Traditional Mahjong

People playing traditional Mahjong

The website you are visiting includes Mahjong Solitaire, a version of Mahjong that can be played by a single player. However, this solitaire game comes from an ancient Chinese game, usually played by four players. The game is similar to Rummy, but instead of cards, it is played with 144 tiles of a shape resembling domino tiles. Unlike dominoes and similarly to cards, Mahjong tiles are divided into suits and a few other groups: dragons, winds, plants, and seasons. Traditional Mahjong can be played as pure entertainment or a form of gambling. The game tiles can also tell fortune, as the Tarot cards do.

The game is popular worldwide, and there are many countries where Mahjong competitions are being held. Every country has its rules, so players play differently depending on whether in China, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, etc.

To start the game, players need two regular dice (with six sides) and, optionally, tile racks for each player so that players do not see each other’s tiles. As mentioned above, the game tiles are divided into suits and other groups. One of the groups consists of four Winds: East Wind, West Wind, North Wind, and South Wind. At the beginning of the game, four Wind tiles must be prepared, and the players draw one tile each. The player with the East Wind tile chooses where they sit at the table. The player with the West Wind tile sits on the opposite side of the table, and the players with the South Wind tile and the North Wind tile sit to the right and left of the player with the East Wind, respectively. This may be confusing because it differs from the arrangement of the geographic directions with respect to each other. The player with the East Wind tile is privileged during the game. However, after each round, the East Wind designation moves counterclockwise, and the former South Wind player becomes the East Wind. The game cannot be finished until all players have a chance to be the East Wind player at least once – otherwise, the game would not be fair.

Once players have taken seats, the tiles are shuffled, and each player draws 36 tiles and uses them to build a wall that is 18 tiles long and 2 tiles high. These walls are then connected to make one square-shaped wall, also called the Great Wall of China. Then, the East Wind player rolls the dice to determine who is the person to break the wall. This person, in turn, throws the dice again to determine where the break in the wall will occur and removes two tiles from this location, placing them on the wall nearby. The wall is then partially dismantled, starting at the just-created hole, and each player receives 13 tiles except for the East Wind player, who receives 14 tiles. If a player has any of the seasons or plants tiles, they immediately place these tiles in front of them and take the same number of tiles from the wall.

The players continuously exchange their tiles by putting them on the table and drawing from the stash left by other players or the wall. The precise rules for how exactly this goes on are complicated, and you can read more about them on Wikihow or the Masters of Games website.

The game’s objective is to collect a combination of pairs, triplets, or quadruplets of identical tiles or consecutive tiles of the same suit. Whoever does that first, says “Mahjong!” and the round is over. Then the points are calculated, and various combinations of tiles are scored. For example, three or four identical tiles or a sequence of three tiles of the same suit all receive a certain number of points. The player who said “Mahjong” receives from each player the number of points he scored for his combinations. Each other player pays the remaining players the difference in their score, except for the East Wind player, who always pays and receives double amounts.

Video Tutorial

Here you can watch a quick guide on how to play traditional Mahjong:

Here you can watch a bit longer tutorial video:

And here you can watch how professional players play:

Can I play Mahjong online?

Yes. Some organizations offer online games. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find them because when you type “Mahjong” into Google, you get results almost exclusively about Mahjong Solitaire. It may be better to search for “Mah jongg” instead. Anyway, here are a few links that should help you begin your online adventure with traditional Mahjong:

Can I play Mahjong in person?

Yes. You just need to find an appropriate online community. For example look at forums where you can find people willing to meet and play. Here are a few links that may be helpful:

Good luck!