Left to right: Bernice Zeldin (Toms River), Diane Handerhan and Gail Natali (both of Lacey), and Pat Terranova (Middlesex County) are all ready and eager to get the tournament started.
Don’t walk into a mahjong tournament and expect it to be ghostly silent with only the clacking sounds of tiles being lifted then rapidly discarded if they do not fit into a person’s plan.
Instead you will hear mostly business-like conversations as a person announces the selected tile to the other three players seated around the game table.
And those murmured conversations, which can build up to a loud buzz, filled Ocean County Library’s Mancini Hall in Toms River Wednesday as 80 people competed in a mahjong tournament, the second within a year. The tournament was a fundraiser held by the Friends of the Ocean County Library.
“We’ve gone and captured the subculture of mahjong fans,” said Marie Goione, one of the event’s organizers. “They’ll go anywhere where there’s a mahjong game.”
The proceeds from the tournament will go to Ocean County Library.
The Ocean County Library Friends and the Friends groups that are found at many of OCL’s 21 locations raise money, donate equipment and sponsor special programs that the library’s budget cannot afford.
The $40 entry fee allowed participants to play in two sessions of three games each. Six prizes were awarded to the high scorers. Organizers also provided players a Continental breakfast and a lunch.
“Mahjong is very popular,” said Goione. Five library branches host mahjong games on a regular basis, including Lacey, Stafford, Upper Shores in Lavallette, Berkeley and Manchester.
She also offers free lessons to beginners twice a year at the Berkeley branch.
“Many area women play,” she said, “but not many men. The men who play are usually there as part of a couple.”
“Win, lose or draw, I’m guaranteed to be the highest scoring male player here,” said Dennis Taylor, Berkeley, who was there with his wife Maria. Dennis was the lone male participant in Wednesday’s tournament.
He finds the game is a mixture of skill and luck, and he finds the more he plays and practices, the luckier he gets. A rookie in September’s tournament, he handily beat last year’s scores Wednesday.
Dennis Taylor, Berkeley, was the lone mal participant in Wednesday’s tournament. Yes, only 1.25% of the players were male – Dennis.
Joanne Bourne (left) was the director who made all the rulings on questions from the mahjong gamers, and Marie Goione, a member of the Friends of the Ocean County Library who organized the tournament.
Every tournament has a director, one whose rule is final. Wednesday’s director was Joanne Bourne, owner of Four Seasons Mah Jongg Tournaments, Lakewood. Like last year, she volunteered her time to make this tournament a success.
Tournament director Joann Bourne tallies up the scores to determine the six winners at Wednesday’s mahjong fundraiser tournament. Her company organizes weekend and multiday tournaments ranging from Piscataway down to Atlantic City and west to Lancaster, Pa. She volunteered her time to direct this tournament.
Assistance by volunteers was vital for the event’s success. More than a dozen people pitched in to help run the tournament.
“People want to be involved in things they’re passionate about,” said Suzanne Scro, supervising librarian and branch manager of the Manchester branch. “They buy into a project and want to share it with the community, thereby setting an example by promoting the value of our library.”
Winners of the first round were (left to right) Debbie Sklar, Rose Balzano and Miriam Lubinsky.
Winners of the second round included (left to right) Barbara Celano and Pat Terranova. Second place winner Mary Ann Barbato was not available for the family.
It takes volunteers, lot of dedicated volunteers, to make a fundraiser a success.
Seated left to right: Narnegat residents Cathy Ryans, Rita Rilbin, ChryAnn Ferrarese and Eileen Person were the first group ready for play. “We’re all avid readers and we support the library,” said Ryans.