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Mahjong (Mah Jong) is a Chinese game involving high skill,
strategy, and calculation. A form of healing with Mahjong
was developed by researchers, as they believed that playing
the game is beneficial for individuals suffering from dementia,
cognitive and memory difficulties. Mahjong is commonly termed as
Mah Jongg, Ma Chiao, Ma Jiang, Mo Tsiah, Ma Chiang and Ma Cheuk and
often mispelled as Majong or Marjong.
concept is similar to the card game Gin
rummy. Mahjong is played using tiles unlike the cards used
in the rummy game. The object in the game is to build sets with
the tiles on drawing and discarding them. Mahjong has different
variants in terms of the number of tiles involved in the play but
invariably played only by 4 players. Mahjong is famously played in
North and North east regions of Asia but the consistency of rules
varies with the regions, as with china, describes rules that are not
same for the Mahjong played in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.
The Traditional Chinese version of Mahjong is played with 144 tiles
(including 8 flower/season tiles) and if we consider the world series of
Mahjong, it is played involving just 136 tiles (without flower/season tiles).
The flower and season tiles are optional tiles and are meant only for bonuses
and the usage of these tiles is at the discretion of the players. The current
rules being discussed are the official rules followed in
WSOM (World Series of Mahjong).
The Players –
Mahjong is always played by 4 players irrespective of the number
of tiles brought in to play.
Number of players
Number of tiles dealt
Total number of tiles
13 tiles each
136 tiles (144 total)
Tiles in Mahjong –
components involved in mahjong
The 136 tiles of Mahjong encompass 34 distinct designs with 4 tiles
of each kind. Speaking in basic terms the total tiles of Mahjong are
classified as number tiles and honor tiles. The number tiles are in 3
suits unlike Rummy which has 4 suits. The three suits of the number tiles
are Bamboos (aka "Sticks"), Circles (aka "Dots") and Characters (aka "Actors"),
in turn having nine different designs numbered 1 to 9 (the tiles with numbers 1
and 9 are called "Terminals" or terminal tiles and the tiles from 2 to 8 are called
"Simples" or simple tiles). The "Honor" tiles are the Wind tiles, designated as EAST,
SOUTH, WEST and NORTH and the Dragon tiles; Red, Green and White. Both the Wind
tiles and Dragon tiles have four duplicates of each tile.
No. of Duplicates
9 Of Each
9 Of Each
9 Of Each
Chow - A "Chow" is a sequence (or a run) of 3 successive
tiles of the same suit. For example, 5, 6 and
7 of the Bamboo suit make a valid chow. A similar sequence in
a concealed hand is known as "concealed sequence" and there is also an
"exposed sequence", which is formed from the discarded tile. The player claims this discarded tile to form an "exposed sequence" on proclaiming "chow" loud out. A chow can be formed only from the
discards of the players on the left and not from other players.
Pung - A "Pung" is a triplet
(set of three) of identical tiles of the same suit.
These identical tiles can be three of the same ranked
(number) tiles of the same suit or can be 3 honor tiles.
A triplet formed in a concealed hand is called a "concealed triplet"
and to form an "exposed triplet" the player
declares "Pung" loud out and lifts the discarded tile. In the case of an "exposed triplet" the player
displays his created set to other players only after discarding a tile. Thus ends
his turn for the next player to continue.
Kong - A "Kong" is a combination of 4 identical
tiles of the same suit. A combination cannot be called Kong; if a concealed
hand has 4 identical tiles (it is seen as a concealed triplet with an extra tile).
A player forms a Kong after having declared "Kong" out loud and claiming a discarded tile.
This created set is shown out to the players. In a case where a
Kong is formed from
the tile drawn from the wall, the player need not expose the set and can retain it
concealed. On concealing a Kong the player can later split it if he wishes, and use one of these
tiles to make a Chow thus justifying its name, a Concealed Kong.
In the case of a concealed Kong, the player has
to draw a replacement tile from the wall and this is done only on declaring this Kong to the players.
A Kong cannot be formed from the discarded tile using an already exposed
Pung, but if the tile is from the wall the Kong can be formed using the
A Pair is set of 2 identical tiles. In the
game a pair can be formed only from the discarded
tiles and that too only at the time of declaring "Mahjong".
In the game of Mahjong the players draw and discard the tiles in a way to form different melds,
eventually winning the game. The player once done with forming melds of the hand declares "Mahjong"
out loud; this is a gesture to claim the win. The winner of the hand get the points from the other players,
still he needs to form the best melds for his hand as the scoring also depends on the content of the hand.
Thus forming best melds is as important as winning the game. The final result and the rank of a player
are decided by the cumulative scores of the player on a number of hands.
HOW THE DICE COUNT IS MADE?
A pair of dice (some times 3 dice) is used in the game of Mahjong to determine the
seats to be occupied by the players and also for a process called "breaking the wall".
To know how the players pick their seats, consider a player throwing dice and imagine
the sum on the dice as being 5, then if the thrower is assumed with
number 1, moving counter clockwise the
count 5 stops on him. This count can be better understood with the figure below.
The figure is shown with the wind directions adapted by the Chinese as the same is
followed in the game.
game play STEP BY STEP
The Game involves the following steps:
1. Picking the seats
2. Creating and Breaking the wall
3. Dealing the tiles
4. Drawing the tiles
Picking the Seats –
Initially the players assume random seats and they pick a wind tile
each and put them face down on the table. Then two number tiles,
one of odd number and the other with even number are taken and placed
face up on either side of the wind tiles sandwiching them.
The dice is now given to a random player and he drops the dice. Now the player
indicated by the count on the dice is given the dice and this player again
throws the dice. If the count on the dice comes as an odd number the same player picks
the wind tile first at the "odd number" end and this course of action of
picking the tiles is continued by the players in the counter clockwise direction.
The same process would have continued from the "even number" end if the dice
count were even. The player with the "East" wind tile takes the seat designated
and the other players occupy the seats named with the direction tiles in their hands.
In each hand a player belongs to a certain wind direction and a
wind tile matching his seat’s direction is his "seat wind" and forming
a meld of the "seat wind" tile would score a player more points. Generally
the East player is made the dealer and after completion of every hand
(irrespective of a hand won or a hand lost) the players change their
seats hence changing their wind directions. When we regard the player
who sat on the east seat as the east player and also identify other
players with directions of the seats of their first hand then the
directions of their seats in subsequent hands can be visualized as
in the figure below.
Creating and Breaking the wall
The players now having assumed their seats move in to
next process of play. The 136 (144 with flower/season tiles)
tiles are shuffled and placed face down on the table. Each
player now lifts 34(36 if the flower/season tiles are included)
tiles and places them on the table arranging them in 2 stacks of 17(18)
tiles each. These tiles are moved little forward by each player to form
a hollow square which is generally referred to as "wall". A wall formed
is as seen in the figure below.
The player on the East seat is given the dice and he drops them to
determine the side (direction) where the "breaking of the wall" procedure
has to start. Now the side is determined and the player here throws the dice
again and the number of tiles (stacks) as in the dice count is counted starting
from the right end. These tiles are now shifted apart slightly to the right to show a distinction
from the remaining tiles, thus breaking the wall and these tiles are generally
referred to as a "Dead wall". And the tiles on the left of the dead wall form a "live wall".
The tiles in the dead wall are reserved as the replacement tiles.
Whenever a player in the game has a concealed Kong in his hand, he
is obliged to draw a tile from the dead wall. In a different situation
when a player encounters with a flower or season tile he has to place
the flower/season tile face up on the table and draw a replacement tile
from the dead wall. If the tile drawn from the dead wall is again a flower
or season tile, this has to be again put aside and another tile has to be
drawn, this continues until a non flower tile
comes up. A player with a
concealed Kong can retain it to the end of the hand; else he can declare
it and pick a replacement tile from the dead wall.
Dealing the Tiles
The East wind is the priority wind and the East player starts
the deal taking 2 stacks of 4 tiles from the live wall, followed
by south player taking 2 stacks, then west player
and finally the north player. This process of dealing continues till
all the players have 12 tiles with each of them. On the last round of
dealing, the east player picks two tiles and the other players pick one
tile each. An extra tile is drawn by the east player as he is the one to
start off the play on discarding a tile. The East player picks up the last
two tiles in two different styles. In one of the approach he picks two tiles
after every other player has picked his 12th tile. And in a different approach
he picks one tile after every one has picked his twelfth tile and another tile
after every one has picked his thirteenth tile. In the figure below the second
style of picking is shown.
Drawing the Tiles
The player on the east side has an extra tile
and he starts the play on discarding a tile. The
tiles discarded are put face up in the middle of the wall.
This discarded tile can be claimed by any of the players. If
this discard is not claimed by any of the players, the player
to the dealers’ right i.e. south takes on his turn to draw a tile
from the wall and once he discards the turn passes on to the west
player. After his draw and discard, the turn passes on to the North
player and he too draws and discards a tile. Any where in the game,
if a discarded tile is claimed by any of the players then the player
claiming it picks and discards a tile as a result the sequence of play
is braked and the game continues from that player again.
some notes on scoring
When a player is done with forming combinations of the tiles in his
hand he proclaims "Mahjong", a gesture representing win. The game in
a different case ends without a winner or a looser when there are no
unused tiles left on the table.
In Mahjong, when a player discards a tile it can be claimed by any of
the players to Pung or Kong the tile except for a Chow, which can be made only from the discards of the player on ones left.
If in the game 2 players try to claim
the same discard there is a priority extended
to claim the discard and the priority from high
to low is shown in the following sequence.
1. Going out (declaring Mahjong).
2. Kong or Pung
4. When 2 players claim the same tile for declaring Mahjong the player to the right of the discarder wins.
On melding four sets of Chow, Pung, Kong and a Pair a
player can proclaim loud "Mahjong". A winner has a total of 14 tiles in his hand. After each
round the seating position of the players changes or rotates
in counter clockwise. The change of position occurs even if
there is a dead hand in which none of players wins.
Basic Scoring - Winner on default receives 20 points for going out (for winning the game).