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Official Mahjong Rules

The popular Chinese game, Mahjong is a game of skill based on a set of tiles. There are different regional variations with different game pieces and scoring mechanism. The basic rules are the same across most variants. The main objective is to collect sets of tiles and scoop the highest score. Players choose and discard the pieces in different designs until they create a full combination. A complete Mahjong set has 144 tiles featuring 3 suits i.e. Dots, Characters, and Bamboo. Every suit comprises tiles bearing numbers 1-9, with as set of four for each tile. There are two honor tiles- dragon (Red, White, and Green) and winds (East, West, South, and North).

How the Game Flows

Each contestant begins with a set of 13 tiles. Each type of honor tiles has a set of four. In addition, there are 4 flower and 4 season tiles. When the player takes the wind, east kick-starts the game by choosing one tile from the wall. Then a counter-clockwise turn of collecting tiles by players ensues while they discard a single tile each turn. A player may claim a discarded tile by another player in a kong or pong scenario and in that case, the one who discarded loses their go-around turn. At any given time, players should hold 13 tiles until a Mahjong hand (with 14 tiles) is declared.

Mahjong Hand

A hand is made up of sets of 4 or 3 tiles and a pair. Pong is a triplet of the same suit while Kong is a quadruplet from the same suit. There is also a Chow- a straight same-suit. If two players coincidentally claim a tile, the most immediate in turn receives the tile. Claiming discarded tiles is not always worthwhile. Sets that are yet to be declared Mahjong carry more value that the declared sets. To find out the value scored by hand minipoints are first calculated from the pair and the sets. Calling Mahjong comes with minipoints and the value of those points differs with the rules of the game.

Scoring and Settlement

The Mahjong hand is evaluated to highlight patterns that rely on the rules. Fan/yakus/funs are rewarded for various patterns. The minipoints for each fan double once and the aggregated score becomes the hand score. For some rule sets, this score doesn’t count except the number of fans. After a tournament, table points are given in accordance with the player's performance. The one who scores the highest receives 4 table points. Runners up gain 2 points and the second last player receives 1 point. At the end of the game, the money on the table is divided among the contenders. The entire jackpot goes to the player who scores the highest.


There is a fee and a bet involved in Mahjong. The bet goes into a jackpot which every participant aims at. The fee, which only applies to tournaments, is for the house. The highest possible winning is equivalent to the maximum loss. This is the amount of money that a player deposits into their account upon joining the game. Rarely do players go through a maximum loss. For the single-hand game, the feeding penalty and the buy-in is kept aside in the player’s account. The reserved amount can only be lost if the player discards a winning tile. In a tournament, the buy-in is the sum of the fee and the bet.


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