How To Play Mahjong? 5 Things You Should Know

Mahjong games are extremely intriguing and fun, yet grasping this game’s basic rules may be complex. So, how to play mahjong?

If you are a beginner wanting to join mahjong, this post is a must-read. I will introduce the basic features and rules of this game to help you understand it.

Plus, the step-by-step instruction below will help you approach this game quickly. Let’s keep on reading to get more details!

The Basic Rules and Goal of Mahjong

It’s essential to know the basic rules and names in this game before playing it. It will help you avoid confusion when hearing mahjong players calling many names.

The Basis of a Mahjong Set

A typical mahjong game requires four players. Meanwhile, a mahjong set consists of 144 tiles plus two dice for rolling. Yet, there are many variations of mahjong with different rules, depending on the country.

For instance, American mahjong versions only have 136 tiles. The hand-carved mahjong sets are much more expensive than the standard products.

A mahjong set is divided into three suits: bamboo, circles, and characters. Each suit comprises four tile sets with numbers ranging from one to nine.

There is a special suit called honor tiles. They represent the green and red dragons, plus the four winds. Yet, you can use honor tiles the same way you use the regular suit tiles.

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Another special suit is the bonus tiles, which display symbols of seasons and flowers. Most Chinese and Korean mahjong sets feature this unique suit. Yet, the American mahjong sets rarely involve it.

A mahjong game requires four players

The Goal of Mahjong Players

Mahjong and poker share a similar goal. Players will try to match the pairs and sets. You must get three or four consecutive tiles that are the same.

A pair is easier to get as it consists of two identical tiles (also known as eyes). The player who can get four sets and one pair first will be the winner of the table.

How To Play Mahjong

All the rules and mechanisms of mahjong may take time for beginners. It’s okay if you cannot remember all the sets, names, and pairs when beginning.

After a few games, you will gradually grasp all the basics and understand more about mahjong. The best way to memorize all sets, pairs, and tiles is by playing with friends, who will instruct you.

A standard mahjong set

1. Set Up The Game

Before playing the game, the table must choose an East Wind (or the dealer for the game). Each player takes a turn and rolls two dice at once. Whoever has the highest score will become the dealer.

Now, the table proceeds to determine the other three players’ positions based on cardinal directions. The player who sits on the right of the dealer is the South Wind.

Meanwhile, the person on the left is the West, and the player facing the dealer is the East. The first playing turn goes to the West Wind player.

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2. Sort The Tiles

To sort the tiles, place them facing upside down and shuffle the tiles thoroughly. Use your hands to mix all the tiles at the table’s centre. The dealer will call to stop shuffling when he wants.

Now, the dealer gives each player a tile (upside down) once at a time. Keep delivering in turn until each player has 13 tiles. The leftover tiles should remain in the centre of the table.

Now, line up your 13 tiles so they are facing towards you so the other player cannot see them. It should represent a straight wall made of 13 tiles. You can use a rack to set up your wall quickly.

Sort the tiles first

3. Play The Game

Now, the South Wind player will go first. Begin by drawing one tile from the centre and looking at it. If you don’t want to keep it in your set, return it to the centre.

Otherwise, discard one tile from your set and replace it with your drawn tile. To decide, you should check if the draw tiles match any tiles on your wall. Again, your goal is to achieve the melds or pairs.

When discarding a tile, call its name so the other players can hear. If a player discards a tile and it matches the other two tiles in your set, say “pong”. Then, you can claim that tile and get it.

Now, show the three same tiles to everyone to prove it. Wait for each player to finish their turn and the player on the right continues. If a random person on the table claims a tile, the right player continues.

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Try to form identical sequences

4. Win The Game

If you get four similar tiles, say “Gang”. Even better is “Chi”, or a sequence of 3 identical tiles that belong to the same suit. Each of these sequences is a meld.

When the player gets four melds and one pair first, he will form a mahjong and win the whole game.

This video will give you more detailed instructions on playing a mahjong game.

Tips to Play Mahjong

When you have gotten three identical tiles, pay attention to the discarded tiles of the other players. If you see a matching tile, say “gang” and complete a sequence of four similar tiles.

Plus, remember that a single tile is not applicable for two sets simultaneously. When you have achieved mahjong, yell it out and become the table’s winner.

Final Thoughts

Like a chess game or a sport, mahjong is challenging to learn at the start. There are many strategies and techniques you have to master. The wisest and most strategic players can dominate the game.

Don’t worry if you struggle to learn the rules and names of the tiles at first. The game will become much easier the longer you play it.

Thank you for reading this post!