Description of the Pieces
The game is played with a set of 136 pieces, similar to dominoes, of bamboo and ivory engraved in color. There are 34 distinct, different kinds of pieces and four of each kind make up the set.
The thirty-four different kinds of pieces are made up as follows: First, there are the three suits, designated by “Bamboo,” “Dots,” and “Characters,” and called by Chinese, respectively, “tiao,” “tung,” and “wan” (see figures 1, 2 and 3).
Each of these three suits runs from one to nine. Thus, the various pieces are referred to as “one tiao,” “four tung,” “seven wan,” etc. In the three suits there are twenty-seven different kinds of pieces, four alike of each kind; making a total of 108.
In addition there are the four winds, known as the East, South, West, and North winds (see figure 4) and also the special honor pieces called “Red Dragon,” “Green Dragon,” and the “White Dragon,” or more simply “Red,” “Green,” and “White.” (See figure 5.)
Formalities of Opening the Game
MAHJONG is played by four players who play as individuals and not as partners.
Seats are chosen and each man throws the two dice in turn, the high throw becoming the “EAST WIND,” or “Dealer.”
The 136 pieces are then placed face down on the table and thoroughly mixed or shuffled. Each player selects 34 pieces at random and arranges them in front of him face down in a row seventeen pieces long and two high. These four rows are then shoved forward to form a hollow square in the middle of the table to represent a Chinese city wall (see figure 6). The dealer’s side of the wall is always “East,” the wall opposite is “West,” to his right is “South,” and to his left “North.”
Opening the Wall
This is decided by the dice. The dealer throws the two dice and the total number of spots on both dice indicates the wall in which the opening is to be made, starting with the dealer as one and counting in a counter-clockwise direction up to twelve, the highest number that can be thrown with the two dice. Thus, if the two dice total 2, 6, or 10 “South,” takes the dice; 3, 7, 11, “West,” takes the dice; 4, 8, or 12, “North,” takes the dice; and 5 or 9 the “Dealer” continues with the dice.
The second throw determines the exact spot at which the wall is to be opened. The player getting the second throw of the dice adds the total to total previously shaken and then counts off from the right end of his row clockwise the number of pieces indicated by the total of the two throws and opens the wall at this point. He takes out the two pieces, called the “loose tiles,” and lays them to the right of opening. They then mark the “end of the wall” (see figure 7).
The dealer then takes the first four pieces to the left of the opening, followed by South, West, and North, each drawing four in turn, going in a clockwise direction around the wall until each man has sixteen pieces. The dealer then draws an extra piece, making seventeen in the dealer’s hand. (The table will the appear as in Figure 7, which shows the four hands drawn, with remainder of wall. Note the two “loose tiles” on the “end of the wall.”)
The pieces are then arranged in order of suits in the hand with each player’s hand concealed from the other three as in dominoes.
The dealer (East) starts the game by discarding one piece face up in the center of the table, South then draws and discards, and so on until one player completes his hand and wins.
The object of the game is to obtain a complete hand made up of five sets of threes (each set may be either three of a kind of the same suit or a sequence in the same suit called a “Run”), and an extra pair, seventeen pieces in all.
After one player discards, the man on his right, who has the next turn, has the option of taking the piece discarded to make the third of a run or the third to a pair or of drawing the next piece from the “wall.” If he takes the last discard from the board in this way, to make a sequence, this is called “Chowing,” and he must lay the three pieces face up on the table in front of him, and then discard one piece from his own hand.
Only the man to the right of the discarder has the right to “Chow” for a run or sequence in this way.
A player who wishes to “Chow” a piece must give way to another player, who can “pung” (see below) that piece, except when that piece completes his hand for game.
“Pung” (pronounced to rhyme with “sung”): Should a player discard a piece and any other player have a pair (or three) of this same piece, even though out of his own turn, he may say “Pung” and place this discarded piece with the pair (or 3) from his own hand face up in front of him on the table, making 3 (or 4) of a kind. He then discards from his hand to keep the number of his pieces correct (16 in number). Then the play carries on to the right of the one who “Punged” and the other player or players lose their turn to draw.
A “Pung” can only be made for three of a kind (or four of a kind) and not for a run or a pair, except only at the end of the game, when the one who “Pungs” requires only this one tile to fill a run or sequence or to make a final pair to complete his hand for game. A “Pung” which completes a hand takes precedence over any other “Pung.” In case the same discarded piece is required to complete hands for two or three players, the player has the right to “Pung” it who sits nearest the player who discarded the piece, counting in order of play, counter-clockwise.
All pieces discarded and lying face up in the middle of the table, except the last one discarded, are “dead” and cannot be used.
To “Kong” (Four of a kind)
Should a player have three of a kind concealed in his hand and “Pung” a fourth of the same kind, the four pieces must be laid face up on the table in front of him and he must draw one of the two “loose tiles” (the second from the end) to make up the correct number of pieces in his hand. The player then discards. But he cannot “Pung” a 4th discarded by another player, to add to his 3 on Table to make 4 of a kind.
Should a player draw from the wall to make four of a kind in his hand he should usually place these four on the table in front of him and draw the next to the last “loose tile” to make the correct number in his hand, then discard one piece. In this case two of the pieces are placed on the table face up and the two end pieces face down to show that this set of four still counts as though held in the hand, though laid on table and not “Punged,” as there is a difference in the score. (See score table, and “Suggestions”). If a player has 3 of a kind on Table and draws the 4th from wall, he places it with the 3, making 4 of a kind on Table.
When a player succeeds in completing his hand either by drawing the final necessary piece or by “Punging” a discard from the table, he lays down his hand and the score is counted both for those pieces he had previously completed by “Punging” and has laid face up and also for any concealed combinations now disclosed in his hand. This is called “Punging” or Drawing “for Mah-Jongg.”
Where one player completes his hand, all hands are laid down and each man scores his hand, beginning with the winner. Each score includes combinations concealed in the hand and combinations already on the table, according to the score sheet.
The game is usually scored with chips, the players settling in chips at the end of each hand. Score may, however, be kept on paper.
Paying the Winner
When a player wins by completing his hand the other 3 players pay him his entire score regardless of their scores. Each of the 3 losers then settles with the other 2, each one of the 3 losing players paying each one that has a larger hand the difference between their scores.
When “East” Wins: If the dealer “East” wins a hand, each of the others pays him double his score. If “East” does not win, he pays the winner double his (the winner’s) hand. “East” then pays each other loser who has a larger score than he double the difference between their scores. From each loser who has a lower score than he “East” collects double the difference of their scores. As long as “East” wins, he retains the deal and remains “East” until he fails to win a hand when the deal passes to next player on his right, who thereby becomes “East.”
The Limit: There are numerous possibilities in the score and it is possible to score over 25,000 points in one hand. A scoring limit of 300 points on any one hand is usually fixed upon at the start of the game and each losing player pays in chips only 300 points when the winner’s score is 300 or more, except in the case of “East,” who when a loser, pays double (or 600 points) and when a winner collects double (or 600 points), when the winning score is 300 or more.
Draw: Should the game proceed with no hand completed for game until there are only sixteen pieces (eight twos) left in the wall, none of these last sixteen pieces can be drawn, but the game is declared a “draw” and no scores count. In counting the sixteen pieces, the one or two “loose tiles” on the end of the wall, are included in the sixteen.
Should both “loose tiles” be used, by drawing for two or more sets of fours, then the two last pieces are placed on top of end of wall as new “loose tiles.”
Any number of hands may be played, but it is usually decided beforehand to complete a certain number of rounds. The above is merely an outline of the rules of play, the niceties of the game become apparent as it is played. It has stood the test of over twenty centuries in China and is still the most popular game there today. During this time the Chinese have developed the fine points of the game to an extent not reached in any European or American game. Volumes are published in Chinese by experts in the game similar to the books on bridge so popular in America and England.
Suggestions for Play
You will notice from score sheet that threes or fours of a kind in the hand score twice as much as the same combinations on the table.
If one player, who is entitled to “CHOW” a discard for a sequence, says “CHOW” and picks it up, he will give way to another player who calls “Pung” and who can use that piece to complete 3 or 4 of a kind; this, even though the player who “PUNGS,” may be rather slow in claiming the “PUNG.”
In the same way, a player may “PUNG” even though the player at right of the discarder may have drawn from the wall and even looked at his drawn piece. But a reasonable amount of promptness is expected of each player and no player has a right to “PUNG” a discarded piece after the next draw has been placed with following player’s hand on the table.
While not obligatory, yet as a courtesy to others, each player usually names his discard in placing it on the table. Each discard should be placed face up where all may see it plainly and not tossed or shoved among other discards.
Sometimes a player holds 4 of a kind in his hand for a time, instead of declaring it at once, hoping to use the pieces or part of them to complete one or more sequences. This is allowable and is sometimes useful. But if another player completes his hand and wins, the 4 of a kind left in the hand counts only as “3 of a kind,” or one-fourth what it would count if it had been declared and promptly placed on table.
It is, obviously, impossible for a hand to be completed for MAH-JONGG with 4 of a kind in the hand, as a winning hand must consist of 5 sets of 3 and one pair. Each set of four must be on table and a “loose tile” drawn for each before hand can be completed.
The total number of pieces held by each player, including those he has in hand and on table must always be 16; except that for every 4 of a kind a player holds, he will have one more piece than 16. If a player has one 4 of a kind, he will therefore have in all 17 pieces.
Bonus Scores and Honor Scores
Bonus Scores and Honor Scores: On the Score Sheet for Mah-Jongg “Double Honor Scores” you are told to double the total score three times if you win on “original hand.” The first seventeen pieces that “East” has at the start are his original hand and the first seventeen pieces of any player are likewise his original hand. On Page 10 a special Bonus of ten points for “No scoring combinations in hand or on table.” This is a consolation score given only when a player’s score is only twenty for winning. It is not given if the winner scores two for drawing the piece that completes his hand or for filling in the only place to win.
On the Score Sheet for Mah-Jongg, also under “Double Honor Scores,” a hand consisting entirely of “dragons” and “winds” is doubled three times, the same as a hand of any one suit.
Counters: These are furnished in the top tray of each set and they have four values. Each player receives:
These counters are used in the same way as chips are used in counting for other games. At close of each hand the winner collects from each of the three losers, who then pay each other differences in their scores, as explained in the Rules.
Score Sheet for Mah-Jongg
Combinations on the Table. (Completed from discards that you “Pung” or “Chow.”) These apply to all hands. A Run (or Sequence) has no value except to complete the hand.
- Three of a kind (of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8)……….. 2 points
- Three “ones” or three “nines”……………………. 4 points
- Three of a kind of any wind……………………… 4 points
- Three of a kind of “red,” of “green,” or of “white”… 4 points
- Four of a kind (of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8)………… 8 points
- Four “ones” or four “nines”………………………16 points
- Four of a kind of any wind……………………….16 points
- Four of a kind of “red,” of “green,” or of “white”….16 points
- A pair of any color or of player’s own wind……….. 2 points
Combinations in Hands. (Completed by drawing from the “wall.”) These apply to all hands. A Run (or Sequence) has no value except to complete the hand.
- Three of a kind (of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8)……….. 4 points
- Three “ones” or three “nines”……………………. 8 points
- Three of a kind of any wind……………………… 8 points
- Three of a kind of “red,” of “green,” or of “white”… 8 points
- Four of a kind (of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8)…………16 points
- Four “ones” or four “nines”………………………32 points
- Four of a kind of any wind……………………….32 points
- Four of a kind of “red,” of “green,” or of “white”….32 points
- A pair of any color or of player’s own wind……….. 2 points
Special Bonus Scores. These apply to winning hand only.
- “Game” or “Mah-Jongg” (for Winning Hand)…………..20 points
- No scoring combinations in hand or on table………..10 points
- Winning piece drawn (not “Punged” or “Chowed”)…….. 2 points
- Filling only possible place to win (as completing a pair or filling a straight in the middle or open on only one end)…………………………………….. 2 points
- Winning piece on special draw of a “loose tile” after 4 of a kind….10 points
- No runs in hand or on table………………………10 points
Double Honor Scores. These apply to all hands.
- Three or four of own wind in hand or on table Double score
- Three or four of “red,” “green,” or of “white” Double score
- Hand all of one suit, except any number of winds, or “red,” “green,” or “white” pieces Double score
- Hand entirely of one suit Double total score 3 times
- Hand entirely of winds and dragons Double total score 3 times (i.e., score is 32, doubling three times makes it 256)
- To win on original hand (this is very unusual) Double total score 3 times
Should one hand contain more than one doubling honor combination, the score is doubled for each combination according to the above table, Thus, if a hand scores 40 and has, for example 3 Red Dragons, 4 of your own wind, and all other pieces of the same suit, you double 40 three times, making your score 320.
Dead Hand: Should a player’s hand at any time contain more or less than right number of pieces, his hand is “DEAD.” He must continue to draw and discard but cannot, of course, complete his hand. The penalty is that he must pay winner and pay each other player total score of that player, the “dead” hand counting as nothing. No player pays him.
Mahjong With the Seasons
This is a variation of Mah-Jongg played with eight extra tiles of special design, known as the Seasons. They are also called Flowers, Gardens, Goofs, etc., and the names are interchangeable (see fig. 12).
There are two series of four each, one series marked 1, 2, 3, and 4, in one color, and the other series marked likewise but in another color. Usually the two colors are green and red.
When the Season tiles are used they are mixed among the other tiles before the wall is built. Each wall consists of eighteen pairs of tiles instead of seventeen.
If East Wind, in his original draw, obtains either of the No. 1 Seasons, he is said to have drawn his own Season; similarly the No. 2 Seasons are South Wind’s own Seasons, the No. 3 Seasons are West Wind’s own Seasons and the No. 4 Seasons are North Wind’s own Seasons.
After the original draw and prior to East’s first discard, East declares any Season, or Seasons, that he may have in his hand by exposing them on the table. He then draws a loose tile for each Season so declared so that he will have seventeen tiles remaining in his hand after so declaring all Seasons, South, West, and North, in turn declare the Seasons in their hands and draw loose tiles in the same manner in order that each may have sixteen tiles remaining in his hand.
All Seasons obtained in the original draw are thus declared before East makes his first discard, including any Seasons which may be drawn as “loose tiles.” East then makes his first discard as described under The Play. If a player in the course of the game draws in his turn a Season from the wall, he immediately exposes it and draws a loose tile before discarding.
The Seasons score as follows:
- Each Season scores – 4 points
- One of a player’s own Seasons – Double the total score
- Both of a player’s own Seasons – Double the total score twice
- All four Seasons of one color – Double the total score three times
These doubles for the Seasons are in addition to any other doubling combinations the hand may contain. The scores and doubles apply to all hands whether winning or not.