Errors and Penalties

Make sure your mahjong group agrees on which penalties you will enforce.

Minor Penalties

For the following errors, the offender pays no penalty.

  1. Player calls discard incorrectly.
  2. Player draws incorrect tile from the wall.
  3. Player accidently dislodges a tile from the wall.

For 2 and 3, if no players saw the tile, then put the tile back where it was. If the tile was seen, then show the tile to all players, break down part of the wall, shuffle in the tile, then rebuild the wall.

Major Penalties

If players commit the following errors, then they cannot call mahjong for that hand. The best they can do is work toward a draw.

  1. Long hand: Player has too many tiles.
  2. Short hand: Player has too few tiles.
  3. Player claims discard, but discovers that he can't meld. The player returns the discard to the discard area, and play proceeds normally.
  4. Player claims discard and lays down a melded set, but the set isn't a chow, pung, or kong. The exposed set remains exposed, the player discards a tile (as if it was a valid melded set), and play proceeds normally.

More Major Penalties

For the following errors, the offending player may not win the hand and must forfeit points.

False Mahjong

If a player declares mahjong but does not have a valid mahjong hand, then the player cannot win the hand and must pay the other players for the mistake. Depending on how harsh your mahjong group is, you can make the offender pay as low as one-fourth of the limit, or as high as the limit. If the player called mahjong on a self-drawn tile, then the player discards a tile and play proceeds normally. If the player called mahjong on a discard, then the player returns the discard to the discard area and play proceeds normally.

Risky Discards I

If a player (henceforth known as the limitmaker) has enough melded sets that go towards a high-scoring hand, then certain tiles become risky to discard. Consider the following situations.

  1. The limitmaker has two melded pungs of dragons. Discarding the third dragon may cause the player to win with Big Three Dragons or Little Three Dragons.
  2. The limitmaker has three melded pungs of winds. Discarding the fourth wind may cause the player to win with Big Four Winds or Little Four Winds.
  3. The limitmaker has three melded sets of the same suit. Discarding any tile of the same suit may cause the player to win with a Full Flush.
  4. The limitmaker has three melded sets of honors. Discarding any honor may cause the player to win with All Honors.
  5. The limitmaker has three melded set of terminals. Discarding any terminal may cause the player to win with All Terminals.

If another player discards the risky tile, there situation can play out in one of the following ways:

  1. The limitmaker wins on the risky discard, and the risky discarder must pay for all players.
  2. The limitmaker melds the risky discard to make a set that goes towards the high-scoring hand. If the limitmaker wins by self-draw on a later turn, the risky discarder must pay for all players.
  3. The limitmaker melds the risky discard to make a set that goes towards the high-scoring hand. If the limitmaker wins on another risky discard from the same player, the risky discarder must pay for all players.
  4. The limitmaker melds the risky discard to make a set that goes towards the high-scoring hand. If a different player makes a risky discard which causes the limitmaker to win, then both risky discarders must pay, but the other player does not need to pay.

Risky Discards II

A player must pay for the others if:

  1. there are five or fewer playable tiles left in the wall,
  2. the player discards the winning tile,
  3. and the winning tile is one that has not been discarded or melded previously during that hand.

Penalties in tournaments

Official tournaments use their own penalty systems. Refer to Chinese Official Rules or the WSOM website.

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