Learning to play Mahjongg

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I have been playing Mahjongg solitaire for some time and have recently made some Mahjongg tiles - fascinated by the physical tiles as objects themselves and what can be done with them (besides playing games!) Now though I have received a nice set of tiles as a gift and I have started to learn the proper 4-player game. I want to teach nerds like myself at the Hackspace (and The Dice Cup) so that I have plenty of people to play and learn with.

Michael E.

Mahjongg Basics

Mahjongg is similar to the card game of Rummy where each player tries to make high scoring sets from a hand of tiles. There are numerous regional rules but the and the set I want to start off with is the World Series of Mahjong Rules and then simplify for new players. I have a little book of rules that came with my mahjong set from John Lewis and we have adopted most of the scoring from that.

  • no wildcards or fixed hands (so especially _not_ like American versions!)
  • no minimum score hand
  • no maximum score hand?
  • we haven't decided what to do about stealing kongs yet!

Rather than read all these crazy rules, the easiest thing for a beginner to do is to simple join in a game, perhaps with an introductory hand where everybody shows their tiles.

Regarding seats, directions, and dealing

  • At the start of the game after washing the tiles and building the walls, the East player (and initial dealer) is chosen at start of game by dice throw, other players assigned relative to that seat
  • Note that the directions are NOT the usual compass directions (as per most Eastern variants of the game) but go East, South, West, North going in an anti-clockwise direction
  • These assignations remain throughout the game with no special benefits to East
  • The dealer rotates around anti-clockwise to the next player each round regardless of the winner and has no special benefits other than discarding first (we may alter that later if it proves easy enough for beginners)
  • Dice throw is also used to decide where to break the wall and start dealing (TODO details)
  • Each player is dealt 13 tiles but the dealer has an extra tile as they will start with a discard
  • Normal play commences when the dealer discards their first tile
  • The player to the dealer's right is up next and play continues in an anti-clockwise direction (unless interrupted by claiming discarded tiles)

Normal play

  • for a normal play the player draws the next tile from the wall and discards a tile to maintain 13 tiles in their hand
  • the player temporarily has 14 tiles - the number required to declare mahjong
  • mahjong is declared when a player has 4 sets of 3 tiles and a pair (known as the "eyes")

Regarding discards

  • discards can only be claimed for a chow by the player whose turn is next (or by anybody for mahjong)
  • a pung can be claimed by any player and this outranks a chow
  • a kong outranks a chow (and a pung but that would not be possible as we don't use wildcards) HOWEVER, a discard can only be taken for a kong if the player has an existing hidden pung - an exposed pung can only be made into a kong by a self-drawn tile
  • a mahjong outranks everything and the claim can also be to make up the required pair
  • if more than one person claims the discard for mahjong then priority is given to the player closest to the discard (in the normal anti-clockwise turns sense)


Our scoring system is based on a version of Old HK style where it seems every opportunity is taken to double scores for anything "special"! Terminals and honours are doubled, concealed sets are doubled, and kongs are doubled twice! The scoring table is now in a Google Doc at...


A handy score sheet is also in a Google Doc at...