How to Play Mahjong
ENJOY GAMES INSPIRED BY THIS CHINESE CLASSIC
If you like rummy – and who doesn’t?! – then why not try playing Mahjong?
This ancient Chinese game is hugely popular in Asia and combines both luck with significant strategy. It’s pretty similar to rummy, with winning hands using melds.
Read our simple guide to online Mahjong here and then start playing today – for fun or real money!
Best Mahjong Crypto Casinos 2022
Mahjong is not an easy game to find at crypto casinos, but you can play Mahjong-inspired casino games now with BTC, LTC, DOGE, XRP and other leading coins.
Here we will talk about the version of Mahjong you are most likely to find in a casino, and then we’ll discuss other Mahjong-inspired games you can play at online casinos.
Four players play Mahjong. There are 136 tiles or 144 tiles in play with various Chinese symbols and letters on them.
There are three categories – Simple (or Suit) tiles, Honor tiles and bonus tiles, but not every game uses the 12 bonus tiles.
The winner of the game is the first to put together a complete hand to form four sets (melds) and a pair (eyes). This is ‘Mahjong’.
Simple or Suit Tiles in Mahjong It’s easy to think of simple or suit tiles as suits in a deck of playing cards. In Mahjong, there are three suits – bamboos, characters, and circles (or dots).
Each Mahjong suit has ranks too, in this case, 1-9.
There are 108 Simple tiles in total – four versions of each suit rank.
There are the Winds and Dragons. The four Winds are the North, East, South and West tiles.
The three Dragons are l the Red, the Green and the White Dragon, although the White Dragon is often blue.
There are four of each tile, for a total of 28 (16 Winds and 12 Dragons).
Once you have learnt the tiles, the gameplay is straightforward. And if you are a good rummy player, you’ll pick up Mahjong quickly.
To get Mahjong and win, you need to get 14 tiles into four sets and one pair. A pair is two identical tiles. A meld is either a ‘pung’ (three identical tiles) or a ‘chow’ which is three consecutive numbers of the same suit.
Some games permit a ‘kong’, which is four identical tiles. A single tile cannot be used in two sets at once.
At the start, the Winds are shuffled and dealt, deciding players’ seating positions. Play moves clockwise from East, who is the dealer. Dice rolls can also determine the dealer.
Each player has a face-down wall 17 tiles long and two tiles high in front of them. This creates a square ‘the wall’. When playing online, the software does all this for you.
East position rolls three dice, with the total number used to ‘break the wall’. If the total was 11, for example, the dealer counts around the table 11 times and breaks the wall at that person’s 11th position in their wall.
Each player then takes tiles in a particular order from the wall until they have 13 tiles and the dealer has 14. One tile is revealed, and the game begins. (When playing online you do not need to worry about the order of how tiles are taken as it’s done automatically).
Players take a tile from the wall from the clockwise position and then discard a tile face-up. You cannot take any tile of your choice from the wall – it must follow the order set by the dice roll. Each discarded tile is left face-up.
You can only take the last discarded tile if it completes Mahjong or a set. Every player must wait a few seconds before taking their turn as anyone who can claim Mahjong with the previously discarded tile can do so – regardless of whether or not it’s their turn.
This also goes for a pung or a kong– shout if the discarded tile completes a set for you, then reveal the matching tiles that match the discard. Completed sets claimed in this way are revealed and placed face-up.
Players do not reveal their sets unless they are taking the discarded title. You are under no obligation to take the discarded tile even if it would complete a set.
The round ends when someone shouts Mahjong and reveals a complete 14-tile hand of four melds and a pair. If no one can get Mahjong after the last wall tile, the round is over, and no one is the winner.
As all players except the dealer start with 13 tiles, when they pick up a tile to complete Mahjong, they do not discard one. The winning hand will always have 14 tiles.
Many versions of Mahjong also make use of eight bonus tiles – the Flowers ranked 1-4 and the Seasons ranked 1-4. These give bonus points to winning hands.
Mahjong scoring can often be more complicated than the actual game!
The simplest system awards a point to whoever won the round. Players play a pre-determined number of rounds or to a specific number.
However, complex scoring arrangements also exist and vary by region or online operator.
Popular ways points are gained include getting Mahjong without taking a discard, winning with the final piece in the game, holding a pung of Dragons, a pung of ones, a pung of nines, and bonus points for kongs.
Hands holding bonus tiles earn bonus points, for example, a score for a Wind or a Flower.
Like rummy, both the winner and the losers can earn points for their hands, with the losers’ points offsetting their losses.
You must check the scoring before you start playing online to avoid any nasty surprises!
Play Mahjong Online
Many sites offer regular Mahjong where you can play against other online players or bots. Most of these are free to play and are a great opportunity to practise the game.
Unless you know the Chinese language well, it usually takes a while to familiarise yourself with all the tiles.
Free online Mahjong is also an excellent chance to try out different strategies, as Mahjong is far from just a game of chance. Serious skill is involved!
Playing Mahjong for real money is not the easiest thing as not many online casinos facilitate real money Mahjong tables. It can take a long time to play and casinos like quick, short games.
However, it is possible to play real money Mahjong tournaments, as well as various casino games inspired by Mahjong at crypto casinos. Here are the most popular ones you can play:
Mahjong Pai Gow – a popular variant found in Macau casinos, but also online. Some operators even offer a Live Dealer version.
Mahjong Pai Gow is similar to Baccarat. The player makes a bet against a designated banker (either the dealer) or another player.
20 tiles are used – two each ranked 1-9 – and two window tiles which represent 10. Each player gets two tiles, and wagers are settled on who has the highest hand.
The best hand is a pair of 10s, down to a pair of 1s. If there is no pair, the value of the tiles is added together to give a final score.
As in Baccarat, no score over 10 is possible – the 10 is subtracted from the total. So a score of 15 becomes 5 (15-10 = 5).
The banker wins on a tie. Casinos make money on this game by charging a small commission from winning bets, normally 5% on winning banker bets.
Mahjong Solitaire is a single-player game. The goal is to remove all the tiles by matching pairs of identical tiles. Mahjong Solitaire is fun to play, and it’s easy to find Mahjong Solitaire tournaments.Mahjong Slots are Slot games inspired by Mahjong. That might mean nothing more than the reels use Mahjong symbols, but usually paylines and bonus rounds will be based on high-scoring Mahjong hands. There is no skill required here – just spin and (hopefully) win!
Mahjong doesn’t take too long to learn, but it takes a lifetime to master!
Here are a few strategy tips to get you started:
- Make sure you understand all the tiles and can point out which ones make up each suit and category. Many novice players struggle with Mahjong because they haven’t familiarised themselves with the symbols and so find it hard to work out winning combinations.
- Try and work out a clear path to victory as early as possible. But be flexible and unafraid to change it if the tiles you are picking up are not helping.
- Remember when you take a discarded tile, you are revealing your hand to your rivals. Combined with the tiles you are discarding, experienced players can get a good idea of what tiles you need and can tailor their play accordingly. You also need to learn how to do this.
- Avoid lining up your tiles in a way that reveals your hand or how close you are to making Mahjong unless you are doing it to confuse the other players.
- As the game progresses, you need to be extra aware that every discard could give a rival victory. Try and discard tiles that have previously been discarded by others to reduce this risk. This requires a good memory.
- If you have a poor hand, try and force a draw by not discarding tiles that will give someone else victory (even if it means surrounding your ‘good tiles’). Or you can try and ‘lose well’ by getting a hand that includes bonus points. This, of course, depends on what version you are playing.
Most of all – have fun!