What Are the Rules of Mahjong?


Quick Answer

The object of Mahjong is to get four sets of three tiles and one pair with no overlapping tiles. The four sets of three can consist of three identical tiles or three tiles of the same suit in numerical order. A pair must consist of two identical tiles.

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Full Answer

Mahjong is played with 136 tiles containing 36 characters, 36 bamboos and 36 circles, all divided into four suits. There are also 16 wind tiles and 12 dragon tiles, and many sets also include four flowers and four seasons, which are optional. The tiles are shuffled together, and each player makes a wall of tiles in front of herself that is 17 tiles wide and two tiles high. This makes a square in the center of the table. The dealer rolls a pair of dice and counts that number before distributing 13 tiles to the other players and 14 for himself. Once all the players have arranged their tiles, the dealer discards a tile and play goes to the left.

Before players begin their turn, they must allow time for other players to claim the most recently discarded tile. If it completes an entire set for them, they get priority and the hand ends. If it completes a trio of identical tiles, they must declare it, claim the tile and then reveal their trio and discard a tile, allowing game play to continue as normal.

If the discarded tile goes unclaimed, the current player can use it to complete a set of tiles in numerical order. If the current player can not use the discarded tile, he collects the next tile to the left on the wall, discards a tile and game play continues to the left. Simple scoring awards a player one point for winning a hand and play continues to 14 points, though there are innumerable scoring and play variations.

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