Frequently Asked Questions

What mahjong is

The mahjong that is mentioned refers to the four-player game. (It may be spelled mahjongg, mah-jong, majan — but we'll stick with 'mahjong' for convention's sake). It is usually compared to the card game rummy because they share some similarities. However, mahjong is played all over the world, so many regional variations exist — just as many variations of poker exist. There is 'one way' to play mahjong and like so, the terminology may be different from one table to the next.

The object of the game is to complete four sets of three tiles and one pair.* Players compete against one another for points which is attributed to specific hands. The player to complete their hand first is the one to receive points. The more difficult or rarer the hand, the more points it is worth. Thus, a player has to determine if he should strive to construct a high-scoring hand which will take longer to develop, or go for a low-scoring hand with the chance of winning first. The game is mix of luck and skill. Mahjong can also be adapted for three or five players.

A set amount of hands or rounds are played and at the end the winner is determined by the player who has the most number of points and not the number of wins.

* An exception to this is Taiwanese and Filipino mahjong which require five sets instead of four and American mahjong which doesn't follow a strict archetype.

What mahjong isn't

  • A tile matching solitaire game using set patterns (i.e. a turtle or cat).
  • A strictly feminine or masculine game.

How?

How do I play/go about playing? The principles of mahjong are fairly the same across all variations. The differences mainly lie in the scoring systems used. In order to learn how to play it would be best to read the basic rules section. It will give you the gist on how to play thirteen tile mahjong.

Who?

Who can I play? First off find some friends! If you do not have enough players but are interested in learning how to play, or you are interested but don't want to invest a in purchasing a set just yet, an ideal place to start would be to play online. Playing against computer players is a good way to get a grasp on the game mechanics without offending other players. Other ideal places would be craigslist.org, online message boards, associations or even mahjong clubs at a college or rec center.

Which?

Which style of mahjong should I play? We recommend visiting sloperama's FAQ #2. Taking the short questionnaire should give you a general direction on which rules you might like. Next, trying reading up on the rules and see which one best fits you.

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