Ladies from the Lake Gaston ladies group at the Hadassah Mah Jongg Tournament in Raleigh. For most of the ladies that competed, this was their first tournament. Pictured from  left to right is, Patti Townsend, Jan Finch, Teri Oswald, Leisa Bodway, Deb Warren, Tricia Getzewich, Kathy Casey.


A group of local ladies competed in a Hadassah Mah Jongg tournament at the Temple Beth Or in Raleigh on Nov. 14. 

The Mah Jongg group, at about 14 members strong that meets every two weeks, are all members of the Lake Gaston Ladies Club, but is not a sanctioned sub-group.

Seven ladies from Lake Gaston entered the tournament: Leisa Bodway, Kathy Casey, Jan Finch, Tricia Getzewich, Teri Oswald, Patti Townsend, and Deborah Warren. Casey was the closest to placing; at 240 points, she was 30 points away from the third-place finisher. 

According to the National Mah Jongg League Website, “Mah Jongg (or Maahj, as it is often called) is a fascinating, rummy-like game played with tiles rather than cards. The game originated in China, but its exact origins are shrouded in story and myth. Some claim it was the game of Chinese royalty, played in secret to keep the knowledge to themselves. Others claim it was invented by a Chinese General to amuse his troops during long months of battle. More recent investigations point to early versions of this popular tile game appearing as recently as 150 years ago in China as a variant of card games. Whichever story is true, there is general agreement that the game we play and love originated in China, and popularized in the United States by Joseph Babcock at the beginning of the 20th century.”

A version of Mah Jongg came standard as a video game on many computers from the 1980s and ’90s.

Tournament play is often times faster than casual, social play, and some of the local ladies were nervous to compete. In preparation, the group hosted a tournament-style event on Oct. 30 to practice. 

The tournament was five rounds. Each round has a one-hour time limit to complete four games, and each contestant played 20 Mah Jongg games. If a game is not finished, points are not earned for the round. To win, the ladies practiced playing fast and finishing every game. 

This was not the first tournament for some of the locals participating. Bodway and Getzewich have both competed in tournaments in Florida. Bodway also competed while on a Mah Jongg cruise. 

Oftentimes, a Mah Jongg tournament is used as a way to raise money for a charitable cause. This tournament was for the Raleigh Hadassah, a women’s Zionist organization that focuses on empowering women. A portion of the proceeds was also donated to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

The Lake Gaston Mah Jongg group started in the fall of 2017. Bodway and Linda Keegan have each been playing for over 10 years. After joining the LGLC, they discovered that Caroline Papelow hosted a game on Thursdays throughout the summer. Bodway and Keegan met at one of the Thursday games, and after teaching Mah Jongg to a few additional ladies, the new group was organized with the help of Getzewich and now meets regularly throughout the year. 

“We typically play at Lakeside Lutheran or Lake Gaston Pizza, with impromptu pick-up games at each other’s homes,” said Bodway. “There is most definitely emergency Mah Jongg, outside the regularly scheduled games, when the weather is bad and we cannot get outside.”

With their first tournament out of the way, the ladies all said that they had a great day and are ready for another tournament.