Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Hong Kong takes home $US500,000 Mahjong grand prize

Posted by Kimberly on June 18, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
June 18, 2007, page 1&3 (597 words)

Lau Lai Fun had enrolled in the biggest Mahjong tournament ever created, played out within the walls of Wynn Macau, simply because her son wanted the company.
But while the Hong Kong resident was the favourite to win the World Series of Mahjong and the resulting $US500,000 cheque last night, the eventual winner was Hui Chung Lai also from Hong Kong.
Mr Hui grabbed the lead with a great advantage, a mere half hour from the tournament’s end.
“I’m more tired than anxious,” Ms Lau had said prior to the final stages of the competition and no real thought had been given yet to what she planned to do with the winnings either.
“I’m retired at the moment so I don’t need to work. With the money, I will spend with my family and my friends, to relax and enjoy it,” she had said.
Refusing to admit how old she was, saying “age is my secret,” Ms Lau said she had been playing Mahjong since the age of six.
The new rules of the game took some getting used to, as there are many different rules, such as the Japanese rules, the Cantonese rules and the Taiwanese rules. As such, Alan Kwan , director of Tournament Rules and Scoring, developed a set of new, simple and user-friendly, but exciting, Mahjong rules for the tournament.
Known now as the World Series of Mahjong rules, his innovative approach has been adopted by online Mahjong players from all over the world since the announcement of the tournament earlier this year in May.
“After I enrolled in the competition I’ve been practising the new set of rules everyday during my bus ride or my free time just to learn the new rules because it’s different from the rules I’m used to playing,” said Ms Lau.
For Mr John Hardyment, CEO of World Mahjong Limited, the success of the venture has been as predicted.
“Because it’s never been done before. Everything from the venue to the size of the prize to the rules, the people we hired, everything was a work in progress. I think we’ve pretty much been correct in everything we’ve predicted,” he said, adding that “we thought we were going to get around 200 to 300 participants and that’s where we wound up so our predictions were good.”
This is the first year a Mahjong tournament of this size has been conducted and espcially with such a tremendous prize. While the $US500,000 went to the eventual winner, the rest of the million dollar prize was divided up between the next 32 contestants.
The next tournament is now in planning phase with Mr Hardyment expecting next year to be much greater, and we can expect to see it staying in Macau.
“This will become an annual event. We love Macau so we’re going to stay here as long as Macau welcomes us. It’s only going to get bigger,” he said.
Asked whether he believes the cash prize may increase next year, Mr Hardyment said, “Oh, it’ll change. It’ll certainly remain consistent as a minimum.
“Next year we’ll be aiming to increase it. We want to see an increase in attendance next year but we think because of the press, that’s going to be possible.
“I can’t tell you exactly how much but my prediction is it’ll increase,” he said.
He added that he believed Mahjong was the game of this part of the world, just as the World Series of Poker is played out in Las Vegas.
“There’s no reason why it can’t eclipse or surpass poker,” he said.

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