For the newcomer to Mah-Jong, who maybe finds all the rules rather daunting, here
is a way of gently easing yourself into the game. A very basic, pared-down version
of the game is suggested first, followed by a number of steps which will lead you
towards the full game.
Stage 1 - Some Basic Rules
Mah-Jong is meant to be played by four people. This version works OK with three,
but is less satisfactory with two. No scoring is involved.
The aim of the game
The winner is the first player to declare a Mah-Jong hand consisting of 4 sets
and a pair.
Here’s an example:
A set can be a pung (3 identical tiles) or a chow (a run of 3 tiles in the same
suit), though only one of these is allowed.
Each player then arranges his tiles (in a rack, if there are any) so that only he
can see them.
Note that the tile next to the last dealt tile will be the one to be used next in
the game. It marks the start of the live wall.
Playing the game
Play is started by the dealer discarding one of his tiles. Discarding a tile involves
laying it it face upwards in the centre of the table and describing it to the others.
For example, “Five of Circles”.
Normally, the turn then passes to the player on the right (moving in an anti-clockwise
direction). This player can do one of two things:
Remove the 4 Season tiles and the 4 Flower tiles (also the 4 spare and 4 joker tiles,
Shuffle the tiles, face down, and build 4 walls, each 17 tiles long and 2 tiles high.
Move the walls to the centre of the table until their ends meet.
Each player then throws the dice to find who will deal out the tiles and start the
The player with the highest score breaks the wall in front of him (it does not matter
and deals out 14 tiles to himself and 13 to each of the other players. The tiles
from the break point in a clockwise direction.
By calling pung.
The player uses the claimed tile to form a set of 3 tiles and exposes it to the others.
He then discards an unwanted tile from his hand. The turn then passes to the player
on his right. Players between the claimer and the discarder lose a turn.
By calling Mah-Jong
To do this, the player must be able to form a winning hand from the tiles.
The claimed tile thus goes towards making a pung or a pair of identical tiles.
If this player is able to form a winning hand (4 sets and a pair) from this new tile,
then he does not make a discard. Instead he calls Mah-Jong to announce that he
has won the game.
This may involve claiming the “Five of Circles” to form a pair (rather than a chow
or a pung).