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How to Play Mahjong?

How to Play Mahjong
How to Play Mahjong

How To Play Mahjong

Are you ready to become a Mahjong master? If so, then you're in the right place. In this article, we will unveil the secrets behind winning hands in Mahjong, the ancient Chinese tile-based game that has captivated players worldwide.

With its complex rules and multitude of tile combinations, Mahjong can be challenging to master. However, with the right knowledge and a bit of practice, you can significantly improve your chances of winning.

Whether you're a beginner just learning the rules or a seasoned player looking to improve your strategy, this guide will provide valuable insights to help you play the game.

Let’s dive in! 

The basics of Mahjong gameplay

Mahjong is a game that originated in China during the Qing Dynasty and has grown to become a beloved pastime for millions of players around the world. It is typically played with four players and involves a set of 144 tiles, each adorned with different symbols and characters. The objective of the game is to create a winning hand by collecting sets and runs of tiles.

At the beginning of the game, the tiles are shuffled and arranged into a wall in the center of the table. Each player then takes turns drawing and discarding tiles in an attempt to create a winning hand. The game ends when a player declares Mahjong by completing a legal hand and collecting the winning tile.

Mahjong Tiles and Suits
Mahjong Tiles and Suits

Understanding the different Mahjong tiles and suits

To become a master of Mahjong, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the different types of tiles and suits. There are three main suits in Mahjong: the Character suit, the Bamboo suit, and the Circle suit. Each suit consists of numbered tiles ranging from one to nine, with four copies of each tile in the set.

In addition to the suits, there are also honor tiles that play a crucial role in Mahjong. The honor tiles include the Winds (East, South, West, and North) and the Dragons (Red, Green, and White). These tiles have a higher value and are often used to form special combinations in winning hands.

By understanding the tiles and suits in Mahjong, you can begin to recognize patterns and anticipate the moves of your opponents. This knowledge will give you a significant advantage when it comes to building winning hands and executing strategic plays.

The Importance of knowing the scoring system in Mahjong

Mahjong Points

To truly master the art of Mahjong, it is vital to have a solid understanding of the scoring system. Mahjong scoring can be complex, but once you grasp the basics, it will greatly enhance your ability to evaluate the value of your hand and make strategic decisions.

The scoring system in Mahjong is based on various factors, including the composition of your hand, the number of points you accumulate, and the specific rules of the game you are playing. Each winning hand is assigned a certain number of points, which can be further multiplied based on specific conditions.

One important concept to understand is the concept of "fan," which refers to the number of points awarded for specific combinations or patterns in your hand. Different combinations have different fan values, and accumulating a certain number of fans is often required to win the game.

A list of points for the Hong Kong Basic scoring

Basic Hong Kong Mahjong Scoring


Complete Hand

0 fan

4 Chows in hand

1 extra fan

4 Pungs and/or Kongs in hand

3 extra fan

1 or 2 Dragon Pungs or Kongs

1 extra fan each

A pair of Dragon Pung and another pair of Dragon

4 extra fan

Pungs/Kongs of Winds that matches the round or seat

1 extra fan

No Flowers/Season tile

1 extra fan

Flowers/Season tile matching seat value

1 extra fan each

All Flowers/Season of a particular color

2 extra fan

Win by self-drawn

1 extra fan

Strategies for building winning hands in Mahjong

Now that you have a solid foundation in the basics of Mahjong gameplay and scoring, let's delve into some strategies for building winning hands. Building a winning hand requires careful planning, tile management, and an understanding of the different patterns and combinations in Mahjong.

One effective strategy is to focus on building sets and runs early on in the game. Sets refer to three identical tiles, while runs consist of three consecutive tiles from the same suit. By collecting sets and runs, you increase your chances of completing a winning hand.

Another important strategy is to pay attention to the discards of your opponents. By observing the tiles they discard, you can gain insights into their hand composition and adjust your strategy accordingly. If you notice a particular tile being discarded multiple times, it may indicate that your opponents are not interested in that tile, making it safer for you to discard it without fear of them completing a winning hand.

Common Mahjong patterns and their significance

In Mahjong, there are numerous patterns and combinations that can lead to a winning hand. These patterns are often based on the composition of sets, runs, and honor tiles in your hand. 

Common patterns: 

  • The "Pong" or "Triplet," which consists of three identical tiles. Pongs are relatively easy to spot and can provide a solid foundation for building a winning hand.

  • The “Kong” which consists of four identical tiles.

  • The "Chow" or "Run," which consists of three consecutive tiles from the same suit. Chows can be challenging to complete, but they often provide a high number of points and can greatly enhance your chances of winning.

It is important to note that some patterns have higher point values than others. For example, completing a hand with all honor tiles can result in a significant boost to your score. By understanding the significance of different patterns, you can prioritize certain combinations and adjust your strategy accordingly.

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