How to Play Singapore Mahjong – Part 3

This is Part 3 of the How to Play Singapore Mahjong series . Check out Part 1 and Part 2 here if you have missed it.


In Part 3, I will share more on the Scoring and Winning of Mahjong. This part is split into following sections:
3.1 Scoring
3.2 Instant Payment
3.3 Non-combinations
3.4 Combinations
3.5 Additional Points
3.6 Special Conditions
3.7 Paying for All
3.8 Penalties


3.1 Mahjong Scoring
3.1 Mahjong Scoring

3.1 Scoring

The score for the winning player is measured in Points (台 Tái). Other than forming combinations, other events (explained below) reward players with points as well. The rarer the winning combination, the more points it is worth. In an Ordinary Scenario, the three other losing players pay the winner chips based on the number of points of the winning combination.

A single increment in the number of points mean doubling the number of chips won and lost by the players. Hence, there is an incentive for players to form a rarer winning combination to earn more points and therefore, chips. The Shooter, being the player who discarded the winning tile to the winner, is penalised and pays twice the chips compared to other losing players. In a Self-draw (自摸 Zì Mō) Scenario where the winning player forms the winning combination by drawing a tile from the Open Wall instead through another player’s discarded tile, the winning player is rewarded with the losing players paying double the chips, as if they are all Shooters.

Players often set a minimum number of points (mostly one point 一台 Yī Tái) before any player can declare Mahjong!, such that the game has a degree of challenge. Similarly, players often set a maximum number of point, or Limit (mostly five points 五台 Wǔ Tái) for any winning combination, such that the game does not become overbearing 😅.

The scoring mechanics is best summarised in the payout table shown in the infographics. For purpose of illustration, the base chip is set to one (1), with every increment being double that of the previous.


3.2 Mahjong Instant Payment

3.2 Instant Payment

Other than winning, the game rewards players with Instant Payment – an immediate payment among players for certain Player Moves. This is independent of winning or losing the Hand. Similar to Player Moves mentioned in Part 2, Instant Payment can either be exposed or concealed, translating to a payment of the base or double the base amount respectively.

The Player Moves invoking Instant Payment are (1) obtaining a combination of Bonus tiles (咬 Yǎo) and (2) Kong (槓 Gàng). The combinations of Bonus tiles earning the Instant Payment are:
1. Obtaining the Cat (貓 Māo) and the Mouse (老鼠 Láo Shŭ)
2. Obtaining the Rooster (公雞 Gōng Jī) and the Centipede (蜈蚣 Wú Gōng)
3. Obtaining all four Animal Bonus tiles
4. Obtaining both Flower Bonus tiles with numbers matching the Seat Wind
5. Obtaining either sets of the Flower Bonus tiles

Bonus Tiles

A Concealed Instant Payment (暗咬 Àn Yǎo) can only occur during the Initial Draw of 13 or 14 tiles, before performing any Replacement Draw. Any Instant Payments thereafter are considered Exposed Instant Payment (明咬 Mínɡ Yǎo). This means that obtaining a Cat in the Initial Draw and performing a Replacement Draw to obtain a Mouse will only grant an Exposed Instant Payment.

Kong (槓 Gàng)

A Concealed Instant Payment (暗槓 Àn Gàng) is invoked from exposing a Concealed Kong. An Exposed Instant Payment (明槓 Mínɡ Gàng) can be invoked through either an Exposed Kong or an Exposed Kong from an Exposed Pong.


3.3 Mahjong Non-combinations
3.3 Mahjong Non-combinations

3.3 Non-Combinations

Other than forming combinations, achieving some of these Non-combinations events also grants Points to the players.

Animal Bonus Tiles (動物牌 Dòng Wù Pái)

Obtaining an Animal Bonus tile grants one point. Obtaining all four Animal Bonus tiles grants an additional point, making it five points (4 + 1 = 5).

Flower Bonus Tiles (花牌 Huā Pái)

Obtaining either Flower Bonus tile with the number matching the Player’s Seat Wind grants one point. Obtaining the full set of four Flower Bonus tiles of either the Four Gentlemen or Four Seasons grant an additional point, making it two points (1 + 1 = 2) for amassing one full set.

Dragon Honor Tiles (三元牌 Sān Yuán Pái)

Obtaining a Pong / Kong of any of the Dragon Honor Tiles grants one point.

Wind Honor Tiles (风牌 Fēng Pái)

Obtaining a Pong / Kong of the Wind Honor tiles matching either the Seat Wind or the Prevailing Wind grants one point. The effects stack – Obtaining a Pong / Kong of South when the Player is at the South (南 Nán) Seat Wind and the Prevailing Wind is South (南 Nán) grants two points to the Player.


3.4 Combinations

The points derived from Non-combinations above are added to that of the Winning Combination to derive the total number of points for the winner.

3.4 Mahjong Combinations - Sequence Hand
3.4 Mahjong Combinations – Sequence Hand

Sequence Hand (平胡 Píng Hù) – 4 Points

This is formed by having four Chows of any Suit and a pair. The Pair can be made up either identical Suit tiles or any Wind Honor tiles which is neither the Prevailing Wind nor the Seat Wind of the Player. The Player must not have any Bonus tiles as well.

In addition, the Player can only earn the points from taking a discarded tile if the Player is waiting for at least two different tiles to win. For example, a Sequence Hand earns the valid points if the Player’s remaining tiles are 4588 of Bamboo and obtains a discarded 6 of Bamboo to win, as the Player can win with either 3 or 6 of Bamboo. On the contrary, the Player with 1288 of Bamboo would not be awarded the 4 points of a Sequence Hand through obtaining a discarded 3 Bamboo as the Player can only win with a single tile. Other examples which do not earn the 4 points include 1179 waiting for a 8 and 2347 waiting for a 7 to form the Pair.

Nonetheless, the Players can take the discarded tiles to win the Hand, if the Player has sufficient points earned from Non-combinations mentioned above to meet the minimum points set.

Alternatively, the Player can wait to perform a Self-draw to obtain the single tile, which can be challenging at times as it restricts the Player to only a single type of move to win.

3.4 Mahjong Combinations - Lesser Sequence Hand
3.4 Mahjong Combinations – Lesser Sequence Hand

Lesser Sequence Hand (臭平胡 Chòu Píng Hù) – 1 Point

This is formed when a Player has a Sequence Hand, but has drawn any Bonus tile. This happens frequently as players often draw Bonus tiles throughout the game while attempting to form the Sequence Hand.

3.4 Mahjong Combinations - Triplets Hand
3.4 Mahjong Combinations – Triplets Hand

Triplets Hand (碰碰胡 Pèng Pèng Hù) – 2 Points

This is formed by having four Pongs / Kongs and a pair. They can be made up of any combination of Suit or Honor tiles.

3.4 Mahjong Combinations - Full Flush
3.4 Mahjong Combinations – Full Flush

Full Flush (清一色 Qīng Yī Sè) – 4 Points

This is formed by having four Chows / Pongs / Kongs and a pair with all the tiles of one single Suit.

3.4 Mahjong Combinations - Half Flush
3.4 Mahjong Combinations – Half Flush

Half Flush (半色 Bàn Sè) – 2 Points

This is formed by having four Chows / Pongs / Kongs and a pair, with the tiles belonging to either one single Suit and Honor tiles.

3.4 Mahjong Combinations - Pure Terminals
3.4 Mahjong Combinations – Pure Terminals

Pure Terminals (清么九 Qīng Yāo Jǐu) – Limit

This is formed by having four Pongs / Kongs and a pair, with the tiles being 1 or 9 of any Suit.

3.4 Mahjong Combinations - Half Terminals
3.4 Mahjong Combinations – Half Terminals

Half Terminals (混么九 Hún Yāo Jǐu) – 4 Points

This is formed by having four Pongs / Kongs and a pair, with the tiles in the combination of 1 or 9 of any Suit and Honor tiles.

3.4 Mahjong Combinations - All Honors
3.4 Mahjong Combinations – All Honors

All Honors (字一色 Zì Yī Sè) Limit

This is formed by having four Pongs / Kongs and a pair of Honor tiles only (either Dragon Honor tiles or Wind Honor tiles).

3.4 Mahjong Combinations - Three Great Scholars
3.4 Mahjong Combinations – Three Great Scholars

Three Great Scholars (大三元 Dà Sān Yuán) – 10 Points or Limit

This is formed by having Pongs / Kongs of all three Dragon Honor tiles as part of the winning combination.

Alternatively, the Player can opt to declare a win by revealing the Pongs / Kongs of all three Dragon Honor tiles, but without having form the entire winning 14-tile combination Hand. In such case, the Player would be awarded 5 points instead of the Limit. Note that the Player ought to exercise care in not revealing the remaining concealed tiles in the Hand as they do not form any combination, failing which the Hand would be rendered a False Win.

3.4 Mahjong Combinations - Three Lesser Scholars
3.4 Mahjong Combinations – Three Lesser Scholars

Three Lesser Scholars (小三元 Xiǎo Sān Yuán) – 3 Points

This is formed by having Pongs / Kongs of two out of the three Dragon Honor tiles and the pair made up of the last of the three Dragon Honor tiles.

3.4 Mahjong Combinations - Four Great Blessings
3.4 Mahjong Combinations – Four Great Blessings

Four Great Blessings (大四喜 Dà Sì Xǐ) – Limit

This is formed by having Pongs / Kongs of all four Wind Honor tiles as part of the winning combination.

Similar to Three Greater Scholars, the Player can opt to declare a win by revealing the Pongs / Kongs of all four Wind Honor tiles, but without having form the entire winning 14-tile combination Hand. In such case, the Player would be awarded 10 points instead of the Limit. Note that the Player ought to exercise care in not revealing the remaining concealed tiles in the Hand as they do not form any combination, failing which the Hand would be rendered a False Win.

3.4 Mahjong Combinations - Four Lesser Blessings
3.4 Mahjong Combinations – Four Lesser Blessings

Four Lesser Blessings (小四喜 Xiǎo Sì Xǐ) – 3 or 4 Points

This is formed by having Pongs / Kongs of three out of the four Wind Honor tiles and the pair made up of the last of the four Wind Honor tiles.

3.4 Mahjong Combinations - Thirteen Wonders
3.4 Mahjong Combinations – Thirteen Wonders

Thirteen Wonders (十三幺 Shí Sān Yāo) – Limit

This is formed by having one of each tile from the Honor Tiles and 1 and 9 of the all three suits, and a duplicate of one of the thirteen tiles. This is the only combination which allows the “robbing” of Concealed Kong (explained below).


3.5 Additional Points

Other than achieving Non-combination events and forming Combination hands, there are additional points awarded for the following methods of winning.

These additional points can only be obtained if the player has a minimum of one point obtained either through Non-combination events or the winning combination. Hence, the player cannot use the additional points obtained as the minimum point required, if the player does not have any points from Non-combinations or does not earn any points from the 14-tile winning combination to begin with.

3.5 Mahjong Additional Points - Replacement Draw for Bonus Tile
3.5 Mahjong Additional Points – Replacement Draw for Bonus Tile

Winning on Replacement Draw For Bonus Tile (花上 Huā Shàng) – Additional 1 Point

This happens when the Player performs a Replacement Draw after drawing and revealing a Bonus tile, and draws the final winning tile. By virtue of winning by a Replacement Draw, the game rewards the winner with an additional one point.

3.5 Mahjong Additional Points - Replacement Draw for Kong
3.5 Mahjong Additional Points – Replacement Draw for Kong

Winning on Replacement Draw For Kong (杠上 Gàng Shàng) – Additional 1 Point

This happens when the Player performs a Replacement Draw after performing / revealing a Kong, and draws the final winning tile. By virtue of winning by a Replacement Draw, the game rewards the winner with an additional one point.

3.5 Mahjong Additional Points - Robbing the Kong
3.5 Mahjong Additional Points – Robbing the Kong

Robbing the Kong (抢杠 Qiǎng Gàng) – Additional 1 Point

This happens when the winning tile of a Player is the tile which is exposed by another Player who performs an Exposed Kong from Exposed Pong. By virtue of exposing that tile, the Player is deemed to won by “robbing” the Kong, as the tile was not discarded) and wins the game.

Players can only “rob” an Exposed Kong from Exposed Pong, but not from Concealed Kong or Exposed Kong. The only combination which can “rob” a Concealed Kong is the Thirteen Wonders.

3.5 Mahjong Additional Points - Fully Concealed Hand
3.5 Mahjong Additional Points – Fully Concealed Hand

Fully Concealed Hand (门清 Mén Qīng) – Additional 1 Point

This happens when the Player completes the winning combination through Draws only (including Replacement Draws), without performing any Exposed Chows, Pongs or Kongs.

3.5 Mahjong Additional Points - Winning on Last Available Tile
3.5 Mahjong Additional Points – Winning on Last Available Tile

Winning on the Last Available Tile (海底捞月 Hái Dǐ Lāo Yuè)– Additional 1 Point

This happens when a Player draws the last tile (i.e. last 16th tile as the Dead Wall comprise 15 tiles) and wins with it.


3.6 Special Conditions

3.6 Mahjong Special Conditions - Complete Flower Bonus Tiles
3.6 Mahjong Special Conditions – Complete Flower Bonus Tiles

Two Sets of Complete Flower Bonus Tiles (八仙过海 Bā Xiān Guò Hǎi)– Limit

This happens when a Player draws and exposes all eight Flower Bonus tiles comprising one set of Four Gentlemen and one set of Four Seasons. Due to the extreme low possibility of achieving this event, this is awarded the Limit.

Note that the Player ought to exercise care in not revealing the remaining concealed tiles in the Hand as they do not form any combination, failing which the Hand would be rendered a False Win.

Robbing the Eighth (七抢一 Qī Qiǎng Yī) – Limit

This happens when a Player has drawn and exposed seven out of the eight Flower Bonus tiles, and another Player draws and expose the eighth Flower Bonus tile. Due to the extreme low possibility of achieving this event, the winning Player is deemed to have “rob” the eighth Flower Bonus tile and the Player who has drawn it shall be the Shooter for purpose of computing the payouts.

3.6 Mahjong Special Conditions - Hidden Treasure
3.6 Mahjong Special Conditions – Hidden Treasure

Hidden Treasure (四暗刻 Sì Àn Kè) – Limit

This happens when a Player has managed to amass a hand of four Concealed Pongs / Kongs and a pair, and draws the final winning tile through a Self-draw.

3.6 Mahjong Special Conditions - Eighteen Arhats / Four Kongs
3.6 Mahjong Special Conditions – Eighteen Arhats / Four Kongs

Eighteen Arhats/Four Kongs (十八罗汉 Shí Bā Luó Hàn) – Limit

This happens when a Player has managed to amass a hand of four Kongs and a pair.


3.7 Paying for All

As shared in 3.1, we saw that the Shooter and two other losing players pays the Winner the chips. However, there are some special conditions which the Shooter pays for the other two losing players as well.

3.7 Paying for All
3.7 Paying for All

High Risk Discards (包牌 Bāo Pái)

If it is visible from the Exposed tiles of the Player that certain discards will allow the Player to hit the Limit, the other Player who discards such tiles will trigger a Paying for all event.

If the Player already has any two Pongs / Kongs out of the three Dragon Honor tiles, the other Player who discards the third Dragon Honor tile which the Player Pong / Kong will be the Shooter paying for the other two losing players as well.

If the Player already has four points, and the Pong / Kong of any Honor tiles will help the Player hit the Limit of five points, then the other Player who discards such tiles would be the Shooter and pay for the other two losing players in the event the Player wins eventually.

If the Player already has three sets of Chows / Pongs / Kongs exposed which are all of the same suit, then the other Player who discards a tile of that suit which the Player performs a Chow / Pong, then the other Player is deemed to be the Shooter paying for all if the Player wins through a Self-draw or by the tile discarded.

3.7 Paying for All
3.7 Paying for All

Fresh Tile Mahjong Scenario (包生 Bāo Shēng)

When there are 5 and fewer tiles left, excluding the 15 tiles deadwall, a Player discarding a Fresh tile (i.e. a tile which is not in the discard pool or exposed on the table) which is used by another Player to Mahjong! triggers a Paying for all event. The Discarding player is deemed to be the Shooter and pays for the other two players as well.

Fresh Tile Discard Kong Scenario (包杠 Bāo Gàng)

When there are 7 and fewer tiles left, excluding the 15 tiles Deadwall, a Player discarding a Fresh tile which is used to Kong by another player triggers a Paying for all event. The discarding player is deemed to be the Shooter and pays for the Kong entirely, including the share of the other two losing players.


3.8 Penalties

3.8 Penalties
3.8 Penalties

Sacred Discard (回头牌 Huí Tóu Pái)

This happens when a Player draws a tile and didn’t notice he or she has won, and proceeds to discard that tile. Subsequently, if the other three players discards the same tile, the Player cannot take the tile to win. If the Player has done so, this would result in a False Win.

Missed Discard (过水牌 Guò Shuǐ Pái)

This happens when a Player opts not to Pong from a discarded tile, if another player discards the same tile, the Player cannot take that tile to Pong or to win. The player would have “missed” the discard and is not permitted to take that tile.

False Winning Claim Scenario (诈胡 Zhà Hú)

This happens when a player declares Mahjong! without:
1. forming the winning combination;
2. having the minimum points for winning
3. Revealing the remaining Concealed Hand which does not result in any combination when claiming a win under special wining scenarios (e.g. Three Greater Scholars).

When this happens, the player is penalised and needs to pay all three players the Limit (using the example, means paying each player 64 chips)

3.8 Penalties
3.8 Penalties

Short Hand (小相公 Xiǎo Xiàng Gōng)

This often happens when the player forgets to perform a Replacement Draw for drawing and exposing any Bonus Tiles or Kong. Hence, the Player has lesser tiles. The player forfeits any rights to win, but is able to claim a Kong.

Long Hand (大相公 Dà Xiàng Gōng)

This often happens when the player performs additional Replacement Draws from drawing and exposing any Bonus tiles or Kong. Hence the player has more tiles. The player forfeits any rights to win and any rights to claim a Kong, because the additional tiles grant the player an advantage of finding a Kong.


Summary

With the last part, most of the general rules and scoring of Mahjong have been covered. It is important to clarify the rules with the players before the game starts as there might be slight variants depending on each individual’s playstyle. Hope this series has helped some beginners out there who are trying to learn Mahjong! 😄 Comment down below if you have any queries or if you would like to see a more in-depth discussion on Mahjong!


Icons sourced from icons8.

How to Play Singapore Mahjong – Part 2

This is Part 2 of the How to Play Singapore Mahjong series . Check out Part 1 here if you have missed it.


In Part 2, I will share more on the basic rules of Mahjong. This part is split into the following sections:
2.1 Seat Selection
2.2 Setting Up
2.3 Initial Draw
2.4 Replacement Draw (补花 Bǔ Huā)
2.5 Player Moves
2.5.1 Draw (摸牌 Mō Pái)
2.5.2 Chow (吃 Chī)
2.5.3 Pong (碰 Pèng)
2.5.4 Kong (槓 Gàng)
2.5.5 Mahjong (胡 Hú)
2.5.6 Priority Order of Moves
2.6 Stalemate


2.1 Mahjong Seat Selection
2.1 Mahjong Seat Selection

2.1 Seat Selection

To begin the playing a Game, the players’ seats are first selected through a dice roll. There are many variants of seat selection methods, but I will share one of the most common methods using three dice below:

1. Shuffle one of each of the four Wind Honor tiles (风牌 Fēng Pái) face-down on the Mahjong table.
2. All four players take turns to roll three dice and rank themselves in the order of the sum of their dice roll.
3. The player with the highest dice roll gets to select from the face-down tiles first, followed by the player with the second-highest roll until the fourth player has selected the last tile.
4. All four players reveal their selected tiles to find their Seat Winds.

The player who selected East (東 Dōng) is the First Dealer and gets to choose the exact seat, with the other players following based on their Seat Wind accordingly. The First Dealer will have the Prevailing Wind marker placed at the left corner as an indication.


2.2 Mahjong Setting Up
2.2 Mahjong Setting Up

2.2 Setting up

After the players have taken up their positions based on the Seat Winds selected, they begin setting up the Hand by shuffling the tiles face-down on the Mahjong table.

Trivia: The act of shuffling the tiles mirrors that of breaststoke and Singaporeans often tease Mahjong being dry swimming 🤣.

After shuffling, players proceed to stack a two-layer Mahjong Wall in front of them. The number of tiles in the wall depends on the Seat Wind. The players at East (東 Dōng) and West (西 Xī) stacks a 19-tile wall, while the players at South (南 Nán) and North (北 Běi) stacks a 18-tile wall. Players then push each wall towards the centre of the table with a diagonal offset, forming a square wall.


2.3 Mahjong Initial Draw
2.3 Mahjong Initial Draw
2.3 Mahjong Initial Draw
2.3 Mahjong Initial Draw

2.3 Initial Draw

To start playing the Hand, a dice roll will be used to determine the exact point to cut the tile wall and draw the initial set of tiles:

1. The Dealer (East, 東 Dōng) rolls the three dice and sums up the total.
2. Starting from the Dealer (East, 東 Dōng) with 1, count anticlockwise (i.e. South 南 Nán is 2 and so on) until reaching the dice total. The chosen player’s tile wall will then be used for cutting.
3. Start counting from right to left of the chosen tile wall using the same total from the dice throw to determine where the exact point to cut in the tile wall.
4. The tiles to the left of that point represents the Open Wall. The tiles to the right represents the Dead Wall.
4. The Dealer (East, 東 Dōng) starts by drawing 4 tiles from the Open Wall, followed by the player on his right (South 南 Nán) in an anticlockwise direction until all players have 12 tiles each.
5. Each player then draws their 13th tile as shown in the diagram, with the exception of the Dealer who draws a 14th tile.


2.4 Mahjong Replacement Draw
2.4 Mahjong Replacement Draw

2.4 Replacement Draw (补花 Bǔ Huā)

With the opening hand drawn, the players then open the tiles with the back of the tiles facing the other 3 players. Other than arranging the tiles in chronological order to facilitate reading the tiles, players will reveal any Bonus tiles (i.e. Flowers and Animals) face-up in front of them to other players and perform a Replacement Draw (补花 Bǔ Huā) in an anticlockwise direction starting with the Dealer.

A Replacement Draw is performed by taking a tile for each Bonus tile from the Dead Wall. If a player draws any Bonus tiles from the Replacement Draw, another Replacement Draw is performed again, but only after the first cycle of Replacement Draw has been completed.

Bonus tiles do not count towards the 14-tile combination required to win the game. With the Replacement Draw(s) completed, the Hand is ready to begin with the Dealer having 14 tiles and the other players having 13 tiles each.


2.5 Mahjong Player Moves
2.5 Mahjong Player Moves

2.5 Player Moves

Before going into details of the different moves available, let us explore WHY we perform them in the first place.

Recall from Part 1 that the objective of the game is to be the first in forming a winning combination of 14 tiles. However, each player will start and always have 13 tiles (either exposed and concealed, explained later) with them at any point in time. Thus, the only way to win is to obtain an additional tile through drawing from the wall or taking a discarded tile from other players.

Every move is made to improve the overall chances of getting to the 14-tile winning combination. This is akin to taking one step at a time on a long flight of stairs. Although small, it helps to advance to the top, but at the at the same time, a misstep can send one tumbling to the bottom.

Players will conceal their tiles, unless the moves made require revealing or exposing them (such as the Bonus tiles mentioned in the Replacement Draw above). Exposing your tiles provides an informational advantage to the other players as they will be able to (1) measure your progress towards winning and (2) guess your winning combination. Thus, making a move is about the delicate balance between advancing towards winning and not revealing too much about your tiles. 😉


2.5.1 Mahjong Draw
2.5.1 Mahjong Draw

2.5.1 Draw (摸牌 Mō Pái)

During the Player’s turn, the Player draws a tile from the Open Wall and adds it to their hand. The Dealer’s initial hand of 14 tiles has already included the first draw made as part of the rules.

If a Flower or Animal Bonus Tile is drawn, the player performs a Replacement Draw (similar to 2.4 above).

If the Player does not win with the tile drawn, the Player then selects and discards one tile into the Discard Pool in the centr. Hence, if the Dealer does not win with the initial 14 tiles drawn, the Dealer then discards one tile into the Discard Pool to start the game.

The Player’s turn ends with the discard and the turn passes onto the player on the right in an anticlockwise direction.


2.5.2 Mahjong Chow
2.5.2 Mahjong Chow

2.5.2 Chow (吃 Chī)

Chow is a set of three consecutive tiles of the same suit. This can only be made using Suit tiles as Honors do not have a numerical value and Bonus tiles are excluded from winning combinations.

2.5.2 Mahjong Chow - Concealed Chow
2.5.2 Mahjong Chow – Concealed Chow

Concealed Chow

This is formed by drawing tiles to form a Chow in your hand. A Chow formed this way can be kept in your hand need not be revealed until you win.

2.5.2 Mahjong Chow - Exposed Chow
2.5.2 Mahjong Chow – Exposed Chow

Exposed Chow

This is formed by taking the tile discarded by the player immediately to your left (e.g. West Player can only take the tile discarded by the South player) and combining it with two consecutive tiles in your hand to form the Chow. The Player will announce Chow! and reveal the Exposed Chow to the other players, before selecting and discarding one of the remaining tiles in the hand.

The Player’s turn ends with the discard and the turn passes onto the player on the right in an anticlockwise direction. Note that the Player gives up the opportunity to draw a tile from the Open Wall in order to perform an Exposed Chow when the opportunity arises. Thus, there is a need to evaluate which of these is a better move during each situation.


2.5.3 Mahjong Pong
2.5.3 Mahjong Pong

2.5.3 Pong (碰 Pèng)

Pong is a set of three identical tiles. This can only be made using Suits and Honors tiles, but not Bonus tiles as they are excluded from winning combinations.

2.5.3 Mahjong Pong - Concealed Pong
2.5.3 Mahjong Pong – Concealed Pong

Concealed Pong

Similar to the Concealed Chow, this is formed by drawing tiles to form a Pong in your hand. A Pong formed this way can be kept in your hand need not be revealed until a Kong is made (explained below) or you win.

2.5.3 Mahjong Pong - Exposed Pong
2.5.3 Mahjong Pong – Exposed Pong

Exposed Pong

This is formed by taking the tile discarded by any player (contrast this with Exposed Chow) and combining with two identical tiles in your hand to form the Pong. The Player will announce Pong! and reveal the Exposed Pong to the other players, before selecting and discarding one of the remaining tiles in the hand.

The Player’s turn ends with the discard and the turn passes onto the player on the right in an anticlockwise direction. Note that a Pong interrupts the anticlockwise flow of the game as the turn immediately skips to the Player who performs an Exposed Pong. Similar to the Exposed Chow, the Player does not draw a tile from the Open Wall, but instead discard a tile after performing an Exposed Pong.


2.5.4 Mahjong Kong
2.5.4 Mahjong Kong

2.5.4 Kong (槓 Gàng)

Kong is a set of four identical tiles. This is an upgraded version of Pong. Similar to Pong, this can only be made using Suits and Honors tiles, but not Bonus tiles as they are excluded from winning combinations.

2.5.4 Mahjong Kong - Concealed Kong
2.5.4 Mahjong Kong – Concealed Kong

Concealed Kong (暗槓 Àn Gàng)

This is formed by drawing tiles to form a Kong in your hand. The Player may then choose to (1) reveal the set of Concealed Kong to obtain an Instant Payment (elaborated in the next Part) or (2) use the four tiles separately in other combinations (e.g. one set of Concealed Pong and the fourth tile for a Chow).

If the Concealed Kong is revealed, the Player gets to performs a Replacement Draw from the Dead Wall, before selecting and discarding one tile. The Player’s turn ends with the discard and the turn passes onto the player on the right in an anticlockwise direction.

2.5.4 Mahjong Kong - Exposed Kong
2.5.4 Mahjong Kong – Exposed Kong

Exposed Kong (明槓 Míng Gàng)

This is formed by taking the tile discarded by any player and combining it with three of the identical tiles in your hand to form the Kong. The Player will announce Kong! and reveal the Exposed Kong to the other players to receive an Instant Payment. The Player then performs a Replacement Draw, before selecting and discarding one of the remaining tiles in the hand.

The Player’s turn ends with the discard and the turn passes onto the player on the right in an anticlockwise direction. Note that a Kong interrupts the anticlockwise flow of the game as the turn immediately skips to the Player who performs an Exposed Kong.

2.5.4 Mahjong Kong - Exposed Kong from Exposed Pong
2.5.4 Mahjong Kong – Exposed Kong from Exposed Pong

Exposed Kong from Exposed Pong (明槓 Míng Gàng)

This is formed by drawing and exposing the fourth identical tile when the Player already has an exposed Pong. The Player will announce Kong! and place the fourth tile with the Exposed Pong to form the Exposed Kong to receive an Instant Payment. The Player then performs a Replacement Draw, before selecting and discarding one of the remaining tiles in the hand.

The Player’s turn ends with the discard and the turn passes onto the player on the right in an anticlockwise direction.


2.5.5 Mahjong
2.5.5 Mahjong

2.5.5 Mahjong (胡 Hú)

A Player wins the Hand with Mahjong by either (1) drawing the winning tile or (2) taking a discarded tile as the final tile required to complete the 14-tile winning combination.

When this happens, the Player reveals the remaining concealed tiles for inspection and the Hand finishes. The score of the winning combination is calculated and the players get ready for the next Hand.


2.5.6 Mahjong Priority of Moves
2.5.6 Mahjong Priority of Moves

2.5.6 Priority Order of Moves

After going through the Player Moves, you may notice that a single discarded tile may possibly be used by the other three players to perform a Chow, Pong / Kong or Mahjong. The game addresses this situation by setting a Priority Order of moves in decreasing priority as follows:

1. Mahjong (Highest Priority)
2. Pong / Kong
3. Chow (Lowest Priority)

Hence, when there is a contest between Pong / Kong and Chow for a discarded tile, the Pong / Kong overrules and the turn skips to the Player performing the Pong / Kong. The Player who wanted to perform the Chow can either wait for the final tile (if any) or explore other combinations instead.

Sometimes, some players’ turns may be skipped due to an interruption of the anticlockwise flow from a Pong / Kong. This is part and parcel of the game, and the game does not have a mechanism to compensate for the missed turns.


2.6 Stalemate
2.6 Stalemate

2.6 Stalemate

The Hand finishes with either a player forming Mahjong, or if the players draw until there are 15 tiles left in the Dead Wall. In the latter case, it is considered a Stalemate and the players play an additional Hand with the current Hand’s Prevailing Wind and Seat Winds (as mentioned in 1.5 of Part 1).

However, if any player has managed to form a Kong by the time there are 15 tiles left in the Dead Wall, the Hand is deemed to have finished and the players move on to play the next Hand.


With this, I have covered the basic rules of Mahjong. Feel free to comment down below if you have any questions.

Next, I will touch on Winning and Scoring in Part 3. Stay tuned! 😄


Icons sourced from icons8.

How to Play Singapore Mahjong – Part 1

Before the Crazy Rich Asians movie romanticised the Mahjong game, this fast-paced strategy tile game which originated from China had already been a long-standing pastime in the Singaporean heartlands. Wind the clocks back a decade ago, I can still recall the vague memories of my first encounter with Mahjong. During a weekend chalet with my friends back then, I decided to give a shot at the game as many said that the game teaches important life lessons 🤔. Game after game and after a long chilly night, it turned out to be a humbling experience to pay tuition fees for the lessons as I struggled to learn and remember the rules of the game.

Over the years, learning Mahjong has certainly evolved and you can even learn Mahjong through Airbnb in Singapore now! It certainly taught me valuable lessons in life, and I hope that others will learn and come to appreciate this game of intellect. With that, the How to Play Singapore Mahjong Series was conceptualised to write a beginner’s guide (with some help from wikipedia), adding infographics and translations along the way to help understand the rules and concepts. 😉


Overview

This series can be broken down into the following parts as follows:
Part 1 – Introduction (this post)
Part 2 – Rules
Part 3 – Scoring and Winning


In Part 1, I will share about the overview of Mahjong. This part is split into five sections:
1.1 Objective
1.2 Equipment
1.3 Mahjong Tiles
1.4 Table Setup
1.5 Game, Rounds and Hands


1.1 Objective of Mahjong
1.1 Objective of Mahjong

1.1 Objective

Be the first person to form Mahjong – 14 tiles made up of four sets of three and a pair.

Each set consist either three of a kind or a consecutive run of three tiles of the same suit. This is done through drawing, taking and discarding of tiles during player turns, which will be elaborated in subsequent sections.

But first, let us take a look at equipment needed to play the game.


1.2 Equipment of Mahjong
1.2 Equipment of Mahjong

1.2 Equipment and Players

Each game would require the following:
– 1 Mahjong Table
– 1 Mahjong Set (the Singapore version has 148 tiles)
– 1 Chip Set
– 4 Players


1.3 Mahjong Tiles

There are a total of 148 tiles in the Singapore version of Mahjong, split into the following categories:
– Suits: Bamboo, Circles and Characters
– Honors: Winds and Dragons
– Bonus: Flowers and Animals


1.3 Mahjong Tiles - Bamboo Suit
1.3 Mahjong Tiles – Bamboo Suit

Bamboo Suit (索子 Suǒ Zi)

The Bamboo Suit comprise four tiles of each rank from one to nine, making a total of 36 tiles. It is represented by sticks, with the exception of 1 Bamboo which is usually represented by a bird.

1.3 Mahjong Tiles - Circles Suit
1.3 Mahjong Tiles – Circles Suit

Circles Suit (筒子 Tǒng Zi)

The Circles Suit comprise four tiles of each rank from one to nine, making a total of 36 tiles. It is represented by multi-colored cirles.

1.3 Mahjong Tiles - Characters Suit
1.3 Mahjong Tiles – Characters Suit

Characters Suit (萬子 Wàn Zi)

The Characters Suit comprise four tiles of each rank from one to nine, making a total of 36 tiles. It is represented by a combination of the Chinese characters for numbers (e.g. 一,二) and ten thousand (萬).

1.3 Mahjong Tiles - Wind Honor Tiles
1.3 Mahjong Tiles – Wind Honor Tiles

Wind Honor Tiles (风牌 Fēng Pái)

The Wind Honor Tiles comprise four tiles of each point on the Compass, making a total of 16 tiles – East (東 Dōng), South (南 Nán), West (西 Xī) and North (北 Běi). They are represented by their respective Chinese characters in blue.

1.3 Mahjong Tiles - Dragon Honor Tiles
1.3 Mahjong Tiles – Dragon Honor Tiles

Dragon Honor Tiles (三元牌 Sān Yuán Pái)

The Dragon Honor Tiles comprise four tiles of each colored Chinese character, making a total of 12 tiles – Red (紅中 Hóng Zhōng), Green (發財  Fā Cái) and White (白板 Bái Bǎn). They are represented by Chinese characters in red, green and white respectively.

1.3 Mahjong Tiles - Flower Bonus Tiles
1.3 Mahjong Tiles – Flower Bonus Tiles

Flower Bonus Tiles (花牌 Huā Pái)

The Flower Bonus Tiles comprise one set of Four Seasons tiles (四季 Sì Jì) in blue and one set of Four Gentlemen tiles (四君子 Sì Jūn Zi) in red, each marked with a number from one to four for each set, making a total of eight tiles. They are represented by the icons of seasons and flowers respectively.

1.3 Mahjong Tiles - Animal Bonus Tiles
1.3 Mahjong Tiles – Animal Bonus Tiles

Animal Bonus Tiles (動物牌 Dòng Wù Pái)

The Animal Bonus Tiles comprise four animal tiles – Cat (貓 Māo), Mouse (老鼠 Láo Shŭ), Rooster (公雞 Gōng Jī) and Centipede (蜈蚣 Wú Gōng). They are represented by animals (as I couldn’t find the centipede icon, let’s make do with an earthworm for now 😅) .


1.4 Mahjong Table Setup
1.4 Mahjong Table Setup

1.4 Table Setup

The initial Seat Winds are setup with each player occupying a side of the square Mahjong table, denoted by a Wind and a number in the anticlockwise chronological order of East (東 Dōng) and 1, South (南 Nán) and 2, West (西 Xī) and 3, and finally North (北 Běi) and 4. The Wind and number positions are important for scoring and winning.

With Player A being the First Dealer, a marker is placed at his left corner to indicate the Prevailing Wind of the Round (explained below). The First Dealer is a reference point to determine the rotation of rounds and does not change throughout the Game.


1.5 Mahjong Game, Rounds and Hands
1.5 Mahjong Game, Rounds and Hands

1.5 Game, Rounds and Hands

Each Game comprise four rounds. Each Round is denoted by a Wind in the chronological order of East (東 Dōng), South (南 Nán), West (西 Xī) and finally North (北 Běi). This is also known as the Prevailing Wind of the Round. Each Round comprise at least four hands, with each Player getting the opportunity to be the Dealer through rotation.

1.5 Mahjong Game, Rounds and Hands
1.5 Mahjong Game, Rounds and Hands
1.5 Mahjong Game, Rounds and Hands
1.5 Mahjong Game, Rounds and Hands

The first Hand of the first Round of East (東 Dōng) begins with Player A as the Dealer. When a Player other than the Dealer of the Hand (i.e. Players B, C or D) wins the Hand, the Seat Winds rotate in an anticlockwise direction, with Player B taking up the position of the Dealer, while the Prevailing Wind remains as East (東 Dōng) for the next Hand. The rotation continues until Player A (being the First Dealer) takes up the Dealer position again, signifying the end of the first Round of East (東 Dōng) and the start of the second Round of South (南 Nán).

1.5 Mahjong Game, Rounds and Hands
1.5 Mahjong Game, Rounds and Hands

If the Dealer wins or if there is no winner for the Hand, the Dealer, the Prevailing Wind and the Seat Winds do not rotate. Instead, everyone retains their position and plays an additional round with the same Seat Winds and Prevailing Wind. This phenomenon is termed 留庄 (Liú Zhuāng) and repeats until any Player other than the Dealer wins the Hand. Hence, there might be a chance that there are more than 4 Hands for each round, and more than 16 Hands per Game.

The Hands continue to be played and the Game ends when the last Hand (Player D being the Dealer for the Prevailing Wind of North (北 Běi)) finishes.


With this, I have covered the brief overview of Mahjong. Feel free to comment down below if you have any questions.

I will touch on the Rules in Part 2. Stay tuned! 😄


Icons sourced from icons8.

First Post!

After the jumping through multiple hoops, this site is finally up. Created this site to share some of my daily musings along the road of lifelong learning. What a better way to start the site than to share a small nugget of knowledge learn today? 😄

Lorem Ipsum is a placeholder text commonly used to demonstrate the visual form of a document or a typeface without relying on meaningful content. So here’s one paragraph to see how will the posts look like!

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Etiam dignissim ipsum eu nisl porttitor dignissim. Sed tristique tristique neque at porttitor. Fusce porta a mi vitae ornare. Cras tincidunt, augue et gravida semper, orci est lacinia augue, quis porta nulla ante et risus. Vestibulum scelerisque vestibulum diam nec euismod. Quisque id lacus vel nisl lobortis molestie. Ut commodo erat vel neque ullamcorper, sit amet finibus arcu sollicitudin. Vestibulum felis nibh, laoreet at erat nec, pulvinar pharetra eros. Nullam varius dui eu sem elementum consectetur. Pellentesque pulvinar nisl id elit lacinia, sit amet commodo est viverra. Etiam ut massa purus. Duis dapibus et risus ac rutrum. Pellentesque dictum arcu non pretium iaculis. Donec non ex eget purus commodo ultricies.

Last but not least, in the immortal words of Steve Jobs:

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.


Icons sourced from icons8.