Mah jongg making a comeback

(CBS) -- It's Mah Jongg Monday at Sarabeth's restaurant in New York City and the place is packed.

Barbara Gail has been playing for 22 years.

"I started when I moved to the suburbs and it was a way to meet other people and get out of the house for a little while," she says.

Mah Jongg began in China, but Americans have been playing the game for a century. It's similar to rummy, but uses tiles rather than cards. These days it's attracting a new generation of fans.

"It's all changed. It's really not your grandmother's game anymore," says Linda Feinstein.

Feinstein has been teaching Mah Jongg for nearly twenty years.

"It started very small and pretty soon I didn't have enough days in the week to fulfill all the requests I was getting," she says.

The National Mah Jongg League says the number of players in the U.S. has grown about 5% each year for the past decade and is now at an all-time high.

Ann Anthony is taking lessons with three of her friends.

"I would say about 6 or 8 months ago, I heard about a class I had missed and instantly had fear of missing out and had to find another one," she says.

The game is about 30%luck and 70% skill. Players say it helps keep the brain sharp.

You have to go with the flow. You have to regroup a lot. It's a little mental exercise," says Helen Golub.

The other bonus is the community. Feinstein says many of her students form such close bonds, they remain friends for life.