How To Play Mahjong
Starting a Mahjong Hand
At the beginning of play, each of the four players sits at each side of a square table.
The square table allows the players to be of equal distance from each other. Each side of the table represents the four winds, north, south, east and west.
All the tiles are placed face down on the table and are shuffled around. Each player collects 36 tiles and arranges them in 2 rows of 18, one row stacked on top of the other.
The stacks are then pushed to the middle of the table to form a square.
The player designated as the east has the duty of rolling the two dice.
Counting himself as "1" and the player to his right as "2," the east player continues counting in a counter clockwise direction until he hits the number rolled on the two dice.
Seven stacks are counted from right to left on the selected player’s wall.
This is set aside for the exchange of flowers later in the game. From that point, the place where the players may begin to take tiles is decided.
The player who is selected, as a result of the number rolled on the dice the first time, has to roll again to determine where along his wall the other players may start taking tiles. The points where the tiles are taken from the wall are decided by counting from the rightmost part of the wall (after the flowers stack is counted) and proceeding to the left until the required number is reached. At that point, the east player takes 2 stacks of 2 tiles (4 tiles total) and is followed by the player to his right taking the same amount. This process continues in a counter clockwise direction until all players have taken 3 double stacks (total 12 tiles).
Each player then takes 1 more tile for a total of 13 tiles in each player's hand. The east player takes 1 more tile after all players have 13 tiles for a total of 14 tiles. This is so the east player can begin the round by discarding one of his tiles. After receiving all of their tiles, each player usually arrange their tiles in order. Any flowers that a player receives in his hand is "retired" to the right hand corner of the table, face up. A tile is drawn from the flower pile to make up for the retired tile. The flowers earn extra points.
Playing a Mahjong Hand
After the east player discards a tile, the player to his right picks up a tile from where the wall was left off. The player decides if he wants to keep the tile or not. If he does keep the tile from the wall, he must discard another tile from his hand, keeping his hand at the original number of 13 tiles. If he decides the tile is useless, he simply discards it in the middle of the wall formation. This process continues with each player in a counter clockwise direction.
Players may not always need to draw from the wall. If a player sees that he can fill one of his sequences in his hand with a discarded tile, he may do so instead of drawing from the wall. A player who intends to pick up a discarded tile must announce his intentions by saying "chow," "pung, or "kong." A "chow" is a sequence of three tiles in the same suit (i.e. 4, 5, 6 of the bamboo suit). A "pung" is 3 identical tiles of the same suit and a "kong" is 4 identical tiles of the same suit. For example, if a player has 2, number 4 tiles of the bamboo suit and a number 4 tile of the bamboo suit is discarded, he may say "pung" to complete his sequence. After a sequence is completed from a discarded tile, the sequence must be "retired" at the right corner of the table for two reasons: to eliminate it from the player’s hand and to prove there really is a sequence.
Then the player must discard one of his tiles from his hand. The player sitting to his right goes next. Therefore, the game has a tendency to skip a player's turn. There are some limitations to completing a sequence from discarded tiles. For example, a player may only "chow" from the player to his left. Also, if two players simultaneously shout "pung" and "chow," "pung" always takes precedence. If a player decides to "kong," he must draw a tile from the flower stack and discard a tile from his hand.
Winning a Mahjong Hand
A player has won when he has completed a combination of 4 triplets, quadruplets or sequences. The "retired" tiles also count toward his combination. In addition, he must also have a pair of identical tiles, sometimes referred to as the "eyes." Therefore, his winning combination would be 2 sequences on hand, 2 "retired" triplets and a pair of "eyes."