Updated date:

A beginngers guide to learning how to play mahjong. Please include some pictures and detailed instructions.


Mahjong - The tiles involved

Mahjong- A widely popular game which roots orginate from China. It is a fun and entertaing game which involves mathamatical calculations and a bit of luck in order to win a round.

A set has 144 tiles:

-3 different suits(108 tiles) -(Bamboo sticks,Chinese Characters, and Circles) which is something similar to the Spades, Clubs and Diamonds in a normal pack of cards. Each suit has 9 cards which are numbered from 1-9.

- 4 winds( 16 tiles) depicting North, South, East and West

- 3 bonus dragon tiles( 12 tiles) Red dragon, Green Dragon and White dragon

- 8 flower bonus tiles(24 tiles)

- A wind indicator device( to determind the wind in play) and 3 dices.

Once you have all the tiles ready you will be able to start the game.

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/mariachily/3379894217/

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/mariachily/3379894217/

Rules of the game

Now that you know what are the tiles involved in the game here are some easy rules to follow.

  1. Get three friends of yours to sit down together for the game. It is possible to play the game with only 3 players. You will just need to remove one of the suits in the set.
  2. Decide the maximum( normally 8) and minimum (normally 2) number of points ('fan') a person can win each round and the amount of money allocated to the win.

    Eg: 1 fan =$0.50,2 fan = $1.00,3 fan =$2.00,4 fan= $4.00,5 fan= $8.00 etc
  3. Throw the dice. The player which has the highest number will be the dealer. His position will be (East) while the other players will be the other winds and choose their seating position.
  4. Stack up your tiles with the dealer having 17 pairs while the others each having 16 pairs.
  5. The dealer throws the dice again. Let's say if the number 8 is rolled- count clockwise from the dealer being (1). The person who is number 8 will have to break his "wall" by shifting the (16-8= 8) pairs forward.
  6. The dealer take 2 pairs while the other players take turn taking their 2 pairs. This occurs 3 times till everyone has 12 tiles.
  7. Next the dealer takes 2 more tiles so his total is 14 while the other players take 1 making their total 13.
  8. Arrange your tiles in a row according to suits so nobody sees them only exposing the bonus - flower cards if you have them.
  9. After everyones bonus tiles have been displayed the player who has bonus tiles will draw from the " replacement wall" -the cards that were put aside before his wall was broken and add the tiles to his set.
  10. The dealer throws out his additional card ( tile No 14) and starts the game. The next player can either " eat" the dealers tile to build up his set or " fish" a new tile from the remainding walls (starting from the wall left of the dealer)

Mahjong Guides

How to Win

  1. A winning hand must consist of a pair of idential tiles-"eyes", and any combination of " Pong", "Chow" or " Kong"

    Pong - gathering 3 idential tiles

    Kong- gathering 4 idential tiles

    Chow- a 3 card sequence Ie: 3,4,5

    * "Eye" tiles are only worth points if they are made up of dragons, the prevailing wind or your own wind

    * Note you get more points 'fan' if you build tiles of the same suite.

    * If you get a "Kong" you will have to take a tile from the replacement wall.

  2. The player who discards the winning tile will have to pay the winner his earning. If the winner draws the winning card on his own all 3 players will have to pay him.
  3. Calculations of Fan

    Bonus cards- 1 fan

    Prevailing win - 1 fan

    Tiles of the same suit - 3 fan

    tiles of mixed suits - 2 fan

Some combination of winning tiles


Calculating Winnings

In a standard mahjong game you would have to play at least 64 games to end a set).

You start with the Player (A) seated at East. If Player (A) wins the set the prevailing wind will remain at his seat or else it will be passed to Player (b) seated on his right. After the East Wind has made it's round around the table then it will be the South wind's turn to make it's round followed by North and West.

One set is considered " complete" after all the 4 different winds have made their rounds.

In each game only 1 person can win at a time. The winner is the 1st person to get any of the Winning tiles combinations mentioned above.

Things to do before starting the game

Before starting to play each person is given a fixed number of counters. (Similar to those used at the Casino with different money denominations). Decide on the payout for the different double combinations.

1 fan = $1

2 fan = $2

3 fan = $5

4 fan = $8

5 fan = $12

Example:: each person is given $300 in chips. 1- $100, 2-$50, 5-$10, 10-$1

If Player(A) wins the game and his tiles add up to 2 fan. Player B, Player C and Player D will each pay him $2 if he wins by "eating" another player's card. The person who throws the card for you to eat must pay your double - $4 (If you are playing Singaporean Style)

For HongKong and China Style ONLY the person who throws out the winning card will have to pay you.

If Player (A) wins by pulling the card himself everyone on the table pays double - $4 each.

At the end of the set or when the speculated time has been reach everyone will calculate the amount of chips remaining and pay the winnings to the winner.

  • Mahjong Help Faq Tournaments
    Mahjong Time Help Faq Tournaments assist you to understand the basic information about online mahjong game, here you can put your general questions as well in order to know more about mahjong.
  • History of Mahjong
    A detailed history of how the game came into existance


DominiqueGoh (author) from Singapore on July 14, 2012:


normally joker tiles are not replaced but used to" fill in the blanks" for missing cards. They are not usually discarded as you can use a joker as a wild card to win a hand.

ginger on June 08, 2012:

Hi: I just finished paying with 3 of my friends. On the last tile the person on my left discarded a flower-- the person on my right had put up on her tray 3 fowers and a joker. Can the person on mjy right pick up the flower and replace te joker to her hand and mah jong???

DominiqueGoh (author) from Singapore on March 08, 2012:

you can check out this links

http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/23135/mahjong-tra... or at the itunes store


D on March 08, 2012:

Looking for a programme for mahjong I can play on my apple mac

DominiqueGoh (author) from Singapore on March 07, 2012:

I don't understand your question but if you are asking about pricing for a set of mahjong it will depend on which country you are living in and if you are getting a travel set or a full sized set. Prices can range from $20-$100 depending on quality of material used.

D on March 07, 2012:


Ely on February 14, 2011:

Thank you for your help in learning the game(rules) and being able to apply it with my friends. :)

DominiqueGoh (author) from Singapore on February 12, 2011:

Hi Ely,

In regards to your 1st question if will be considered as 3 concealed triplets.. and yes if you pull in the winning card your numbers of doubles ( fan) will be 1 more then if you win based on a card others discard.

Ely on February 08, 2011:

Question about concealed triplets

1. Four concealed triplets

- A player have 3 concealed triplets and 2 pairs in his hand waiting to


- Discarded.

- Mahjong.

This winning hand considered as a concealed hand, since Mahjong scoring

1.2(Concealed Hand (???) : 5 The hand is concealed, without melding

any exposed sets before winning. Winning on

discard is okay. Concealed kongs are okay.) But is this hand a 4

concealed triplets or 3 concealed? Since it is win by discard which last

triplet is not concealed. For sure if win by selfdraw it is 4 concealed


2. if question Answer 1 is 3 concealed hand then ignore this question.

- A player have a chow and a pung and also concealed triplet and 2 pairs

in his hand waiting to Mahhong.

- Discarded

- Mahjong.

Is this hand considered as 2 concealed triplets?



Abe on January 24, 2011:

Hello. I have recently been learning and getting into this game again after many many years. I have a couple of points of interest.

I think the main difference between computer Mahjong games and the real deal is 90% at least of computer based Mahjong games are solitaire versions so its simply matching tile pairs to clear the board.This has very little to do with the real game other than it uses the same tiles, most times...

I had to look for some time to find a game that actually aloud you to play real Mahjong verse the computer or other players.

The best (so far only) one I have found is at this site www.dragonkong.com This site also has all rules in a very well laid out way to most versions. You can play against friends, online or practice against the computer.

I hope this helps others as it did me. :)

Cheers, Abe.

scott wuillemin on January 14, 2011:

thank you for such clear instructions and answers.

I feel confident to now try to play/learn this game

Scott Wuillemin

Ely on January 12, 2011:

Thank you for the quick response.

DominiqueGoh (author) from Singapore on January 11, 2011:

Hi Ely,

Let me try to answer your questions.

Question 1: Is the Kong box the total number of stacks in the break count. ( 5+5=10 , 10 stacks / 20 tiles ) ?

No. I'm assuming that the Kong box you are referring to is those "extra" tiles you take when you have a flower/animal or four of a kind tiles. You can play until there are 7.5 (2 tiles stack up) left on the table. There is no fixed number of tiles in the "Kong" box as the numbers drawn out varies each game.

Question 2: Does the Kong box number of tiles include dead wall tiles? Yes.. see above.

Question 3: What is the max number of KONGS one hand could have? ( My count is 13. )

Don't really understand this question.. if u are talking about the number of doubles it depends on how u set the rules before u start the game.

Question 4: How and from were in the wall do you distribute tiles from Kong Box to players as supplementary tiles.??

After distributing all the tiles if you have any of the special cards- Flowers, animals.. then u will open up and display your flowers.You replace 1 for 1 the tiles from the kong box to the empty spaces in your hand so that you have a total of 12 or 16 tiles before starting the game.

Ely on January 11, 2011:


I am looking for the official definition of the relationship between the Dead Wall and the Kong Box.

As I understand it, it works like this:

1. East throws dice. The player indicated is the wall breaker. ( lets say east throw 2+3 = 5 )

2. Wall breaker throws dice. ( 2+3 = 5 again.) Sum of the two is the break count. ( 5+5 = 10 )

3. From the wall break clockwise count out player tiles.

4. From the wall break counterclockwise count 14 tiles ( 7 stacks ) as the Dead Wall.

Question 1: Is the Kong box the total number of stacks in the break count. ( 5+5=10 , 10 stacks / 20 tiles ) ?

Question 2: Does the Kong box number of tiles include dead wall tiles?

Question 3: What is the max number of KONGS one hand could have? ( My count is 13. )

Question 4: How and from were in the wall do you distribute tiles from Kong Box to players as supplementary tiles.??

Ex.: from the "end" of the dead wall ( the last tile before the wall break at the start of the game - 9th stack in break count) or from the "start" of the Kong Box ( the wall break count = total number of tile stacks in Kong box ( 5+5=10) counter clockwise ( left to right ) from the wall break point? and do you distribute supplementary tiles counterclockwise from live wall or clockwise backwards towards the dead wall if the brwak count number was greater than the 14 (7 stack) dead wall tiles?

Thank you for your time and effort

JasAndMum on January 02, 2011:

We have had a set for years and am finally giving it a go. Looks daunting but its the New Year public holiday in Australia so we have all day....your instructions are a little different from the ones in the box. The box came from Malaysia (I had a little trouble trying to figure them out) but I'll try working with both versions. Wish us luck!

lovetherain from Untited States on December 06, 2010:

I tried, but never could get into that game. It was fun trying though:)

DominiqueGoh (author) from Singapore on December 01, 2010:


the best way is to try out the game so it will be easier to understand how it works.

Chris(HowUPlay) on November 30, 2010:

I still have no idea how to play, I guess I'll just keep reading until it clicks in, xD

DragonChef from Scandinavia on July 31, 2010:

wow, this really brings the nostalgia back. I really love how you explain things in detail. I used to play the computerized version in my childhood on my fathers computer at work, but now that we got the real deal laying around here it's time to try something out.

DominiqueGoh (author) from Singapore on July 09, 2010:

You can play with 3 players only. Just have to remove 1 set Ie: take out the bamboo or Chinese characters set etc. The rules are still the same.

funmoojo on July 08, 2010:

i have never heard of 3 players mahjong!?

Does it only means you can play the mahjong at 4 players's rules with 3 players? LOL

Wamo on February 26, 2010:

My daugther got me a 3 players mhajong set from Malaysia but there is no instructions on how to play it. Would you

have an instruction on how to play it. If so can you please share it.

Thank you.

DominiqueGoh (author) from Singapore on November 26, 2009:


I'm not sure about computerized versions as I do not play them. What I know it is basically based on the taiwanese version of Mahjong therefore is slightly different from the traditional ways. There are slight variations depending on which style of mahjong is being played.

Candace Bacon from Far, far away on November 20, 2009:

Do you have any idea why the computerized versions are played completely differently than the real tile games are played? When did that develop?

My Facebook from London, United Kingdom on September 10, 2009:

Good tips. Thanx

Sexy jonty from India on August 23, 2009:

Very well written hub .....

very much informative ......

Thank you very much for your great hub, for good advice, good wishes and support. Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us.

ALLY on June 18, 2009:


Spiderift from London on June 16, 2009:

Nice intro! I love mahjong, though I play riichi mahjong (the Japanese variation), but it's similar to the classical Chinese one from what I hear. It'd be cool if you could write up an article on common winning strategies, tile discards etc.

DominiqueGoh (author) from Singapore on November 30, 2008:


You are welcome


I am not apt in typing in Chinese..but you can try the google translation widget which would automatically translate from English to any language chosen.

Kellys Carpet on November 30, 2008:

Thanks for answereing my request and writing this good hub explaining how to play mahjong!

Dicky on November 27, 2008:

Can u plz put chinese version if can? ty very much

UNKNOWN on September 27, 2008:

hi! GOOD explaining!

DominiqueGoh (author) from Singapore on April 17, 2008:

No problem.. if you have any more questions regarding mahjong feel free to contact me.

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on April 16, 2008:

Thanks for answereing my request and writing this good hub explaining how to play mahjong!

Related Articles