Play Mahjong

Mahjong is a Chinese game and it can seem very complicated at the first glance. Mahjong consists of a set of rules and once you have become familiar with those rules, you will be able to play this game in your sleep. If you want to know more about the rules of Mahjong, keep reading.

The rules of the Chinese Mahjong

At first, each player sets the maximum number of points that he would pay to other players on a single round. The usually used numbers are between 500 and 1500. After this step, one of the players will be called the East player and he will become the first game dealer. Each player will be given a cardinal direction. Then it is time to construct the wall before you have to break it down. In order to construct the wall you will have to rearrange face down tiles and form the wall. Side’s length will vary between seventeen or eighteen tiles. The length varies depending on whether the player has the Flowers and Season tiles or no. Then, the next step is for the players to start breaking down the walls.

The Gameplay of Mahjong

The target of the game is for the player to collect fourteen tiles and gather them into four melds. Each meld should consist of three tiles and a matched couple. The normal playing order is for the player who has the right to play to have fourteen or more tiles while other players have thirteen tiles. During the game, you can form Pungs and Chows. You form a Pung if you have 2 identical tiles that you add to the discarded tile and you can form a Chow if you have 2 tiles to add.

What is Mahjong?

Mahjong is a Chinese game that is played with 4 players but there are other variants that can be played with three players like the versions of Mahjong that are played in Japan and Korea. There is another version of Mahjong, Mahjong Solitaire, which is played by a single player, it is commonly played in the West but the four player variants is the one that is predominant in the continent of Asia. Mahjong is a complicated game of calculation, strategy and skill and of course, as any game, it has the element of luck.

This game is played with 136 tiles. Each tile has a Chinese symbol or a character on it. There are regional versions in China which are played by more or less tiles, depending on each version. In most of the versions, including the Chinese version, the players will begin the game with 13 tiles and they will start to draw or discard the until they have the legal hand (will be discussed later) in order to form 4x groups and one pair. Each version has its own rules but most of them have standard rules when it comes to drawing tiles, forming numbered tiles and honours and the order of the play and the dealing of the tiles.

The History of the Game

According to Chinese myths, the Chinese philosopher, Confucius has designed the game 500 B.C. This story is confirmed by the fact that the 3 cardinal tiles coincide with the 3 cardinal virtues that the philosopher has bequeathed. These three are Zhōng, Bái Bǎn and Fā Cái. They stand for benevolence, filial piety and sincerity respectively. Also, Confucius was known for his love of birds which could explain the name itself as Mahjong translated to Sparrow.

Selecting the 1st Dealing and the Seating Positions

Choosing the person who will be the dealer can be done through numerous ways. One of these ways is rolling the dice and the one with the highest total would take the East wind. Another way is putting the four wind tiles facing down and players will select one each and then the players will be seated according to the positions of the wind. East will become the dealer the right side of the dealer is South while across the table is West and his left-hand side is North. The order of the play is counterclockwise.

The Hands and the Rounds


The Mahjong match consists of 4 rounds. In every single round, a minimum of 4 hands are played and each one of the four rounds will have the name of the winning wind. The winning wind is East in the 1st round. The second round, the prevailing wind is south and so on. Also, the dealer will not be the same in every round as during the four rounds, each player will deal the tiles for one round. The player who will become the dealer will be named East.

Dealing the Tiles

The tiles are all placed face down and shuffled in order to guarantee fairness and equality. It is a common practice that all of the players seated at the table would participate in shuffling the tiles on the Mahjong table. Each player will then take his set of 36 tiles in front of him and form them into two tile rows, 18 tiles each. The players will then start to push the tiles together in order to form a square wall on the table.

The Procedure

The dealer will then throw 3 dice and calculates the total. He will count anti clockwise which means that the dealer is 1, 4, 9, 13 or 17, south would be 2, 6, 10, 14 or 18 and so on. A quarter of the wall of a player will be chosen. Using the total of the 3 dice, the player will start to count the tile stacks from right to left. The dealer will then take 4 of the tiles for himself from the left of the stacks that were counted. Each player will start to do the same until each player would have twelve tiles. Each player will then take one tile in order to form a hand of thirteen tiles. This is the most complicated dealing procedure as it can be quite simpler depending on the rules of the house.

Players will then replace any seasons or flowers that they have gotten with other tiles from the tile wall. The dealer will take yet another tile and add it to the hand and if he does not complete the legal hand, he will discard a tile by throwing it in the middle of the wall.

What Forms a Winning Hand?

A winning set of tiles, also called a Legal Hand, consists of 14 tiles. This hand consists of thirteen tiles that are dealt and the extra tile that the player will steal from another player or pick it from the wall.

This legal or winning hand consists of 4 melds, which is a pattern of 3 pieces & the eyes (an identical pair of tiles). Mahjong players will mostly play with a game minimum, which is the minimum number of points that the hand will have to score in order to win. This can be seen in the score section.

The Rhythm of the Play

Each group of players usually agree on a specific amount of time in which the player will have to make a call. It is entitled the Window of Opportunity. This prevents the game from being too long.