Like most popular casino games, Mahjong has Chinese origins. Though the game may exist with different spellings, they are all the same game. Mahjong is played using a set of 144 tiles that have traditional Chinese characters and symbols.
Mahjong is something like Rummy, and its objective lies in using the tiles to build sets by drawing and discarding them. At times, there may also be some variants using a different number and type of tiles. The number of players for the game remains 4 for all variants.
The game may seem confusing at first, but as it is a game of skill, strategy and calculation, it soon seems to be second nature to you if you study the rules well. If necessary, you can keep a printout of all rules next to your playing area.
Players have to first decide the max points players need to pay another player on any one round before starting the game. The common number of points players pay are 500, 1000 and 1500. This done, a player is named the East player and will be the game’s first dealer.
While the prevailing wind direction, East, starts the game, other players are also assigned a relative Mahjong cardinal direction. To play Mahjong, you need to first build the wall, and then break it. You have to shuffle face-down tiles and then use them to build a wall. Each wall has to be 17 or 18 tiles long, based on whether you have Flowers or Seasons tiles. Once the wall is built, other players start breaking the wall.
The game objective is to collect 14 tiles and group them into 4 melds of 3 tiles each and an additional matched pair. Basically, the player playing has 14+ tiles in their hand while others have only 13. While it is possible for the person starting the game to immediately win, this does not happen often.
You start playing with 14 tiles. You have to choose and discard one tile by placing it face up in the courtyard area, which is the area in the middle of the mahjong 4 walls. The next player then has to decide if he or she wants the discarded tile, and then plays his or her turn as usual.
Players can form a Chow by adding two tiles to your discarded tile. A Pung is formed when a player adds two identical tiles to your discarded tile. Players adding three identical tiles to your discarded tile forms a Kong.
Claims for a Kong or Pung is given preference over a claim made for a Chow. If no player wants the discarded tile, it is eliminated from the remaining game round. This is when the next player continues with his or her turn as usual.
- If you form a Pung or Chow using only Mahjong wall tiles, hide it from other players until you can win. This way you get more points and the other players won’t know how close you actually are to a win. Though you may be tempted to group your tiles, don’t do it as it only reveals to other players how close you are to winning the game.
- Keep a tab on the number of tiles you have as another player can challenge your having too few or too many tiles.
- Avoid passing flower tiles during the Charleston as many hands require them.
The best way to improve your mahjong game is by playing it. The more games you play, the better your rhythm and understanding of the game. You can make better selections and easily anticipate other players’ moves. You also learn to increase your odds of winning and how to deter others from winning!