Mahjong

Kitty Mahjong

A Complete Guide to how to play Japanese Mahjong, sometimes called Riichi/Reach Mahjong – planned to be comprehensive enough for people who have never played to figure it out, as well as organized and broken down so people who already know some will be able to learn more ^^

Other Guides
Wikidot Mahjong – A wiki-style mahjong guide for all the different kinds of mahjong – the one you want to pay attention to is “modern japanese.” This also helps if you want pictures of hands and so-forth.

The Basics

The Mahjong Set

  • 136 playing tiles
    • 4 of 3 suits (1-9) [一二三四五六七八九] (1s – dots,100s – bamboo,10000s – characters)
    • 4 of 3 honors (green 発 “hatsu”, red 中 “chun”, white ロ “haku”) [in this order]
    • 4 of 4 winds (east 東,south 南,west 西,north 北) [in this order]
  • 8 flower/season tiles (not used)
  • 4 yakitori tiles (optional)
  • 3-27 extra red-dora tiles (optional)
  • 4 joker tiles (not used)
  • 2-3 dice (only 2 are used)
  • wind indicators
  • score indicators/point sticks

-note: it’s not like mahjong sets are internationally standardized or anything, so you can have a whole assortment of weird odds and ends in your set, but of course – if you’re just going to play on the computer you won’t have to worry about all that ^^. I use the joker tiles in place of yakitori tiles, and just tabulate the score because I don’t have any point sticks. Strangely enough, I do have wind indicators though… The flower/season tiles are nice to have, just in case you are itching to play Taiwanese or the various other Chinese mahjong games, which make use of them. Since kans have flower power, they’re referred in relation to flowers sometimes… but Japanese mahjong does not use flowers. There are various ways to refer to all the types and suits of tiles, but I’m going to stick to the terminology above, because it’s the most simple, plus it’s hard enough for Japanese people, because they use pseudo-Chinese terminology still for most of it. I will give all the names of the yaku in Japanese though, as it’s important. You will find that the winds are out of order (because everything in sequence goes counter-clockwise) pay no mind to this and just play.

Setting Up

Seat Placement

Usually when you’re just playing with friends, you just sit down, and that’s that – with a computer game, sometimes it’s a random shuffle or you just pick who sits where, but sometimes, in tournements and whatnot or if you’re being picky about the odds of a hanchan game or weary of having a pro player sit right after you, this is what you do. You pick out 4 wind tiles, one of each, and one even and one odd tile. You shuffle these tiles put them face down and then some dealer (you can roll for it) rolls a die. Then you flip over the tiles and move the odd and even tiles to the left and right ends. Starting from the nearest wind tile from number tile that matches the die (even/odd) the makeshift dealer picks up that wind tile, and then it goes in turn counter-clockwise. Then, you rearrange your seats around the new “east”. That’s that. (I hardly ever do this myself, but it’s a kind of fun thing to know, right?)

Next is dealer selection. If you thought just because you got to be east just because you got it using the seat scramble you are sorely mistaken. The current east at this point (where east is equivalent to dealer) will role a die, and then starting with him/herself, counts counter-clockwise landing on the new and final east, but no one moves seats at this point. You put the table east wind indicator by the east player, and you put the round east indicator (if you have one), by east, shuffle the tiles, set them up, and east round 1 begins.

Setting Up the Tiles

After shuffling, which you perform by putting the tiles all face down and meshing them together (this is fun), each player will start building stacks of tiles 17 tiles long and 2 tiles high (if one player’s is not exactly 17, don’t worry about it). East rolls 2 dice, and counts the number that appears (starting with himself then counter-clockwise), and then counts from the right edge of that players wall (from that player’s perspective), and then makes a break. Starting clockwise from the break, distribute tiles to each player in groups of 4 going around three times (in counter-clockwise order east dealing first to him/herself), and then 1 single tile to each player in the same way, and then a final tile to east. Every player should have 13 tiles except east, who should have 14. Now make another small break 7 tiles down from the opposite end (not the one you were drawing from) and slightly remove this from the wall. This is known as the dead-wall. If you’re playing with dora (common) flip the second tile from the left to expose the dora indicator. Now, the round may begin. If you’re watching a computer do all this lightning fast – be thankful.

Game Play

The object of play in each round is to attempt to form a yaku hand and maximize your points in respect to the probability of you actually compiling it properly. Each round has a “prevailing wind” and a round number. Round 1 means the original dealer is dealer, round 2 means the next person counter-clockwise from her is dealer, and so forth up to 4, and then the prevailing wind changes. East Wind Round 4 moves to South Wind Round 1. Now, like I said before the winds are a little messed up. East is dealer, counter clockwise from him/her is south, then west and then north – , you’ll notice this doesn’t agree with your compass… deal with it. The dealer is ALWAYS east. and your “player wind” changes in respect to wherever the dealer is. These winds are important to scoring, so try to keep in mind your wind and the prevailing wind when you can.

Play starts with the dealer, he/she has 14 tiles where as everyone else has 13 so he/she discards one and the next player (counter-clock) will either do something about the discarded tile or pick another one from the wall. Play ends when the wall is exhausted or a player claims a yaku hand. Upon a discard, one can call one of various things which have a sort of order of importance, namely if two or more people attempt to call on one tile, the more important one prevails. Here they are, from least to greatest: ”chii” (sequence), “pon” (set of 3), “kan” (set of 4), “ron” (I win with this tile) – for chii,pon, and kan you have to display the tiles from your hand that form what you called, and then you place them on the table (with the tile you picked up sideways usually), and with a ron, obviously you have to show all your tiles to prove that you’ve won. If something was called by mistake, especially with a ron, there is usually some sort of penalty, but let’s just hope that doesn’t happen.

Before you discard you have the option of calling “tsumo” (I win) or “riichi” (some call it “reach” – details later).

By discarding, drawing, and calling you can reconstitute your hand into a winning hand – and that is the object of the round. As said before, when you’re done with a round, you start the next round (shuffle etc) until the agreed number of rounds is reached (usually 4 or 8 – 1 or 2 wind rounds). However, if the dealer wins, the stakes are raised (dealer “ante”), and the round stays in position for another “bonus” round (not uncommon) there are some restrictions, for example if the bonus round number gets to be as high as 6. If you reach the end of a round and no one has a winning hand, there is a check for tenpai, and if a round is continued, and ante stick is added. Sometimes you can get a higher score from this than if you actually had a hand. (If that hand isn’t very good).

Mahjong Hands (Basic)

With a very few exceptions all yaku hands are standard “mahjong hands” which consist of 4 melds and a pair. A meld being a sequence of 3 (chii), a set of 3 (pon), or a set of 4 (kan). For all melds, they MUST be of the SAME SUIT – and the same goes for the pair. Sequences can NOT wrap (891 etc).

4 melds and a pair=14 tiles, which is why only one person has 14 tiles at a time and the rest 13 (think about it, it makes sense). But what happens with kan? Wouldn’t you need 15 or more tiles? – When you have a kan, you may declare it, and get an extra tile from the dead wall, and thus your problem is solved. You do not HAVE to declare a kan. For instance, if you have 123333, yes you have a set of 4 3s, however you can also think of it as two melds, 123 and 333.

However in Japanese Mahjong even if you have a mahjong hand, that may not necessarily be enough to win a round. You must satisfy the criteria of at least ONE yaku. However, even if you don’t have a single yaku, you are still qualified for “tenpai” (details later)

Note: You can NOT have a sequence of dragons or winds. This makes them harder to form melds out of, and that is why they are worth a lot more points.

Note: There are some yaku hands (7-pairs, Kokushi Musou, and Nagashi Mangan) which do not form standard mahjong hands, that’s ok, you can still tenpai on them. Nagashi Mangan in fact, which is very weird and not really a hand – requires you to get to the tenpai stage.

If you are just learning how to play and you aren’t playing on a computer it would be good now to try to play a game or two with your friends, sans-scoring. Just try to get a basic mahjong hand however you can, and the first one to get it wins. This way you can get an idea of how the game works. If you’re playing on a computer game, you can’t do this, so I’d recommend flipping down to the Yaku/Han in the Advanced Section and learning how to form some of the easier yaku, like tanyao. It would also be a good idea to skim through “Intermediate Aspects” and look at Riichi. The computer will automate pretty much everything else for you, so you can start to get a grasp of it on your own. If you don’t have a mahjong set or a computer mahjong game already (except for those lousy solitaire “mahjongg” games) flip down to the end, for a section on computer mahjong games.

Intermediate Aspects

Ante /Honba (本場)

If the round is continued for whatever reason, the dealer winning or the dealer being tenpai (later), East will place a 100 stick beside his/her tiles as a marker. They are not actually losing these points, it is just a marker. The number of Ante sticks in play is equivalent to the “honba” or bonus round number. For each ante stick in play, the BASE SCORE increases by 100 points. Meaning that the winner will always get 300/600 more points per ante. (100/200 per player for tsumo or 300/600 from ron). After this happens and the round moves on to the next (for whatever reason) the ante sticks are returned to the dealer (the one who put them out in the first place). In one variation it is common to keep the ante in play until a hand is won, even if play has gone on to the next round, and moving the round to the next even if the dealer is tenpai. – So in other words these rules aren’t set in stone – however the first is the most common.

Tenpai (天牌)

This means you are one tile away from a standard mahjong hand, and/or one tile away from a yaku hand. If you don’t have this you are “no-ten” (short for “no tenpai” [it’s a japanese term actually]). Tenpai is required for riichi, and plays into how points are distributed if you reach the end of the wall and no one has won (agari=ron/tsumo). At the end of the round, you may claim tenpai, and show your tiles to prove it. (No-ten or those that just don’t want to claim it for some reason do not show their tiles). If everyone has tenpai, nothing happens (rare), if no-one has tenpai, nothing happens (not incredibly rare). If at least one person has tenpai and at least one person has no-ten 3000points (no-ten bappu=no-ten punishment points) are redistributed. The cost of 3000 is split between the no-ten players and the reward of 3000 is split between the tenpai players. For example, if one has tenpai and the rest are no-ten, all the no-ten players pay the tenpai one 1000 points. if it’s 2 and 2 – two each pay 1500, so there are 1500 for each tenpai.
-Now for the round continuation thing. Though depending on the specific rules, this is what usually happens. If the dealer is no-ten play continues to the next round, any riichi sticks still in play, and the ante sticks are returned to the dealer. In all other cases, the dealer adds an ante stick and the round continues. Pretty simple.

Riichi (リーチ/立直)

It sounds like “reach” so if that’s an easy way for you to remember it, that’s cool and all, but I will refer to it as riichi. If you have a hand that is in tenpai, and you have not called on any tiles yet, you may call riichi.

When you call riichi you place a 1000 point stick in front of you, effectively giving it up. This may double your score, or make scoring possible in fact, but it’s not always advisable because it cautions the other players and you’re paying for the chance. If you are not allowed to have negative points, and you have less than 1000 points, you may not call riichi (in most versions)

Also when you call riichi, you reduce your options. When you draw a tile you may only discard it or tsumo, and you can only call a tile for a ron. Therefore if you accidentally called it for some reason, you’re screwed, because you can’t change the make up of your hand in any way.

Riichi is a common way to get yaku hand out of a non-yaku hand in tenpai – though obviously unless you’re trying to scare someone, you don’t want to call riichi if you can determine that it’s actually impossible to draw or call on the tile you need.

The winner of the round will take any riichi sticks in play as a bonus.

If anyone riichi-s and the game ends in tenpai/no-ten the stick stays in play.

Yakitori (焼き鳥)

With this optional rule, when the game starts, each player is given a useless tile to put beside themselves, usually of a roasted bird or something. Basically it’s a “YOU SUCK” indicator. Whenever you win a hand you give up your yakitori tile. If the game ends and you still have it (you haven’t won a single hand) you lose anywhere from 10k to 15k points (a VERY hard hit) – And if you think that there’s no way you can not win a single hand, think again. I played around 32 hands with 4 people once, and the hand winning spread was ~ 15, 12 (me), 4, 0. (We were playing without scoring, but you get the picture) – and the person that got 0 had played a lot before, more than me actually, and the first time player got 4.

Abortative Draws

These happen VERY rarely, so you don’t really need to worry about it. All of them have really long names that I can’t bother remembering so I’m going to name them whatever I’d like. With all of these, the round continues without a dealer ante added.

  • You didn’t shuffle well enough!
    • This is OPTIONAL.
    • If you have 9 or more terminals/winds/honors you can ask for a reshuffle, but it would also be a good chance to go for Kokushi Musou.
    • 種么九牌倒牌 (kyuushu yaochuuhai touhai) <- actual name.
  • Unlucky Wind
    • If on the first round every player discards the same wind tile, you draw the game, and there’s all this bad-luck stuff associated with it. Usually if it looks like this is going to happen, a player avoids it by just discarding a different tile. Riichi sticks stay.
    • 四風子連打 (suufontsu renda) <- actual name.
  • Riichi Surplus
    • If 4 players declare riichi the game is minimalized to a game of pure chance. This is unacceptable. The round is drawn.
    • 四家立直 (suucha riichi) <- actual name.
  • Kan Surplus
    • If 4 kans are declared by different people the round is drawn. (You run out of dora tiles to flip – so it’s obvious) However, if all 4 kans are declared by the same person (going for kan-yaku) you flip the last available tile (left of the first dora). If a 5th kan is declared the round must end.
    • 四槓算了 (suukan sanra) <- actual name.

Dora (ドラ)

Dora are your friends. Each dora counts as one han (even though it DOESN’T give you a yaku hand), which means in short that it doubles your score. Now there are many dora schemes so we’ll start from the basic and move up.

  • No Dora
    • … there just aren’t any. T^T (because standard dora is usually in play, you should state this ahead of time)
  • Standard Dora
    • (this is what’s in place 99.9% of the time and usually goes without saying)
    • Remember that tile that we flipped over on the dead wall ages ago? That is the “dora indicator”. It means the NEXT tile in sequence is a dora. (1→2→…→9→1) (green→red→white→green) (luckily it’s in alphabetical order or I’d forget) (east→south→west→north). Whenever someone calls a kan, a new dora indicator is flipped to the right of the existing dora.
  • Ura Dora (this is in place ~90% of the time and is assumed unless otherwise stated)
    • at the end of a round, if riichi was called, the tile beneath each dora indicator is flipped, becoming an additional dora indicator, doubling the amount of dora. This adds to your score if it applies. – this is always paired up with standard dora.
  • Red-5 Dora (this is in place ~ 15-25% of the time and should be stated before the game)
    • One of each of the 5s is colored in all red meaning that it’s a dora. (not a dora indicator)
  • Red-Dragon-Dora (This is in place ~2.5-5% of the time and is reasonably rare, but nice)
    • The red dragon, you know, being RED and all becomes a dora.
  • Red-27 Dora (this is in place ~1-2.5% of the time, and is very rare, particularly because it is unreasonable)
    • There is a corresponding red dora tile for every single numbered tile. =massive scores

NOTE: Because there are different dora schemes, dora may be compounded. For instance. Say you are playing Red-Dragon-Dora with Standard/Ura-Dora. You have a closed kan-tsu with red-dragons. the dora indicator is green, and the ura-dora indicator is green. That means you have 3 dora per red-dragon tile, meaning that you have effectively 12 han from that one meld. – You’ll also have 1 han from yaku-hai, meaning you have at the least 13+, which is a (kazoe-)yakuman, congratulations.

Three Player Mahjong (3p)

For 3p Mahjong, some tiles are removed, and special rules for the North Wind are applied, but other than that game play is pretty much the same. Gameplay goes by “insanely” fast, and because of the extra doras, and relative ease to get hon/chiniitsu scoring is high as well. You may or may not get used to it – but if you only have 3 people, better 3p than nothing ^_-

Removed Tiles: 2-8 of characters

Special Rules: The North Wind Tile becomes a optional-flower dora. What this means is that if you get it in your hand you may choose to use it as a flower tile, or just keep it in your hand. Either way, it’s a dora. For those unfamiliar with Chinese mahjong, this means that you toss the tile out in front of you and take a replacement tile from the dead wall – as if you called Kan, but it does not reveal another indicator.

Aotenjou (Limitless Play) (青天井)

This is pretty simple, not all that common, and quite insane. When you get to scoring, you’ll encounter “limit hands” mangan, haneman, baiman, sanbaiman, and yakuman – they don’t exist in aotenjou. This means that scores are ridiculously insane. Because of this, you usually start with ~5 million points or so, and getting as many han as possible is a smart way to play. If you want a good example, let’s use our last example with the Red-Dragon-Dora. You would have received 32000/48000 points (base score 8000). With that one meld above you would have at least 60 han, and maybe more – let’s assume 70. Your aotenjou score would be: 9,175,200/13,762,800 (base score: 2,293,800) – That’s a lot.

Furiten (Throw-Away Tile) (フリテン)

If you are in tenpai and at least one of your waits is a tile that you’ve already discarded, you are prohibited from calling a ron. This is a common rule in tournement style rules, and in most online games – if you’re paying attention to your hand this really shouldn’t happen (often) anyway, and usually the game will pop up a little notice if you are furiten. Think of it as something to add to your stress. However, this works both ways. If someone else is riichi, you have a clear display of “safe” tiles that you can discard without being ron’d upon.

Scoring (Advanced Aspects)

Point Formulas

fu*2^(2+han)= base-score
[base*4]->round to 100 = non-dealer-ron-table-score
[base*6]->round to 100 = dealer-ron-table-score
[base]->round to 100 / [base*2]->round to 100 = non-dealer-tsumo-table-score
[base*2]->round to 100 = dealer-tsumo-table-score

Note: Notice the position of fu and han in the base-score formula. Every single han you get will double your score (effectively), and fu have greater weight when you have less fu, and lesser weight when you have more fu.

Scoring Table
Dealer (親) ←Han→ Non-Dealer (子)
4 3 2 1 ↓Fu↓ 1 2 3 4
7700
(2600)
3900
(1300)
2000
(700)
*N/A* 20 *N/A* 1300
(400/700)
2600
(700/1300)
5200
(1300/2600)
11600
(3900)
5800
(2000)
2900
(1000)
1500
(500)
30 1000
(300/500)
2000
(500/1000)
3900
(1000/2000)
7700
(2000/3900)
+ 7700
(2600)
3900
(1300)
2000
(700)
40 1300
(400/700)
2600
(700/1300)
5200
(1300/2600)
+
+ 9600
(3200)
4800
(1600)
2400
(800)
50 1600
(400/800)
3200
(800/1600)
6400
(1600/3200)
+
+ 11600
(3900)
5800
(2000)
2900
(1000)
60 2000
(500/1000)
3900
(1000/2000)
7700
(2000/3900)
+
+ + 6800
(2300)
3400
(1200)
70 2300
(600/1200)
4500
(1200/2300)
+ +
9600
(3200)
4800
(1600)
2400
(800)
*N/A* 25 *N/A* 1600
(400/800)
3200
(800/1600)
6400
(1600/3200)
12000
(4000)
Mangan [+ or 5 han] 8000
(2000/4000)
18000
(6000)
Haneman [6-7 han] 12000
(3000/6000)
24000
(8000)
Baiman [8-10 han] 16000
(4000/8000)
36000
(12000)
Sanbaiman [11-12 han] 24000
(6000/12000)
48000
(16000)
Yakuman [13+ han] 32000
(8000/16000)
96000
(32000)
Double Yakuman [Special] 64000
(16000/32000)


^Here is a slightly more complete scoring table you can print out, but all in Japanese. Though of course, it’s pretty self explanatory. It’s “from Akagi” if you know of the awesome-ness.

Point Distribution

Unless you feel like you’re in the mood for doing a lot of calculations, scoring is easy as long as you have a nice point table in front of you. (Pros memorize this, I’m getting to the point of where things very “familiar”, but not near memorizing.) – Really the “formulas” above make it look a bit more complicated than it really is, the only thing you need to think about is the base score, or just use the table :) In short, if you are the dealer you are going to get a 50% higher payout (further more you get a total of 600 extra points per ante if you keep it up), but also you will pay twice as much as the other players if you get hit with a tsumo – it’s a nice trade off.

When a round ends with a win, the fu is tabulated, and then the han (using whatever arrangement of the titles that maximizes fu/han), and then the base score is calculated. All non-dealer players will pay this amount (rounded up to the nearest 100), the dealer will pay the base score times 2 (rounded up to the nearest 100) to the winner. If the dealer wins, all of the other players have to pay the double amount instead (what the dealer would have had to pay). In the case of a ron, the player that discarded the winning tile will have to pay what the other players would have had to pay, but only rounds to 100 at the end (so in the end a ron will almost always net the winner a little bit less than a tsumo). That’s how you get all those formula’s up there.

Counting Fu(符)

There are several ways you can increase your fu count, so sometimes it’s a bit harder to keep track of, but since fu always rounds up, even an additional +2 fu can bump you up 10, so it’s good to try to keep a general idea of what you have in your mind.

1. base fu = 20 fu (you always start @ 20)
2. menzen ron = +10 fu (if you give up a menzen tsumo (worth 1 han) you can still get +10 fu as a sort of consolation prize, and that is basically what this is)
3. melds (see table below)
4. waiting = +2 fu (if you end on a one tile wait, meaning there’s only one tile you can pick up to win.)
5. tsumo = +2 fu (the exception is pinfu, if you have pinfu, you don’t get the +2 fu, but you get +1 han, so it’s worth it.)
6. chitoitsu/seven pairs = 25 fu (if you have a chitoitsu yaku, you get exactly 25 fu, and this is not rounded either way.)
7. pity fu = 30 fu (if you have no fu, but you don’t have pinfu, and you still have a yaku hand, you get exactly 30 fu. This happens only if you have an open hand, with all chii and a pair, sitting on a double wait and have at least 1 yaku.

Fu for Melds:

chii = 0 fu.
open pon = 2/4 (tile 2-8 / terminal or honor)
closed pon = 4/8 (…)
open kan = 8/16 (…)
closed kan = 16/32 (…)
pair = +2 for player wind, +2 for round wind, +2 for dragon

Yaku Hands (役) / Han(翻)

Ok, so yaku are often the most frustrating thing for the learner of Japanese Mahjong to tackle, given that there aren’t many informative guides out there, and the patterns seem way too complicated or just don’t make sense. If it helps you, you can think of yaku as poker hands, but just on a much larger scale. Yaku can compound on top of each other and you’re dealing with 14 tiles rather than 5 cards. Each yaku is worth a certain number of points (han). Some yaku must be “closed”, meaning that you can not have called chii, pon, or kan on a discard (meaning closed kan is fine), and some decrease in value when they aren’t closed (ie. “open”). These are always preceded by a 鳴き (naki-) if they are the open versions.

Now I’m going to cover all of the yaku hands included in Touhou Mahjong, because it’s pretty standard, and it has all the ones that I’ve ever heard of in it. Now, relatively speaking the amount of han awarded to a yaku is fairly proportionate to its difficulty in forming, even so a Nagashi Mangan (5 han) is a lot harder to accomplish than a good number of yakuman (13 han), so use experience to see which ones are easy for you to form, and I shall upload a picture here showing my own tabulation of successes in respect to yaku. Tanyao is a little bit weighted, given that it’s one of the easiest to do, and that was one of the few I was able to do when I first started – I also had a bit more tendency to go for yaku-hai… I’ve been trying to get all green for a while now :x

Kanji – Japanese Short Name (Japanese Long Name) “English Name” [type] *restrictions
(if the name begins with Naki- scroll down for the hand criteria)
note: for people who know a bit about kanji, kanji readings for Mahjong are ALL irregular (because it’s closer to chinese) – also, I encourage you to use the japanese short names if you can remember them.

Yaku Stats

^you may need to squint. A lot, but I don’t know how to make WP upload larger pics, or do that zoomy thing like I’ve seen on some sites. If I figure it out, I’ll change it to something readable.

1 Han Yaku
  • 立直 – Riichi [special type] “Reach” *closed hands only
    • the player sacrifices 1000 points, calls “riichi”, places his/her discard tile horizontally (as opposed to vertically) and may not call on a tile unless to ron, and may not discard any tile but the tile drawn unless to tsumo.
    • in short you tell the other players that you are about to win, which cautions them and you are not allowed to change the make up of your hand – it costs 1000 points to do this, but with 1 extra han you double your score if you win – it may also make non-special mahjong hands worth points.
  • 一発 – Ippatsu [luck type] “One-Shot” *closed hands only/requires riichi
    • if you ron before your next turn, or if you tsumo on your next turn right after you’ve declared riichi you qualify for ippatsu.
    • (this gives you a minimum of 2 han, because you have 1 for riichi and 1 for ippatsu)
  • 門前清自摸和 – Menzen Tsumo (Menzenchin Tsumo Hou) “Fully Closed Hand” [consistency type] *closed hands only/must tsumo
    • if you have a fully closed hand, and you also tsumo
  • 平和 – Pinfu “No Points Hand” [consistency type] *closed hands only/must tsumo
    • if you only have 20 fu (the +2 tsumo fu is automatically forfeited)
    • the only way you can get only 20 is by also having menzen tsumo, and your hand must be made up of all sequences (chii) and you must win on a double sided wait. This means that you already have one pair, and you only need one more sequence, and the tiles that you have already are side by side: like 56, meaning that you’re waiting for a 4 or a 7.
    • I read somewhere that this was an easy hand to make, I disagree, but if you’re going for riichi already, it’s good to have a pinfu hand ready, just in case you tsumo (rather than ron) because your score will nearly quadruple, but it may still be low because your fu is low.
    • (this gives you a minimum of 2 han, because you have 1 for menzen tsumo and 1 for pinfu)
  • 断幺九 – Tanyao “All Simplets” [consistency type]
    • if your hand is comprised of only tiles numbered from 2 – 8.
    • This is one of the easiest hands to make, I recommend going for it if you’re lost. You usually can’t score too high on it, but it’s a very good “back-up plan”
  • 一盃口 – Iipeikou “Sequence of Pairs” [pattern type] *closed hands only
    • a sequence of pairs, or two identical sequences: 112233 for example.
  • 役牌 – Yaku-hai “Special Tiles” [criteria type] +counting type
    • if you have a meld (pon/kan) of your seat wind, the table wind, or a dragon
    • you get +1 han for every meld you have; if you have a wind meld that qualifies for both seat and round wind, it is worth +2 han
    • this is a great addition to any hand, especially because the melds you require for this also provide a lot of fu-points – it is also rather easy on its own, because there are no restrictions and you only need one meld to qualify
    • note: because it is rather easy, players may have a greater tendency to hold on to their special tiles, making them more “rare” and thus making this yaku actually harder to get.
  • 鳴き全帯幺九 – Naki-Chanta (Naki-Chantai Yao) “Open Terminal or Honor in Each Set” [consistency type]
  • 鳴き三色同順 – Naki-San Shoku (Naki-San Shoku Dou Jun) “Open Three Colored Sequence” [pattern type]
  • 鳴き一気通貫 – Naki-Ittsuu (Naki-Ikkitsuukan) “Open Through Straight” [pattern type]
  • 海底撈月 – Haitei-Tsumo (Haitei Raoyue) “Scooping the Moon Out from The Sea” [luck type]
    • if you happen to pick the very last tile from the wall, and this happens to be exactly the tile you need to form a yaku or basic mahjong hand. (it’s awesome when this happens)
  • 河底撈魚 – Haitei-Ron (Houtei Raoyui) “Scooping the Fish Out from The River” [luck type]
    • if you ron on the the last discard fron the person who picked the last tile out of the wall. (it’s also awesome when this happens)
  • 嶺上開花 – Rinshan Kaihou “A Flower Blooms on a Mountain Ridge” [luck type]
    • when you declare a kan, you pick a tile out of the dead-wall; if you win by this tile, it counts as a tsumo (in 80% of rulesets – sometimes only if it’s by a closed kan).
  • 槍槓 – Chankan “Robbing the Kan” [luck type]
    • if on a discard someone calls for an open kan before someone calls for a ron.
    • I’ve never seen this happen.
2 Han Yaku
  • 両立直/ダブル立直 – Double Riichi “Double Ready” [special type] *closed hands only
    • if you call riichi on your first turn; everything else is the same
    • it’s scary when this happens
  • 七対子 – Chiitoitsu “Seven Pairs” [irregular type] *closed hands only
    • your hand is made up of seven pairs / not a basic mahjong hand
    • note: adding tanyao and riichi to this gives you 4 han and a decent pay off
    • if you manage honroutou and riichi as well this gives you 5 han and a mangan.
    • it is possible to get Tsu-iisou with this hand (yakuman – 13 han), and other such consistency type yakuman.
  • 全帯幺九 – Chanta (Chantai Yao) “Terminal or Honor in Each Set” [consistency type] *closed hands only
    • Every single one of your melds has either a terminal (1,9) or honor (wind, dragon), and your pair must also follow this rule.
  • 三色同順 – San Shoku (San Shoku Doujun) “Three Colored Sequences” [pattern type]
    • You have the same number pon/kan in every suit. Like 123,123,123.
  • 一気通貫 – Ittsuu (Ikkitsuukan) “Through Straight” [pattern type] *closed hands only
    • if you have the three sequences 123,456,789 in a single suit.
    • this is a good platform for honitsu or chinitsu
  • 対々和 – Toitoi Hou “All Sets” [consistency type]
    • All your melds are either pons or kans – if this is closed it’s a yakuman (suuankou)
    • This is harder to get than you think, but if you start the round with it mostly complete it’s easy to finish.
  • 鳴き混一色 – Naki-Hon’iitsu (Naki-Hon’iisou) “Open Mixed Single Color” [consistency type]
  • 鳴き純全帯幺九 – Naki-Jun Chan (Naki-Jun Chantai Yao) “Open Pure Terminal in Each Set” [consistency type]
  • 三色同刻 – San Shoku Dou (San Shoku Dou Kou) “Three Colored Triplets” [pattern type]
    • You have the same number pon/kan in every suit. Like 111,111,111.
    • Closed, this will give you San An Kou as well, giving you a minimum of 4 han
  • 三暗刻 – San An Kou “Three Concealed Triplets” [criteria type] *closed hands only
    • You have three pons/kans and your entire hand is closed
  • 三槓子 – San Kan Tsu “Three Kans” [criteria type]
    • You have three kans
    • Close, this will give you San An Kou as well, giving you a minimum of 4 han
  • 混老頭 – Honroutou “All Terminals and Honors” [consistency type]
    • Your hand consists only of terminals and honors
    • Even though this is only worth 2 han, accomplishing this will always give you a minimum of 4 han.
    • If this is done by chiitoihou/seven pairs, that’s a minimum of 4 han
    • If this is done with open triplets, toitoihou applies, and that’s a minimum of 4 han, with an additional 1 han for every qualifying yaku-hai.
    • If this is done with closed triplets, suuankou applies and that’s a yakuman (13 han)
  • 小三元 – Shousangen “Three Little Dragons” [criteria type]
    • You have 2 pon/kans of dragons, the final dragon making up your pair
    • This gives you a minimum of 4 han, given that yaku-hai will land you +2 han
    • It is very easy to also get Honiitsu, which will land you a minimum of 6 han, 7 if closed; or Chanta giving you a minimum of 5 open, 6 closed – other possibilties are close as well.
  • 三連刻 – San Ren Kou “Three Sequential Sets” [criteria type]
    • You have a “set of sequential sets” in one suit, like 222,333,444; they can be pons or kans, counts instead of iipeikou.
    • This like other criteria types are easy to merge with consistency types. Tanyao, San An Kou, Toitoihou – you can easily get tanyao+toitoihou which is 5 han, or san an kou if closed 4+ han.
3 Han Yaku
  • 二盃口 – Ryanpeikou “Double Sequence of Pairs” [pattern type] *closed hands only
    • If you’ve managed to do Iipeikou twice in the same hand, you get this.
    • Incidentally you’ll have a hand made up of all pairs (seven-pairs/chiitoitsu) however calling for ryanpeikou will always be worth more (if you don’t believe me go ahead and do all the work of you want)
  • 混一色 – Hon’iitsu (Hon’iisou) “Mixed Single Color” [consistency type] *closed hands only
    • Your hand is made up of all honors and 1 color
  • 純全帯幺九 – Jun Chanta (Jun Chantai Yao) “Pure Terminal in Each Set” [consistency type]
    • Your hand has a terminal in every meld, this rule also applies to the pair
5 Han Yaku
  • 鳴き清一色 – Naki-Chin’iitsu (Naki-Chin’iisou) “Open Pure One-Color” [consistency type]
  • 流し満貫 – Nagashi Mangan “Throwing it all away” [irregular type]
    • This yaku is so irregular and illogical and rare and difficult that I don’t really want to cover it, especially because it’s not even worth the trouble.
    • If every single tile that you ever discard is a terminal or a honor and you go into the tenpai round, you automatically win a mangan. 0 fu, 5 han – exactly 2000 base points.
    • To give you an idea of how wrong it is to attempt this, there are exactly 52 honor tiles, and on average you have to discard 20-25, which means that you have to have a nearly uninterrupted supply in gathering half of all the honor tiles, and everyone else has to have horrible hands, because they can’t win. If you do in fact have tons of terminals in your hand at the start, say 10-13 of them (which gives you the opportunity to reshuffle), at least half of your draws would still have to be terminals, and if you have that many terminals at the start – there are many better hands you can go for – like yakumans.
6 Han Yaku
  • 清一色 – Chin’iitsu (Chin’iisou) “Pure One-Color” [consistency type]
    • Your hand is made up of all one suit.
8 Han Yaku
  • 人和 – Renhou “The Hand of Man” [bonus type] *closed hands only
    • If you are not the dealer, and you have a hand that would be ordinarily worth one yaku, and you ron before it is your first turn, your hand is immediately worth a baiman (8 han). If for some reason your hand is also yakuman, do NOT call renhou, because a yakuman is worth MORE. If your tile doesn’t come, do not be dismayed, just call a double-riichi.
Yakuman (13 Han Yaku)

-All of the following are worth exactly 13 han (yakuman limit), and cannot be combined with non-yakuman hands to form more than that. However by some ridiculous ungodly chance you may get multiple yakuman. It goes a bit without saying, but all of these are incredibly difficult to get, although some of them are easier to get than some of the lower han ranking yaku – if you don’t believe me, try it. They are vaguely in order of least difficult to most difficult.

  • 天和 – Tenhou [bonus type] “The Hand from the Heavens” *closed hands only
    • If the dealer, with the original 14 tiles from the first deal has a fully formed basic mahjong hand (which is 1 yaku for menzen tsumo) He/she calls “tenhou (tsumo)” for a yakuman. I actually got this once via beginners’ luck.
  • 地和 – Chiihou [bonus type] “The Hand from the Earth” *closed hands only
    • If a non-dealer, on his or her first turn has a fully formed basic mahjong hand (which is 1 yaku for menzen tsumo) He/she calls “chiihou (tsumo)” for a yakuman.
  • 国士無双 – Kokushi Musou “Peerless Citizen / 13 Orphans” [irregular type] *closed hands only
    • There is a total of 13 honors and terminals. 1,9,1,9,1,9,e,s,w,n,r,g,w.
    • If your hand is comprised of all 13 of these terminals, a pair of one of them to make 14, you have a yakuman.
    • If you also have a 13 sided wait, you qualify for a second yakuman (read down for details)
  • 四暗刻 – Suu An Kou “Four Concealed Sets” [criteria type] *closed hands only
    • If you have 4 concealed pons/kans in a closed hand and you tsumo or you ron on a pair. Otherwise it is only a San An Kou.
    • If you also have accomplish this on a single sided wait (which is required for a ron), you qualify for a second yakuman (read down for details)
  • 大三元 – Dai San Gen “Three Big Dragons” [criteria type]
    • If you have 3 melds worth of dragons (one of each), your hand becomes a yakuman.
  • 字一色 – Tsu-iisou “All Honors” [consistency type]
    • If your hand is completely made up of winds and dragons (honor tiles).
  • 緑一色 – Ryuu-iisou “All Green” [consistency type]
    • Your hand must be completely comprised of tiles that are 100% green
    • Tiles that meet the 100% green criteria are: green dragon, 2,3,4,6, and 8 of bamboo. Though some tile sets put blue paint on these tiles as well, they shouldn’t have any red on them at ALL. Which makes this easier to remember.
    • I was 1 tile away from getting this ;-;
  • 清老頭 – Chinroutou “All Terminals” [consistency type]
    • Your hand must be completely comprised of 1s and 9s.
  • 小四喜 – Shou-suushi “Four Little Winds” [criteria type]
    • If you have 3 melds of winds, and a pair of the remaining one, your hand becomes a yakuman.
  • 九蓮宝燈 – Chuuren Poutou “The Nine Gates” [bonus type] *closed hands only
    • If you have this: 1112345678999 of any suit, plus any other number of that suit.
    • If you have a 9-sided wait with this, you qualify for Pure Chuuren Poutou (read further on)
  • 八連荘 – Hachi Renchan “8th Wonder” [bonus type]
    • If you are dealer, and you are in your 8th bonus round (“renchan”) every single winning hand you make (though there may be ordinary neri restrictions in play) is raised to the status of a yakuman.
  • 四槓子 – Suu Kantsu “Four Kans / Maximum Kans” [criteria type]
    • If by some act of god you get your hands on 4 kans, you have a yakuman.
  • 四連刻 – Suu Renkou “Four Consecutive Sets” [criteria type]
    • If you have 4 consecutive sets, like 222,333,444,555.
  • 大四喜 – Dai-suushi “Four Big Winds” [criteria type]
    • If you have 4 sets comprising of all the winds, you have a double yakuman. (base=16000)
  • 純正九蓮宝燈 – Jun Chuuren Poutou “Pure Nine Gates” (9-sided wait)
    • If you have a nine-sided wait for chuuren poutou, this earns you a double yakuman. (base 16000)
  • 国士13面 – Kokushi Juu-san Men “13 faces of Peerless Citizens / Pure 13 Orphans” (13-sided wait)
    • If you have a 13 sided wait for kokushi musou, this earns you a double yakuman. (base 16000)
  • 大車輪 – Daisharen “The Chariot” [bonus type] *closed hands only [uncommon]
    • If you have 22334455667788 in a single suit (traditionally only dots), you have this yakuman. Even without the yakuman bonus, this is a tanyao+chiniitsu+ryanpeikou (10han): one more han away from a sanbaiman, using either riichi/menzen-tsumo etc.

(Read more here(for diagrams of some yaku hands))
(Read more here(for more mahjong terminology))
Also see the links on the sidebar – there’s a good number of mahjong tutorial sites there.

Other Stuff:

Open Riichi – You act cocky and show your entire hand when you Riichi, only useful if you are playing with people who don’t know what they’re doing or if someone else has riichi’d or you just feel like you’re gonna get that tsumo – some people will award you an additional han for this if you actually still ron.

Point Minimum – Some games, (like Tenhou) require a certain point minimum for the person in the lead to end the game, otherwise it keeps on going. Tenhou’s is 30,000.

Additional Point Variations – to be included at a later date – may be found in varying degrees at some of the side-bar link pages.

Hopefully I can get some good hand diagrams coming, other than my random screenshots, as well as links to places where you can play free mahjong, like without registering and all that mess.

Given the fact that it’s me, I’ve probably screwed something up somewhere, so – feel free to correct me if you do know that I’m wrong, or if you have any questions ^^

Mahjong Computer Games:
Tenhou (Online – Free if you use “Economy” version mess around until you see “エコノミー” and then make up a username or use “NoName” and you can play ^^ – Timed, not suggested for beginners.)
Touhou Unreal Mahjong (CPU+Online – requires a serial key for online play)

Have fun playing Japanese Mahjong!!

Mahjong-Koumakan

Devil's Wait

Tenko. \o/

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