “x% of hands include y”), as the way hands are printed on the card is just a “notation”, with each pattern describing a much larger set of valid hands. The bottom line is that there are not 70 possible hands on the 2023 National Mah Jongg League card, there are actually 756.

The data presented in this article is based on this total number of hands, including all expanded permutations. We believe this results in a more accurate analysis. If you’re interested in understanding why, please click here.

Concealed Hands

The 13 concealed hands printed on the card translates to 120 potential concealed hand options (which equates to around 15.87% of the hands).

Number of Hands per Section

The table and chart below detail the TOTAL number of hands in each of the 10 sections of the 2023 card.


As expected, the Consecutive Run section of the card has the most hand variations. But, surprisingly, the Quints section is the second largest, followed by the Winds – Dragons section. Yes, Quints may only contain 3 hands printed on the card itself, but these translate into 159 hand possibilities! 

Total Number of Each Tile

Below is the number of times a given tile appears in the TOTAL number of hands (756 hands) on the 2023 card, and the percentage this represents of the total. This percentage basically illustrates how “in demand” each tile is this year and, therefore, how much competition there is likely to be for a particular tile. For comparison purposes, we also show the increase/decrease in each tile’s appearance in the total number of hands compared to the 2022 card.


From the data above, we can see that the number of times Dragons appear in hands on the 2023 card has reduced dramatically, compared to last year’s card. Additionally, the number of times Easts and Wests appear in hands is also significantly lower this year. On the other hand, the demand for Flowers is up slightly. Of the number tiles, 3s and 6s appear most frequently (more than 10% in each case) with the number 5 not too far behind. Therefore, competition for these number tiles will be the highest.

It may be worth keeping these “popularity” figures in mind when choosing between hand options. If possible, and especially if you are not dealt any, you may want to avoid tiles where there’s likely to be significant competition. You may also wish to consider the popularity of a tile when deciding the order of your discards (more on this in the Strategy section).

Number of Hands that Include a Given Grouping

Below we show the number of hands (and percentage of the 756 total hands) that include each type of grouping.

  • Hand includes single(s):  161 (21%)
  • Hand includes pair(s):     403 (53%)
  • Hand includes pung(s):   378 (50%)
  • Hand includes kong(s):   633 (83%)
  • Hand includes quint(s):   159 (21%)

Kongs are, by far, the most prevalent grouping, appearing in 83% of hands.

Number of Hands That Include a Given Number of Suits

The data below shows the number of hands (and percentage of the 756 total hands) that include a given number of suits.

  • 0-suit: 3 hands             (0.4%)
  • 1-suit: 164 hands       (21.7%)
  • 2-suits:            343 hands       (45.4%)
  • 3-suits:            246 hands       (32.5%)

Exposure Overlap 

In this section, we calculate the number of hands that include a given exposure. This number is a key indicator of how “locked in” you are to a specific hand and how much you reveal about your target hand when making the specific exposures listed below. These single exposures are listed in decreasing percentage order. Note that since we’re discussing exposures, concealed hands are not included in this table. Obviously, once a second exposure is displayed, the potential number of hands being played would drop significantly. 

As this can be tricky to get our heads around, let’s analyze a line from the table above, so that we can better understand the data. 

For example, the table above shows that exposing a pung of Red Dragons translates to 14 potential hands that the player could be aiming towards. These hands are as follows:

  • 2023 – there are 6 variations of line 3. Soaps or Green Dragons can be used along with the pung of Red Dragons. The 2023 “non-exposable” part of the hand can be constructed of bams, dots or cracks (with each of the dragon combinations – so, 2 variations for each of the three chosen “2023” suits)
  • Winds – Dragons – here there are 4 variations. The North/South version, with the Red Dragon and either the Soap/Green Dragon (2 variations). The same 2 options are available for the East West version of the hand
  • 369 – There are 4 variations in this section of the card. Two variations for line 4 and 2 variations for line 6 

Therefore, although a pung of Red Dragons could potentially be part of only 5 hands on the printed card, in reality, the total number of hands that someone exposing a pung of Red Dragons could be playing equals 14.


Overall, there is a good variety of patterns this year, with a mix of old-faithfuls and some new, interesting variations.

Number of Hands that Include a Given Pattern

We calculated the popularity of each hand pattern and we show the top 10 in the table below. 

It’s interesting 

to note that the quint/kong/quint (5-4-5) and kong/quint/quint (4-5-5) patterns are fairly near the top of this list. Even though there is only one instance of each of these patterns on the printed card, the “any” keyword results in a large number of expanded hand possibilities.

Standard Patterns

Each year typically has a general pattern that alternates between 3-4-3-4 and 3-3-4-4. The 2023 card frequently uses the 3-4-3-4 pattern (9 printed hands, 111 hands in total).

The 9 printed hands that utilize the 3-4-3-4 pattern are as follows:

  • 2023/1
  • 2468/3a and b
  • CR/2a and b
  • CR/6
  • 13579/2a and b
  • 369/1

All the hands listed above are played open and jokers can be used in any grouping. Familiarize yourself with these hands, and you’ll have built a great foundation to work from!        

A second most popular pattern is 2-4-4-4 (a pair of flowers followed by 3 kongs). This pattern is seen in 9 hands on the printed card, as follows:

  • AH/1-4
  • CR/3
  • CR/5a and b
  • 13579/3a and b

No Bouquets of Flowers

Unlike last year, there is no double-pung of flowers on the 2023 card. As a matter of fact, there’s not even a single pung of flowers! Flowers are either pairs or kongs on this year’s card.

Addition Hands

Addition Hands are back this year. Math-related hands can be particularly interesting, because they typically provide opportunities to use numbers that otherwise would not go together (like 3 + 4 = 7). However, this year’s Addition Hands include numbers that already fit together in other categories (ie, Any Like Numbers, Consecutive Run, 2468 and 369). This is somewhat disappointing, as players will not have the opportunity to use mismatched numbers. On the other hand, it opens up more options to switch to other categories, and makes it harder for opponents to guess the hand you’re aiming for!

Winds & Dragons

The Winds – Dragons section is certainly interesting this year and offers a great deal of flexibility. In particular, we really love that the 4-3-3-4 all-winds hand (WD/1a) can also be played as a 3-4-3-4 hand (WD/1b), allowing players to switch out the kongs and pungs between E/W and N/S. There is also an interesting crescendo pattern with Flowers (WD/5), which is a break from the symmetry traditionally seen in wind hands.


At first glance, dragons seem to be quite well represented on the new card. However, when we look at their proportion of total tiles, Red and Green Dragons are some of the least used tiles on the 2023 card (1.28% of total tiles each), with Soaps being slightly more popular (1.9%), due to their dual use in year hands. Note that, in addition to Soaps, Green and Red Dragons are also found as singles this year, so definitely watch your discards towards the end of a game! 

Good NEWS 

The beloved NEWS pattern is back this year, albeit in a concealed hand (2023/4). It also pops up in a slightly expanded fashion in the Winds – Dragons section, including the aforementioned crescendo pattern N EE WWW SSSS (WD/5) and with dragons in WD/6.

Consecutive Runs

Besides the actual Consecutive Run section, there are quite a few hands which follow a run pattern. These include:

  • Q/2
  • Q/3
  • WD/2
  • WD/7
  • SP/2
  • SP/5

Runs are also seen in 2023/1, 2023/2, 2023/4 (only 2s and 3s) and AH/1 (only 1s and 2s).

Being aware of all these possibilities will allow you to easily build back-up hands, when constructing a run.

Like Numbers

There are many hands outside the Any Like Numbers section that also include like numbers (for at least part of the hand). These include: 

  • 2023/1 (2s) 
  • 2023/2 (2s)
  • 2468/2 (2s,4s, 6s or 8s) 
  • 2468/4 (4s) 
  • AH/1-4 (1s,2s,3s or 4s)
  • Q/1 (any number)
  • CR/6
  • CR/7
  • 13579/2a (3s)
  • 13579/2b (7s)
  • 13579/5a (3s) 
  • 13579/5b (7s) 
  • 13579/6a (5s)
  • 13579/6b (9s)
  • 13579/8 (5s)
  • 369/1 (6s)
  • 369/3 (3s and 6s)
  • 369/5 (3s, 6s or 9s)
  • 369/7 (3s and 9s)

Some of the hands above may only require a pair of a certain number along with a like number in a different suit. However, as we all know, our pair often grows as we progress through the game! Our advice would be to keep all the above hands in mind when choosing back-ups, as you never know what might come your way during the Charleston or game! Be vigilant and keep hold of as many tiles as you can for your back-up options. Once you run out of discards, it’ll be time for you to make a decision as to which way your hand will go. 

Other Common Patterns

As mentioned earlier, there is a wide variety of patterns on the card this year. Below, we’ve highlighted a few of the patterns you’ll encounter (besides the 3-4-3-4 and 2-4-4-4 patterns already discussed), and the hands associated with them.

Ascending patterns (i.e. with increasing numbers of tiles as you move through the hand): Q/2, and partially, CR/4, WD/5 and 369/5.

Bell curve pattern (2-3-4-3-2): CR/1, 13579/1, 13579/5, even 2023/4 (which visually follows the same shape, though the middle section ‘NEWS’ is, of course, single tiles and not a kong).

Three or more pairs: This pattern can be found in 2468/4, 2468/6, CR/8, 13579/7, 369/4 and, of course, a plethora of pairs can be found in the Singles & Pairs section of the card. As any Mah Jongg player knows, the more pairs required, the harder these hands are to achieve, unless the Mah Jongg gods are smiling upon you!

4-4-2-4 pattern: Found in ALN/1 and 369/2.

FF-3-2-2-3-DD pattern: 2468/6 and CR/8 (both are concealed hands).

3-1-3 3-1-3 pattern: 13579/8 and 369/7 (both are concealed hands).

The “Big Hand”: This follows the same convention as last year, FF 2023 2023 2023 (in all three suits). But, it may be considerably easier since we no longer need to collect three 2s in each suit. On the downside, 3s are in high demand this year, so perhaps the Big Hand will still be extremely challenging!

Subtle Changes and Gotchas

Since most of us are so familiar with the 2022 hands, our brains are likely to play tricks on us and “see” something that is not really there! Our brains have a habit of quickly interpreting something familiar and matching it with something that we already know, such as a hand from the 2022 card!

There are indeed some carryovers from last year (see above), but there are also hands that are very similar, but different enough to throw you off, should you glance at them too quickly. Below, we highlight these differences, and also list a few gotchas that are useful to be aware of. These tips will aid the smooth transition from last year’s hands to their corresponding hands this year.

Several hands are similar to last year but now use a 3-4-3-4 pattern, instead of the 3-3-4-4 pattern that was used on the 2022 card. These are: 

  • 2468/3
  • CR/2
  • 13579/2
  • 369/1
  • 2023/1 (compare to 2022/2; also note that this year, the last 2 groupings are in the same suit)

2468/4: Similar to 2468/7 in 2022, but with a 2-4-2-4-2 pattern (vs 2-3-2-3-4 last year).

ALN/2: This is a concealed hand. In recent years, all Like Number hands have been open.

Q/2: Can only be made in the numbers shown. This is not a consecutive run style hand.

CR/1: This year CR/1 follows the 2-3-4-3-2 pattern, whereas last year it was 2-2-3-3-4.

13579/7: Similar to 13579/4 in 2022, but the singles have become pairs and the pung of Flowers is gone.

WD/2: This is a mini-run similar to last year’s WD/5 and WD/6, but keep in mind the unintuitive pattern of the run: 2-2-4. Also, the winds are now pungs instead of kongs.

WD/6: Similar to WD/7 last year, but the Dragons are now kongs instead of pungs and North/South are now pairs. Plus, it’s no longer concealed.

369/2: follows FFFF-4-2-4 this year (FFF-4-3-3 last year).

SP/4: The pattern is 1-1-2-2 (twice) instead of 2-1-1-2 (twice).

SP/6 (AKA the “Big Hand”): Corresponds to 2022/5, but obviously the year is different.


In this section, we’ll be covering the following:

  • Potential challenges you may encounter
  • Exposures that will give your hand away or cause your hand to be called dead
  • Switching strategies (so you can increase your flexibility and have a hand to fall back on, should your primary option not pan out)
  • General strategy tips


There are a few challenges awaiting you as you play this year’s card. These include:

3s: Since 3 is the most in-demand number tile, it may be more challenging to build hands using this number. This is true of 6s as well, but to a lesser extent.

2468/6 and CR/8: These hands include 4 pairs and are concealed. They will be difficult to make, and even if you do, you’ll only get a measly 30 points for your efforts (just 5 more points compared to making a much easier hand).

SP/6: The “Big Hand” is, of course, always a challenge. It’s a little less so than last year, where so many 2s were required, but this year you need 3s, which are in high demand.


The 2023 card is flexible enough that one exposure isn’t going to totally give your hand away. In fact, this year, there are no single exposures that would give your hand away. Though a quint of number tiles will narrow the possibilities down to 2 potential hands (Q/1 or Q/3), except when that number is a 5, and the possibilities increase to 3 hands (adding in Q/2). A pung of Easts, Norths or Souths will also narrow things down to 2 possible hands. 

Even two exposures could still be reasonably safe this year. Though, as always, every additional exposure made is decreasing the potential subset of matching hands and, therefore, making it easier to identify the hand you’re working towards. The more your opponents know about your hand, the more likely they are to prevent you from achieving your goal. 

“Dead” Giveaways

There are only 4 exposures that will make your hand dead (since they don’t exist on the card). Take note, and be careful not to expose these by mistake. Also, be on the lookout for opponents exposing these in error (and, if so, call their hand dead accordingly). The 4 exposures are:

  • Pung of Flowers
  • Quint of Flowers
  • Quint of Dragons
  • Quint of Winds

As mentioned previously, once you have 2 exposures, you’re reducing the possibilities, and your opponents will likely have a much clearer idea of where you are heading, and whether your exposures are valid. You may still have options if you make an exposure error, but some combinations are definitely going to allow your hand to be called dead (for example, if you were to expose a pung of Soaps and a pung of 2s – which is only valid in a concealed hand. Or, a pung of dragons and a pung of any number other than 6).

Strategy Tips


As is the case every year, Flowers are a prominent feature on this year’s card. In fact, even more so than last year (~40% of all hands require 2 or more). Therefore, Flowers are always going to be in high demand (though, thankfully, there are 8 of them in the set). We would caution against passing Flowers in the Charleston. 

However, pairs of Flowers are more prominent on the 2023 card, compared to 2022. So, whereas in 2022, we advised that keeping Flowers for “joker bait” may be a good idea, in 2023, caution is definitely advised. Discarding Flowers later in the game will be more risky! 

Popular Tiles

In the “Card in Numbers” section, we discussed the popularity of each individual tile (i.e. how many hands use that particular tile). As a reminder, the order from high to low is: Flowers, 3s, Winds, 6s, 5s, 4s, 2s, 7s, Soap, 8s, 9s, 1s, Green Dragon, Red Dragon.

Based on this analysis, we expect it to be more difficult, on average, to complete hands that contain either 3s and/or 6s, and easier to complete hands that contain either 1s or 9s. So, if you have several hand options available to you, you may want to lean towards the latter (this is particularly applicable to hands in the Consecutive Run and Any Like Numbers categories).

Also, you may wish to use our tile popularity analysis to order your discards. By discarding popular tiles first, you may have a higher chance of thwarting other players’ plans. Of course, be sure to keep tiles you may need for backup options you’re considering. 

Safe(er) Tiles

There are 3 tiles that do not appear as singles on the 2023 card. These are: 

  • Flowers
  • 8s
  • 9s

This means that, as long as you can account for three 8s or 9s in a particular suit, or seven Flowers (in the discards, exposures or in your own hand), you can safely discard any of these towards the end of the game, without a significant risk of another player calling Mah Jongg. Obviously, there’s a very slim chance that an opponent could be using them in a pung, kong or quint with a plethora of jokers, so there’s always going to be a certain amount of risk involved! Be sure to check your opponents’ exposures and the discards to glean information regarding the hands they may be working towards.

Switching Hands

When considering hands, it’s always a good idea to have a back-up plan. Thankfully, there is a generous amount of overlap in this year’s card, offering lots of flexibility between hands, depending on the tiles you receive as the game progresses. 

In general, there are good opportunities to switch within a given category. So, if you’re unsure of the actual hand you’re aiming for, you can always collect tiles for a particular section of the card (such as all evens, all 3/6/9s, etc) and switch between hands within that section, depending on the tiles that come your way. Be sure to also collect Flowers and relevant dragons, if these are included in potential hands you may aim for.

There is also a great deal of flexibility for switching between sections of the card. Below are a few examples of hands from the same and different sections that you could easily switch between (or at least keep as a backup).

2023/1 and ALN/2 (using 2s): 2 pungs of like numbers and a single Soap could easily morph into the ALN/2 hand. However, keep in mind that ALN/2 has to be played concealed, so the opportunity disappears once you make an exposure.

2023/1 and 2023/4: Both these hands include 2s, 3s, and Soaps in the same suit designations, but in different quantities, so could offer a strong backup solution for each other. If winds start to come your way, 2023/4 could be the best option, but keep in mind that this hand has to be played concealed, so the opportunity disappears once an exposure is made.

2023/2 and CR/5b: Both hands include a pair of Flowers and kongs of consecutive numbers (2s and 3s in the case of 2023/2). If you manage to collect “2023” in the opposite suit, head towards the 2023/2 option. If not, aim for CR/5b by adding 1s or 4s in the opposite suit to complete your run.

2023/2 and Q/3: These hands could be made with the same run of 2s and 3s, in opposite suits. If you are blessed with Flowers and/or Jokers, the Quint hand would be the way to go. If you manage to collect the “2023” part, in the opposite suit, aim for 2023/2. 

2023/3, 2468/5, WD/3 and WD/6: If you find yourself with several opposite dragons early in the game, these hands are all potential options. However, the remainder of these hands is quite different, so these are definitely options for the early part of the game only, with your selection depending on the tiles you receive in the Charleston and your picks during the game. 

2468/1 and 2468/3a: In this case, your selection will depend on whether more Flowers or evens come your way. 

2468/2 and ALN/1: ALN/1 could be a great backup hand in this case (using 2s, 4s ,6s, or 8s), especially as the remainder of the 2468 hand consists of singles and pairs!

2468/2, AH/2 and CR/6: Alternatives to the option mentioned directly above are the 2+2=4 hand in the Addition Hands section of the card, and the repeating pattern Consecutive Run consisting of two numbers (using the 2s, 4s, 6s, or 8s you’d planned to utilize in the 2468/2 hand). 

2468/3b and AH/4: Both of these hands use a kong of 4s and a kong of 8s in different suits, so they certainly have backup potential.

2468/5 and 2023/1: There could be some overlap here, if one of the kongs in your 2468 hand consists of Soaps.

ALN and AH: There’s a natural affinity between these two sections of the card, since the Addition Hands are made from like numbers in 2 suits. However, as mentioned earlier, the Addition Hands also match other sections of the card. For instance, AH/1 could morph into CR/5, AH/2 and AH/4 to the 2468 section and AH/3 to the 369 section.

Q/1 and ALN/1: Since both of these hands require like numbers, you can upgrade or downgrade between them, depending on your Joker luck and the presence of Winds vs Flowers.

Q/2 and CR/1a: These two hands have lots in common! Switching between them will depend on your luck with Jokers and whether you have the pair of 1s in your hand. 

Q/2 and CR/2a (run using 2s to 5s): Similar to above (Q/2 and CR/1a), your switching ability will depend on the number of each tile you receive.

Q/3 and CR/5b: These two hands are obvious partners; move up or down between them based on the tiles you receive and the number of Jokers in your hand.

Consecutive Run hands: Since there are several hands which follow a run pattern (Q/2, Q/3, WD/2, WD/7, SP/5, even AH/1, 2023/1 and 2023/2), you can consider these as backups for a consecutive run hand you’re building. 

CR/1 and CR/2a: These are obvious partners, with one being a 5-number and the other a 4-number run (but only if low numbers are chosen for CR/2a). 

CR/2 and CR/5: The overlap between these options make them great partners. 

CR/2b and CR/6 There is a certain amount of switchability between these hand options, depending on the tiles that come your way.

CR/3 and CR/5: These are great partners too, depending on whether a consecutive number or matching dragons come your way.

CR/4 and CR/5b: There is natural switchability between these two hands. 

CR/5a and b and other CR hands: This particular line on the card allows for excellent switchability to other hands in the CR section. CR/5b can also switch with 13579/2 (3-4-5 or 7-8-9 run) or 13579/3 (1-2-3, 3-4-5, 5-6-7 or 7-8-9 run).

CR/8 and CR/5: When aiming for the concealed CR hand, it is comforting to know that you have an easy backup hand available. 

13579/1a and 13579/4a or b: If you’re aiming for line 1 and Flowers and Dragons start to come your way, it’s an easy switch to line 4.

13579/1b and 13579/2a and b: Here you can focus on the whole range of odd numbers and, if necessary, swap to just the upper or lower end of the range.

13579/2a and b and 13579/5a and b: These hands are natural partners, especially if opposite Dragons come your way.

WD/1a and b: The two versions of this hand offer obvious switchability. There are also great switching options with all other WD hands, depending on whether consecutive run tiles, 2023 or dragon tiles come your way.

369/5: As this hand includes two kongs of 3s, 6s or 9s in 2 suits, it’s easy to switch to ALN/1, CR/6 or AH/3, depending on your Flower situation and other number tiles in your hand.

SP/2 and CR/6: Singles and Pairs hands are just mini versions of other hands on the card. So, don’t be afraid to give them a try! Here we have multi-suit, two-number runs in both hands, making them a suitable switching option.

SP/3, 369/4 and 369/7: There is lots of cross-over between these three hands, so keep them all in mind when aiming for any one of them. All require slightly different singles and pairs, so they are great swapping partners, depending on what comes your way. If you start collecting Jokers, you can abandon the Singles and Pairs option and focus on the other two.

SP/4 and 2468/1 or 2468/3a and b: Depending on your mix of suits and the prevalence of Flowers, these hands have great switchability.

SP/5 and CR/1 or 2: If the tiles aren’t coming your way to complete the 7-number run in the Singles and Pairs section, or you start collecting Jokers, you could easily fall back to one of these CR hands, or several other options in that category.

SP/6 and year hands: The obvious backups for the Big Hand are all hands in the 2023 section of the card. Which one you choose depends on what other tiles start to come your way.

Learning the Hands on the Card

Learning a new card can seem like a daunting task. Trying to learn the new hands by just playing is ill-advised, as it will take significantly longer to assimilate the information and you’ll likely find yourself heading to the same old hands over and over. This will only lead to frustration due to missed opportunities and being unable to quickly identify what your opponents are playing. Frankly, that’s no fun!

Careful study of the card and lots of practice, at this early stage in the Mah Jongg year, will lead to a much more enjoyable and fulfilling game, and significantly more wins.

We recently wrote an entire article on this subject, our Top Tips to Learn the 2023 Card… Fast!, which includes details of the tools we highly recommend to make the learning process an absolute breeze. We definitely suggest checking out that article and, if you follow our tips, you’ll be at the top of your game in no time! 


Well, that brings us to the end of our 2023 card analysis. We hope you enjoyed this deep dive into the card, and that the insights in this article will help you become more confident playing with the new card. There is a great deal of information in this article that could truly elevate your Mah Jongg skills to the highest levels. We would definitely recommend reading through the article again, once you’ve had a chance to play with the new card and begin to assimilate the information we lay out above. Our passion is to help players take their game to the next level and we hope we have inspired you to do just that.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected]. We’re always happy to help!

Philippe & Julie

Creators of I LOVE MAHJ