Out of my Love of Mah Jongg

Where it All Began

My Mah Jongg journey and my Love of Mah Jongg began as a young child while I watched my mother play when she hosted a game. I nosily walked around the table, grabbing from a snack dish or two that she had placed out for her guests, as I watched and listened to the tiles click and clank, while terms like 1 Bam, 2 Crak, and Flower were spoken. At the time, I had no idea the game had begun to nestle its way into my being and into my heart.

Playing as a Young Girl

After I had my second child, I ran my own business which afforded me the flexibility to be a stay at home mom. I spent some days at The Colony Beach Club in East Haven, CT. During those days, I gravitated to the ladies, most of whom I knew very well, playing Mah Jongg at a bridge table on the sand. As I’d done before, I nosily circled them. One day, I got the guts to ask, “Would you ladies ever let me have a try at this game? I think I get it!” Immediately one lady chimed in and said, “I’m okay with that.” Shortly after, one at a time, I heard, “Sure, good with me.”

When the next game began, one lady got up and said, “Have at it, Debbie.” I sat down nervous and awkward, trying to move my chair in the sand without falling over. My palms were sweaty, and my heart pounded in my chest. The game began, and much to my surprise, I was picking and discarding like a pro. Before long, I had figured out my very first hand and called my first tile. I didn’t make Mah Jongg during that game, but I had fun and, I was hooked!

Excited about the prospects of playing regularly, I asked my friends if they were interested in learning the game. Some of them still worked a day job, but much to my surprise, everyone agreed to learn and play a weekly evening game. “Far out!” I thought. From that day forward, I enjoyed a weekly game of Mah Jongg.

From Teaching-to Writing-to a New Way of Learning

After my move to South Florida in 1988, I sought out new friends and eventually got into a new weekly game. In 2006, I had the idea of teaching the game that I loved so much to others. I knew I could spread my love through teaching, so in 2006, I formed my first meetup group. Before long, students were contacting me, and I was teaching 1-2 times per week.

In the spring of 2019, I decided to take my teaching to another level. I knew other great Mah Jongg books existed on the market, but none had been written during recent years. My journey to not only write a book but learn how to write became my focus. In October 2019, after many trials and tribulations, I finished and published my book, Unlocking the Secrets of American Mah Jongg.

Around the same time that I started my book, a dear friend put an idea in my head. She said, “Why don’t you teach online?”

I immediately said, “Impossible; besides, there are already games sites and educational tutorials out there.”

She chimed right back and said, “No, Debbie, I mean, a live, teaching platform with a game that functions while you teach.”

Now, I heard something that piqued my interest, and my entrepreneurial juices started to flow. “Okay,” I said. “I am going to see if I can make that happen.

I almost gave up after being turned down by many web designer/gamer companies. Then, one incredibly smart gentleman from the Philippines said he was excited to take on my project, and at a price, I had in mind.

The Online School Opens

In January of 2020, The American School of Mah Jongg opened its online doors. To date, I’ve had many successful Beginner, Advanced Beginner, and Strategy classes. The website has continued to develop and morph every day, and it turned out better than I could have hoped.

The beauty of the online school is that you can do this in the comfort of your own home, pick from a variety of day or evening classes, or create a personalized schedule. You can customize a class with your friends locally or anywhere in the country. Classes are live and interactive and there will never be more than 4 students in a classroom at a time. Thus, I can give individualized attention to each student. If a class doesn’t fill up, I can still teach because I can remotely control the missing player’s hands.

I offer a free tour of the classroom to anyone interested.

Out of my love of Mah Jongg, I teach full time at my online school, blog weekly about strategy and tips, and hope to continue to inspire and grow the incredible Mah Jongg community.


With online learning being the only way to learn Mah Jongg these days, and in order to help during these challenging times, I am offering a Corvid-19 25% discount off all beginner Classes including the Intensive Class. This offer will currently run until normal daily activities resume.

For further information, I can be reached at 561-809-9109. You can also join one or both of these facebook groups which I co-admin, Ask the Mah Jongg Teacher and Mah Jongg – Canasta Menagerie Market. 

Happy Mah Jongging, Everyone!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Katie

    Thank you!?️

    1. Debbie Barnett Author

      Thank you for being a loyal subscriber!

  2. ZRhiannon

    Thanks. Got my 2020 cards. Going to try to practice on my own b4 I try a class. Then I will

    1. Debbie Barnett Author

      Sounds like a great plan!! I’ll look forward to meeting you!

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