Saturday 01 October 2016

Laurent Mahé prefers money prizes over a tourist event


PARIS - Give us a money prize instead of a tourist event. Laurent Mahé, who advocates this opinion, is not just anybody in the European mahjong world. Laurent played a very important role in the development of mahjong in Paris as chairman of MMSP (Magic Mahjong Social Pung, the Paris club) from 2005 till 2010, and he was a charter member of the French mahjong federation FFMJ in the same era. Currently, he is number 3 on the Mahjong News MCR ranking list and number 26 on the EMA MCR ranking list. Finally, he won a special prize for the highest hand during the 2007 world championship in Chengdu.


Mr. Mahé is not exactly happy with the ‘new style mahjong tournaments’ which is presented in China: the 2011 China Majiang championship will take place on a luxurious cruise ship on the Yangtze river.
“I would like to have a real mahjong competition, and not a tourist event”, says Laurent when asked by Mahjong News about this championship. He does not agree with other players who consider the trip as a dream holiday.
For Laurent, mahjong comes in the first place. And he seizes the occasion to dust off an old discussion: it would be better to have money prizes.



“I do not mean million dollars prizes”, says Laurent, “I am thinking of for instance 1000 euros for the winner, plus money prizes for the top 16 players in a 100 players tournament.”
That these prizes are hard to raise without appropriate sponsors does not impress Laurent.  “With an registration fee of 50 euros it is possible.
“I think this can help good players who do not have a lot of money to play more tournaments.”
Just for the record: Laurent is not planning to travel to China for the 2011 championship.

See also Mahjong News's new poll: Money prizes in mahjong?

Comments (15)Comments are closed
1Wednesday, 08 June 2011 09:25
Money prizes will have two effects on the mahjong tournaments: it makes registration more expensive for most players and turns some skilled and not so rich or greedy players into "bounty hunters", a behaviour already seen in e.g. chess competition, where first players get money prizes.
2Wednesday, 08 June 2011 16:35
Edwin Phua
I agree with Quentin's views on the effect of money prizes.

Moreover, we have to consider the background of mahjong in China (and other Asian countries), and the aims of WMO and the local Chinese organisations. For a long time, and still prevalent in many parts of Asia, mahjong is seen as solely a gambling game, with little to recommend as an intellectual mindsport on the same level as chess, xiangqi, and weiqi/go. As a recent development, mahjong has become a mindsport through no small effort from various parties in China. However, this comes with the restriction that mahjong has to be a healthy activity (i.e. no gambling involved), which I agree will go to reforming the image of mahjong in China. Therefore, it would seem consistent on the part of Chinese organisations not to offer money prizes, to keep to the aim of a healthy activity without any association to gambling.

Perhaps, from the Europeans' point of view, money prizes would be seen as harmless, and it may be possible to test out the effects of offering money prizes in European tournaments. After all, Europe does have a very busy and healthy tournament circuit, making it worthwhile for European competitors to play at various tournaments thoughout the year.
3Wednesday, 08 June 2011 23:21
Tina Christensen
I agree with Quentin and Edwin.

I like to see mahjong as a mind sport, not a money game.

Laurent says “.. this can help good players who do not have a lot of money to play more tournaments.” But it'll help only one and for the other 99 make the tournament more expensive, and I do not see how this helps players who currently find it hard to afford to travel to tournaments, on the contrary.

In Denmark money prizes in a mahjong tournament would be against the law, but obviously this is different from country to country.
4Friday, 10 June 2011 06:44
Mark Chizhenok
Money prizes is the future standard for most of the mahjong tournaments in Europe. It is inevitable future of mahjong competition development if we would like to see mahjong growing as a serious sport activity. But the money should be collected from sponsors, not from players.

Tina, I hope there is a way to make money prize perfectly legal in Denmark. Otherwise Danish authorities should immediately put Caroline Wozniacki in jail for winning Danish Open and getting a big slice of 220 000 euro prize))
5Friday, 10 June 2011 10:29
Oliv' trophies, and all that kind of stuff...

I agree with Edwin, and I can understand that the chinese want "to keep to the aim of a healthy activity without any association to gambling".
But a tournament has a winner, and a winner has to win something !
A title and a plastic medal could be enough for a "friendly" tournament.
But as said Mark : "if we would like to see mahjong growing as a serious sport activity" we have to look for other kind of more valueable prizes.
(For example, was it impossible to offer the 230 euros registration fee for OEMC 2011 to the 2009 European Champion ? Its not really a money prize, and its seems not so difficult to do... If this 2011 OEMC says we will offer to the winner the registration fee for OEMC 2013, is it a money prize ?)

I don't agree when Quentin, Edwin, Tina say that it will "make the tournament more expensive". How could a tournament be more expensive than a 230 euros registration fee tournament ? Tournaments are already too expensive, and it's not because of the money prize, but because of the lack of sponsors.
I totally agree with Mark : "the money should be collected from sponsors, not from players", and it sould already be the case !!!

"Prize money" doesn't mean "money game"...
Chess is not a money game, Billard is not a money game, Tennis is not a money game, Golf is not a money game, marathon, surf, skateboard, ...

This photo of Laurent is really nice, and I'm sure this statuette is the main decoration of his living room !

7Friday, 10 June 2011 15:46
Edwin Phua
I think we have to differentiate between amateurs and professionals when we discuss money prizes. Sport professionals make a living out of winning tournaments/races and thus money prizes, but this is only possible in sports where there is sponsorship and where there is TV interest. For example, tennis and go were brought up as examples of players winning money. Sure, winning money is part and parcel of modern sport, which are activites where skill is required. But then, such activities benefit professionals more than amateurs generally anyway.

On the other hand, there are many major championships and tournaments where winning is for the sake of personal achievement and pride, e.g. Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games. Money awards may be involved peripherally (home country gives money incentives/rewards etc.), but are not a direct result of winning in those events.

I feel that mahjong tournaments currently are like that, competitors play for personal achievement and for national pride. It is a good way to go, but this may not satisfy everyone.

Also, for the situation of mahjong, since it is a relatively new (mind)sport, the competitive scene is still immature. We do not have many tournaments world-wide, and there are certainly few sponsors. Will mahjong tournaments be able to do well on TV and therefore perhaps attract sponsors in that direction?

For now, we are mostly content with very basic tournaments, in an effort to grow the number of competitive players, hopefully in a comfortable environment. As reported before, some mahjong players were turned off by unpleasantness (mean-spirited behaviour and play) at mahjong tournaments. Would money prizes make things worse?

True though, as Mark and Oliv' had remarked, money prizes would be the way to go in future. It is just how we navigate our way there that matters.
8Friday, 10 June 2011 16:04
Edwin Phua
I think depending on the location, some games are not just games. Mahjong has always been seen as a gambling game in many Asian countries (e.g. China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia) for years, and there is much public and governmental disapproval. For example, to hold mahjong tournaments in such countries, it is most likely that police approval is required, and that event organisers have to work under strict rules to prevent gambling from taking place. Even though mahjong may not be played for money (i.e. as a money game) in reality, the ignorant general public may assume otherwise, sadly, and there is still disapproval from such people.

For other games, people do not immediately associate them with gambling. We do not see two people playing tennis and jump to the conclusion that these two are gambling with each other, and that one will lose money to the other. This is why people also do not see anything wrong with offering money prizes at a tennis tournament, while thinking that money prizes offered at a mahjong tournament equates to gambling.

So, because of such views persisting, it is difficult to legitimately offer money prizes in Asia without incurring complications. For mahjong tournaments in Singapore, we tend to give away prizes that have a certain monetary value (in the form of gift baskets/hampers or shopping vouchers), but not cash. This is to assure public onlookers that competitors are not 'gambling' (i.e. participating for the sake of the chance to win money).
9Friday, 10 June 2011 16:23
I agree with Mark.

Means if you see each new events like e-sport, poker & Co.
The only reason to have a good density of players is cash prize...
10Saturday, 11 June 2011 08:51
Jesper Noehr
Comparing Caroline Wozniacki with Mahjong is a little like comparing pears and apples.

The difference in the law is that there is no direct chance element in Tennis, but there is in mahjong. The different Danish poker associations have battled for years to try and get the law changed to no avail, so I doubt it will be changed any time soon.

My personal opinion on money prizes is that I don't need it, since that is not why I have started playing this game. For me it is about enjoying the game and the social aspect of mahjong. I have only played for less than a year, but already I have met so many friendly and welcoming people from all over the world. This is something I don't want to spoil by suddenly making it a money game.
11Tuesday, 14 June 2011 18:24
As Jesper writes, it is a fact that in Danish mahjong tournaments only prizes of small value can be given out, and no money prizes. The law was changed recently, and I tried to argue our case, but to no avail.

For sports and for a mind sport like chess where no luck is involved, there are no restrictions. But for luck-based games (and mahjong in our legal terminology falls in the category "combination game", a game of both skill and luck) such games are simply not allowed to be played for money or big prizes. The Danish Bridge association managed to argue that bridge is all skill-based since they use duplicated cards in tournament. Likewise backgammon managed to argue that since they play several games to determine the winner, the luck is evened out. So both bridge and backgammon are specifically mentioned to be exempted from the gaming law.

Mahjong is a small and by the authorities unknown mind sport, so I didn't have a chance of convincing them. And in fact: how could I convince anyone that mahjong is a game purely of skill and not of luck?

The fact is that I have a letter from the parliament stating that Mahjong Danmark are allowed to organize tournaments ONLY under private forms for the members of our organization and with prizes of little value. Already by organizing an event like the recent Danish Open, I am stretching the paragraphs by inviting non-members of the Danish organization ...

Some of you may believe that money prizes is the future. In Denmark at least it is in the very far future.

And for the rest of Europe, let's see some sponsors first. People may complain about the registration fee at OEMC 2011, but we need a venue and catering and it's not free, and sponsors remain very hard to attract.

Now let's say the end of the financial crisis might make sponsors more likely. If there were more money in the mahjong world, I would prefer to use it on educating referees and players. I would prefer if referees didn't have to pay a lot of money for travelling in order to be referees at big tournaments. It should be more attractive to be a referee.
12Tuesday, 14 June 2011 21:23
Sheila Seah Jakobsen Hansen
Money is the root of all evil. I'm sure many are familiar with this saying, and also agree with it. As Edward had said, mahjong in Asia has a very strong stigma of being a gambling game. Coming from Singapore myself, I grew up thinking the same, whether it's played with small money amongst friends and family or for big money in illegal gambling dens.

Having moved to Denmark and being a member of Mahjong Denmark for 3 years now, I have to say that playing for honour is a MUCH more refreshing way to play the game. It's healthier and it keeps the game fun and clean. I also know of many at the tournaments I've participated in so far who are MORE than happy to win a trophy and a token non-monetary prize. After all, money wasn't what made them join mahjong clubs and tournaments in the first place.

I would therefore personally prefer to keep money out of the equation. Of course, being humans living in a world where money makes the earth go round, who wouldn't like to win prize money? However, introducing prize money in a game that the WMO wants to clean up is just going to re-open that can of worms that they're trying so hard to get rid of.

Getting sponsors in Europe for mahjong tournaments is not as easy as some people think it is. After all, just mention the game "mahjong" and people here will immediately think that it's the memory game that one plays online. "You want me to sponsor that? Hmm...sorry, but no. Besides, it sounds a bit lame to have tournaments for THAT in the first place."

If people strongly wish to win money on a game of chance, then perhaps they should consider some other game that I'm sure the casinos can offer a lot of. Or something else like chess or poker. And if people think it's too expensive for them to join international tournaments "just" to play for pride and honour, then there's really no one holding a gun to their heads and forcing them to go against their will.
13Wednesday, 15 June 2011 15:18
I do not disagree about money prizes in a far future, when the largest national mahjong associations have more than 1000 members and the EMA ranking contains more than 1000 players, and perhaps 1000 is not enough.

Now EMA is still very young, only 6 years, and "mind sport" associations which support tournaments with money prizes (e.g. chess, go, backgammon, othello...) are far bigger and older than our small association with about 500 registered competitors allover Europe (cf EMA ranking).

Let us keep humble: EMA and national mahjong associations are full of people who want them to grow and who want to spread competitive mahjong across Europe, but we all remain small and few. Let us take time to grow quietly.

I do understand that some experienced players who have won many prizes have no more room on their shelf for one more and would like money instead, yet we are at the start of competitive mahjong and most remains to be developed.
14Thursday, 16 June 2011 10:41
I am sure that cash prizes will be introduced, but in which tournaments is the question. When I look at the tournaments that were played this year until now there are 12 tournaments including 6 tournaments among 40 participants and even among the participating countries, it looks like that of 12 tournaments are held only six tournaments with at least three countries. If I want to suspend a cash prizes I must first of all work to ensure that the tournament will be more attractive, I have to come up as what organizer. Grand prize in the Baden Riichiturnier a dragon.

I do not agree with Laurent, a tournament that is aimed only at tourist level. Let's be honest who goes by the Mahjong players to Paris just for the tournament and has no interest in the atmosphere or the Local attractions and the people (women - in my opinion). I go to a tournament to see some of the city can be. I am considering participating in the tournament in China.

If I compare to other sports already do, then I act like this:
1st Event Calendar: At the beginning of the year be entered in the event calendar must all tournaments.
2nd The tender must be at least 3 months earlier so the players can sign up.
3rd One should also be a European. When I look at the Italian Championship, then I have 160 participants of which 17 are from two Japanese and Taiwanese, that means 141 Europeans start of this figure are 35 Italians, French and Dutch, each 23, on the other hand, Austria has 14 participants. That is not fair in my eyes Championship, because if I make a comparison to other European Championships, then start from there, each country an equal number of people, only when I have achieved this status, I can speak of a fair European Championships, otherwise not. I'm excited about the program.

Since the EMA is interested in players with few games and prefer to have players who are only interested in the ranking and not participate in the European Championships as Oliver Boivin second the WMC in Utrecht, and why he is third in Europe, Luca Gavelli has 7 games and is fourth in Europe as well as the No. 1 ranking not yet EMA Pascal Balorin will change nothing in Europe in the near future.

Thus in Austria Mahjong is recognized as a sport, it must at least be in 5 out of 9 provinces a club and have a total of 1000 members, Time actually level 40, so in the next 20 years certainly does not, except maybe one European country can show that it geschaftt the has, then maybe. Let's see what the future brings, I'll let me surprise you.

Laurent not only won a prize in China but I also.

15Sunday, 19 June 2011 11:28
Henrik Leth
I think it is a bad idea to introduce money prizes (but I think it is a good thing to have the discussion).

I don't see sponsors or ourselves pay so much that there is a chance of any professional mahjong players in Europe at the moment - and probably not for a long time into the future. This means that prizes can only have a token value.

Personally, I don't see many advantages of having small money prizes at mahjong tournaments. Yes, they can possibly make you happy and "sponsor" your participation, but that is about all. If any of you guys in favour of money prizes see more advantages than mentioned already in the discussion, I encourage you to list them.

I see, however, several disadvantages:
- if the money goes from the tourist aspect, there will be less social interaction between the participants (which is one of the things I really appreciate with so many nationalties in the same place)
- now, people accept that the game is of both skill and luck, since it doesn't hurt much to loose by being unlucky - I expect there would be more frustration when some people felt unlucky
- some people acts differently if it is about money; this can both have impact on the social aspects (i.e. towards competitors), but also on the discussions during the sessions and the referee decisions; I fear this would take a lot out of the fun when playing

If others see more disadvantages than listed already, I likewise encourage you to list them.

I completely agree with Tina that I would much rather use some money to improve the conditions for the referees in the hope that more would volounteer for that.
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