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National Mah Jongg tournament held in Sacramento for the first time

This tournament welcomes hundreds of thousands of people from different countries, states and backgrounds, all competing to win, yet raise awareness.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A three-day-long National Mah Jongg tournament is happening for the first time in 85 years in Sacramento.

Held at the Embassy Suites by Hilton on Sacramento's riverfront, this tournament welcomes hundreds of thousands of people from different countries, states, and backgrounds, all competing to win.

Barbara Baer, president of Mah Jongg Fever Inc. first fell in love with Mah Jongg at the age of 20 years old. Her daughter, Jennifer Clayton, didn't have much interest in the game at first, but once she learned, she couldn't get enough. 

Now, this mother-daughter duo goes all over the United States to spread the love of Mah Jongg and raise funds for various organizations. While people pay to play, the profits and funds raised go towards the Alzheimer's Association

"It actually helps with the brain because you really have to think," said Baer. "You have to watch, pay attention to patterns, so you're constantly using your brain to put patterns together."

Although the COVID-19 pandemic limited social interaction between one another, that didn't stop the Mah Jongg community from perfecting their skills online, many joining social media groups and even playing in virtual game rooms.

"There are literally hundreds of thousands of Mah Jongg players in the United States," said Baer. "Mah Jongg, as big as it is, it's also a smaller thing. We're a community."

Now that tournaments are back in-person, many are visiting the city of Sacramento, meeting up with old friends, and maybe making new ones, all to give back and raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's.

"In every tournament, they're donating some type of proceeds to the Alzheimer's Association and that's what's going to get us to find that cure," said Alexandra Weisgerber, director of care and support for the Alzheimer's Association. "If we can get enough funding, enough volunteers to help support the cause so that we can find that cure for the disease and families don't have to deal with this anymore, that's our ultimate goal." 

The tournament goes until Tuesday, Sept. 20th. 

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