Mahjong is an ancient Chinese game of chance involving a large degree of skill and strategy. Mahjong has gained great popularity worldwide. Today, numerous gaming companies offer online Mahjong. Mahjong in also played in land-based casino throughout Europe, such as the Viage casino in Brussels and the Rendezvous Casino in London, to name a couple.
There are several versions of Mahjong, the casino version being the simplest one. Mahjong is played by four players seated around a table. The game is played with a set of at least 136 tiles (144 tiles in most versions), bearing different Chinese symbols, and two dice. The tiles are divided into three categories: Suits or Simple tiles, Honor tiles and Bonus tiles.
Suits or Simple Tiles
This is the biggest category. There are three suits in a Mahjong set: Bamboos, Characters and Circles or Dots. Each suit consists of nine tiles, numbered from one to nine:
There are 4 identical pieces of each tiles in this category in a Mahjong set.
There are two types of Honor tiles in a Mahjong set: Winds and Dragons. There are four Wind tiles labeled East, South, West and North:
Also, there are three Dragon tiles labeled Red Dragon, Green Dragon and White Dragon:
Finally, there are eight Bonus tiles; four Flowers and four Seasons, numbered from one to four:
Much like the western Rummy game, the goal of Mahjong is to assemble a wining hand of 14 tiles. A winning hand is comprised of valid sets of two, three or four tiles and must also score a minimum number of points determined by the house.
At the beginning of the game, all tiles are spread on the table face down and shuffled carefully. The players then collect the tiles into piles of two tiles each and stack the piles next to each other to from a “wall” of tiles.
The dice are then used to determine the dealer. Next, the dealer deals 13 tiles to each player. Each player then turns his tiles face up (in some casinos, racks are used on which the players can place the tiles in a manner that they are not visible to the other players), and starts pairing them or putting them into sets of three and four tiles.
The game progresses as each player in turn picks up an additional tile from the wall. If the tile picked up from the wall can be used to complete a winning hand, the player keeps the tile and declares “Mahjong”. This is called, “winning from the wall”. Otherwise, the player must discard one tile in the middle of the table, face up. Players must maintain only 13 tiles on their boards at all times during the game.
When a player discards a tile, any player that can use the discarded tile in order to complete a valid set may claim the tile. If more than one player claim a discarded tile, priority will be given to the player who can use the tile in order to win the game. This is called, “wining by discard”. Otherwise, the tile goes to the player who’s set will score the highest if given the tile. The disadvantage in claiming a discarded tile is that the player must reveal the set he or she intends to complete. Indeed, much of the excitement in playing Mahjong is found in the constant need to decide which action to take, whether to claim a tile or pass, which in turn determines which sets can be completed.
The first player to complete a valid hand of 14 tiles and declare “Mahjong”, wins the game.
The rules of combining the tiles into sets of two, three or four, vary depending on the version played and are complicated and impossible to memorize. Determining the score of each set is equally intricate. Some basic combinations are as follows. You can compile pairs, or sets of three or four identical tiles of the same suit:
Another basic option is combining three sequential tiles of the same suit:
The number of points scored in a winning hand assures a player of a certain base payout. The base payout can then be doubled if certain conditions exist. For example, if the winner wins “from the wall,” the base payout is doubled. Also, if the winner wins “by discard,” the discarder pays double the base payout to the winner.