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Mahjong is a traditional Chinese game that is played using a set of tiles that are similar in appearance to dominoes. There are 144 tiles used in total, with the aim of the game to achieve a winning 'legal hand', comprised of 14 tiles in total.
Mahjong is wildly popular in Asia in particular. There are contrasting accounts as to when it originated, with some suggesting it has its roots in ancient games played during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). At some point in the 19th century it appears the game known today was developed.
Mahjong can be played for money and is offered by casinos in its gambling format. Players get to bet on Mahjong rounds, with a full game lasting a total of 16 rounds. You can also play online, with free and real money games in wide supply.
What equipment do you need for Mahjong?
To get a game of Mahjong going you'll need the following equipment:
A set of 144 Mahjong tiles
Dice to determine the dealer of the game
Tile holders for players (optional)
Scorekeeping device (optional)
What types of Mahjong tiles are there?
Mahjong tiles come in three main categories, as follows:
'Simple tiles' is the name given to the four main suits. These are bamboos, characters and circles, and they come numbered from one to nine.
'Honor tiles' come in the form of winds and dragons. There are four wind tiles (east, south, west and north) and three dragon tiles (red, green and white)
'Bonus tiles' come in eight varieties, split into four flowers tiles (plum, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo) and four seasons tiles (spring, summer, autumn and winter)
What is the aim of the game?
The aim of Mahjong is to achieve a winning hand of 14 tiles, consisting of 13 tiles in your hand and one drawn to the table. A winning hand must consist of four 'melds' - being three matching tiles - and one 'head' - being a matching pair.
How does a game of Mahjong play out?
A new game typically starts with dice being rolled to determine the dealer. The player with the highest dice roll gets to deal. From there, here is a basic overview of how a game of Mahjong is played out.
Tiles are placed face down on the table and shuffled by all the players in the game.
Players then make two tile towers, side by side, and build a 'wall'.
A dice throw determines which corner of the wall players take their initial 12 tiles from. A final tile chosen makes up the players' hands of 13 tiles.
Players then take turns upturning a tile in the middle of table. Should that tile complete a winning hand, the round is theirs. Should it not, the tile is put back in the middle of the table.
Other players can call 'Mahjong' if the tile thrown away completes their winning hand.
How does scoring work in Mahjong?
Each Mahjong game lasts four rounds, with four hands in each to bring up a total of 16 hands. Only the winning player of each hand scores points, with the calculation ('fan value') based on number of rules but factoring in such details as the number of bonus tiles, and the precise makeup of the winning hand.
When playing Mahjong for money, the 'fan value' achieved by the winning player is converted to an amount the other players pay them.
How do I get started playing Mahjong?
There's a lot to learn if you want to master Mahjong and a great way to get started is by playing online. You'll find detailed how-to guides at the best online Mahjong sites, and some excellent free games to help you get acquainted with the rules. A good first step is to consult a credible online Mahjong portal for advice on the best sites to play at.