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Official Mahjong Rules

Mahjong is a tile-based game traditionally played by four players. It combines elements of strategy, luck, and skill, making it a popular pastime in many parts of the world. Here's a breakdown of the rules to get you started:


The goal of Mahjong is to be the first player to form a winning hand, which consists of four melds (sets of three identical tiles or runs of three consecutive numbers in the same suit) and a pair (two identical tiles).


  • A set of 144 mahjong tiles:

    • Numbered Tiles:  Three suits (Dots, Bamboo Sticks, Characters) each have tiles numbered 1 to 9 (four of each number).

    • Wind Tiles: Four each of East, South, West, and North winds.

    • Dragon Tiles: Three each of Red Dragon, Green Dragon, and White Dragon.

    • Flower/Season Tiles: Four of each Flower (Plum, Orchid, Chrysanthemum, and Bamboo) and four of each Season (Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter). (Note: Some variations exclude Flower/Season tiles.)

  • Dice (optional, used for some setup steps)


  1. Seating:  Players are typically positioned according to Wind Tiles (East, South, West, North). East usually deals and plays first.

  2. Building the Wall: The players use all the tiles to build a wall structure in the center of the table. The specific wall layout can vary depending on the regional variation of Mahjong.

  3. Drawing Starting Tiles: Each player uses dice rolls (or another method depending on the variation) to determine how many tiles to draw from the wall to start their hand (usually 13 or 14 tiles).


A Mahjong game round consists of turns where players take the following actions:

  1. Discard a Tile: On your turn, you must discard one tile face-up from your hand onto the discard pile in the center of the table. This discarded tile can potentially be picked up by other players later in the round.

  2. Draw a Tile: You can then draw a new tile either from the wall (concealed) or from the discard pile (if the discarded tile can be used in your hand).

Forming Melds:

  • Players try to collect tiles to form melds. A meld can be either:

    • Pung: Three identical tiles (e.g., three 5 Dots).

    • Chow: Three consecutive numbers in the same suit (e.g., 2, 3, 4 Bamboo Sticks).

  • You can't use the same tile in two different melds at the same time.

Winning the Hand:

  • The core concept is to use the drawn and discarded tiles to build your hand towards a winning combination: four melds and a pair.

  • Once you have a winning hand, you can declare "Mahjong!" There are specific requirements depending on the Mahjong variation you're playing, such as restrictions on using certain tiles or requiring specific meld combinations.

  • If your declared Mahjong hand is valid, you win the round and score points based on your hand and any special tiles used.

Additional Notes:

  • Special Tiles:  Some variations use special scoring rules for Wind Tiles, Dragon Tiles, and Flower/Season Tiles.

  • Concealed vs. Exposed Melds:  Melds can be formed openly on the table (exposed) or kept hidden in your hand (concealed) until you declare Mahjong. Concealed melds typically score higher points.

  • Calling Kong: If you have four of a kind (e.g., four Red Dragons), you can declare "Kong" and score bonus points.

  • Regional Variations:  There are many regional variations of Mahjong with different scoring rules, special hands, and even variations in the number of tiles used.

Learning Resources:

  • Watching others play Mahjong can be a great way to visualize the gameplay.

  • Many online resources and tutorial videos can provide more detailed explanations and variations of Mahjong rules.

Mahjong can be a complex game to master, but with practice and understanding of the basic mechanics, you can start enjoying this strategic and exciting tile-based game

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