This ancient Chinese game is similar to the Western game, rummy, and is won with skill, strategy, and luck.

In This Game Overview

  • Mahjong Basics 
  • The Rules of the Game 
  • Mahjong Tips 
  • Online Mahjong 

Mahjong, a game that originated in ancient China, has gained popularity in the West and joined the burgeoning online gaming world (there is even a mahjong application for iPhones). Whether you prefer the live game or the online version, here is the information you need to enjoy and win the game!

Mahjong Basics

While some see mahjong as a game of pure chance, it actually takes a balance of skill and luck, keen observation and memory, in order to win. Players play with tiles bearing specific Chinese symbols, drawing and discarding tiles until one puts together a complete hand to form four groups (melds) and a pair (eyes) - and wins. The players each roll a dice at the beginning to determine the dealer.

The Rules of the Game

While there are other Asian and Western variants of this game, the basic rules are the same.

Mahjong set - 144 ivory tiles in three categories: Suit (36 tiles in the Bamboo, Circle, and Character suits), Honor (16 Wind and 12 Dragon tiles), and Flowers (4 Flowers and 4 Season tiles).

Number of players - four players playing four rounds on a 36-square-inch table

Game play - Each player takes a turn picking up a tile from the "wall" (the stack of tiles formed by the players at the start of the game) and then discards an unneeded tile. Each player must maintain thirteen tiles at any given time (not including the Flowers and Seasons which are the bonus points for the winning hand).

Melds - pong (set of three identical tiles in the same suit), kong (set of four identical tiles in the same suit), chow (three successive-numbered tiles in the same suit), pair or eyes (two identical tiles).

How to win - The legal hand consists of fourteen tiles (the thirteen tiles on hand plus the fourteenth tile picked up from the "wall" or stolen when a player discards a tile) and is made of four sets of any meld plus the eyes.

Mahjong Tips

To increase your chances of winning, experts recommend the following tips and strategies:

  1. Practice deciphering which tiles you will need to win to determine how risky your play can be.
  2. Know the ins and outs of the game so you can make the best decisions.
  3. When discarding tiles, don't reveal the hand you're playing.
  4. Be fast (think on your feet) and flexible (be prepared for any situation).
  5. When you don't have the winning hand, win by not losing (play for a draw).
  6. Avoid discarding the winning tile: watch the tiles your opponents discard.

Online Mahjong

While having a regular group of friends to play mahjong with is great, playing the online version is a great option. Mahjong Solitaire - which uses traditional mahjong tiles but only requires one player - is the version of mahjong usually found online. But you can also play free live online mah-jong - exactly like the traditional game - against other players worldwide and win real cash! Moreover, many online casinos offer mahjong tournaments, where players can play all day long for money and prizes.

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