How to Play Mahjong Online and Offline to Win

By Anthony

Mahjong is a very popular game played with numerous sets of tiles. You probably have already tried this game original from China, or a version of it, since there are so many different variations. To learn how to play Mahjong and its numerous variations, you first need to discover what is Mahjong and the most important Mahjong rules. We aim to offer you an in-depth guide dedicated to this fascinating, ancient tiles game, so we will cover every important aspect from rules, to odds, and step-by-step instruction for each variant.

Mahjong is a game similar to another Indian-favourite, Rummy, the only difference being that to play Mahjong you need tiles instead of cards. This mind sport was developed in China during the Qing dynasty, and it has evolved and changed ever since, reaching world popularity in the early 20th century.

History of Mahjong

Mahjong was originally invented in China, with the name in Mandarin Chinese literally meaning little sparrows. It was originally called pinyin: máquè (sparrow), allegedly because the tiles shuffling resemble the sounds made by sparrows. The name is spelt in different ways, which should be no surprise since a slightly different variant is played in various regions of Asia (South Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia).

Since the game has rapidly evolved and changed, game experts find it difficult to pinpoint the exact location of its inception. The consensus is that Mahjong started near Shanghai in the 1800s. People loved it and it became popular in Beijing as well, and then it started to grow among the Americans living there. They then brought the game with them home and it gained immense popularity, with the American Mahjong being created in the 1920s.

Since then, Mahjong has taken the world by storm. The game is currently very popular in both the Western and the Eastern world, with unique versions in Thailand, America, and Japan. With the evolution of technology, Mahjong is now available online, so young players start discovering it now. The fact that you can even play Mahjong for free online guarantees that the history of Mahjong will continue to evolve and expand, with people enjoying the game all over the world.

What is Mahjong?

learn what mahjong is

Mah jong is a mind game that mixes strategy and luck. To play the game you need a set of 144 tiles with designs based on Chinese symbols. Keep in mind that some regional versions may remove or add tiles, so the total number varies. The goal of the game is to match all the tiles and clean the table as fast as possible. Since there are so many different versions, you may encounter Mahjong spelt as Mah Jong, Mah Jongg, Mah-jongg or Mah-Jong, depending on the version you are trying to play.

In most styles of Mahjong, each player starts by receiving 13 tiles. Each player then draws and discards tiles to complete a legal hand which includes 4 sets and a pair. There are numerous drawings and Chinese symbols on the tiles, each with a certain value assigned to it. Mahjong can be played by two, three, or four players, depending on the variety chosen. There is also a possibility to play on your own online, so we will also discuss how to play Mahjong Solitaire.

How to Play Mahjong?

In order to play Mahjong (traditional version), you and at least three friends need to gather around a table and shuffle the tiles. The equipment you need includes tiles, 2 dice, 4 scoring cards and optional: 4 racks and pushers.

In most variations, each of you receives 13 tiles at the beginning of the game, then you can pick or discard tiles until you complete a legal hand. A legal hand contains 4 melds, also known as sets and a pairs, sometimes called an eye. There are situations when a player can win using a few special hands. This is the framework of playing most versions of this game, but similarities stop here. Especially the scoring system varies according to each specific variant you choose to play.

We suggest you and the other players settle on the style of game you want to play and the way you want to calculate your scores. From there, start shuffling the tiles and enjoy the game.

Mahjong Players

Mahjong is traditionally played with four players, with the first person who gets a hand of 14 tiles and calls mahjong ending the game. Once the game ends, all the tiles are counted and scored to declare the winner. Players can choose to play until they reach a certain number of points or 16 rounds, or until they agree together that the game is over. However, there are versions to accommodate less or more players, so if only one you and another person want to play, you can, as you can see below.

Two-Player Mah Jong

Two-player Mahjong is usually considered the beginner version of the game. It is obviously less fun than the more challenging version with four players, but you can definitely try it. So how to play Mahjong in just two players? One plays East and the other one takes West. The game proceeds as a regular 4 player game, with the construction of 4 walls and the player choosing East discards first.

Three-Player Mah Jong

The Mahjong game with three players is an adaptation of the standard four-player game, but it comes with its own Mahjong rules. The equipment used is the standard one, with some tiles being removed from the regular set, and certain plays being forbidden. Also, the scoring system is simpler in this version of the game usually played in Japan, Malaysia, and Korea.

Five-Player Mah Jong

To play Five-Player Mah Jong, you will introduce the Red Flowers tiles and remove the Green Flowers. The play is identical to the one in the four-handed game, with the additional player taking a seat between East Wind and North Wind. The fifth player is called North East Wind.

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Mahjong Rules

The basic rules of Mahjong generally apply to most of the versions of the game. The components may vary according to the variant you play since some tiles are required and others are excluded in certain Mahjong versions. The goal of the game stays the same: to get a mahjong, which consists of having four sets and a pair in your 14 tiles.

Components

The basic game includes 136 tiles:

  • 36 characters – suit,
  • 36 bamboos – suit,
  • circles – 36 – suit,
  • 16 wind tiles,
  • 12 dragon tiles.

The suits above (characters, bamboos, and circles) are split into four sets of tiles, with numbers from 1 to 9. Numerous sets also include 8 extra tiles, four with flowers and four with seasons. Keep in mind that these are not mandatory in the basic Mahjong.

You can include a pair of dice in your game-play and you can also have four racks, but they are optional.

Sets & Pairs

As you already know, getting a mahjong means matching all 14 of your tiles into one pair and four sets. A pair contains two identical tiles, while a set can be “pung” or a “chow”. Pung includes three identical tiles and a chow includes three consecutive numbers from the same suit. Keep in mind that you cannot use a single tile in the two sets at the same time.

Game Setup

the game setup in mahjong

First, you need to pick a starting dealer. In the traditional Chinese version, the four wind tiles are placed face down and shuffled, then dealt to the players. The four players take their seats according to their tile in the following order: North, West, then South, and finally East. Traditionally, East begins as the dealer. If you want, you can roll the dice to select the dealer.

All tiles are then shuffled together, and each player builds a wall by placing 34 tiles face-down, 17 tiles in length and two tiles in height. It will look like a square wall of tiles in the middle of the table. The next step is for the dealer to roll the dice and count tiles from the right edge of each wall to the left and separate the wall and begin dealing tiles from the left side, clockwise. Every player gets 13 tiles, only the dealer has 14.

Every player must arrange their own tiles so only they can see them. This is where racks come into play, you can use them to place tiles on display. After this, the dealer discards one tile and the game begins with the player on the left side of the dealer.

How to Play Mahjong: Style

Before making your move, you have to wait for the other players to claim the discarded tile if they need it. Any player who can claim the discarded tile and use it to fulfil a mahjong has priority on the tile. He must then reveal his winning hand and call mahjong.

If this is not the case, any player can claim the tile and use it to complete a pung. He then says “pung” and reveals the two tiles matching the discarded one. The player then discards a new tile and the turn passes to the player on the right. In case no one claims the tile, but you can use it to complete a chow, you can claim it by saying “chow”. You have to show your completed chow and then discard a new tile. Then the next player gets their turn.

Important

Please note that some players also include a “Kong” which is four of the same, so like a bigger pung. A Kong is claimed as any regular set, but the player who completed it immediately picks an extra tile and then discards their tile.


The hand end is the final hand, when a player declared mahjong and then reveals a complete 14-tile hand with a pair and four sets. If nobody declares it the game ends in a draw and the dealer shuffles the tiles again.

Scoring & Points

The basic scoring awards one point to the player who achieves the mahjong, so that’s the winner. We suggest using this method as a beginner, so you don’t overcomplicate things. More complex scoring systems also exist, and they vary depending on the region, so you and the other players should agree on the scoring system you want to use before starting the game.

Bonus points are awarded for not winning with a discarded tile, or for winning with the last tile available, or for getting a pung of dragons. If you go for exponential scoring systems, then each pung gets you 2 points, which gets doubled when the pung is not revealed, or if it includes nines or ones, and a kong gets doubled twice!

Variations of Mahjong

Mahjong comes in many shapes and sizes, but the most common versions are Chinese, Japanese, Cantonese or Hong Kong, and Western or American.

Chinese Classical Mahjong

Usually people refer to the Chinese classical form of Mahjong as the baseline for this game. Almost all other variations originate in the classical Chinese game, so this is the original. People often return to the Chinese Mahjong for the authentic experience, when they feel that the other versions are a bit too challenging.

Japanese Mahjong

Japanese Mahjong or riichi Mahjong is a variation of the game that maintains the basic rules of the game, but adds a few new ones. Richii and dora are the most important elements coming on top of the basic Mahjong rules. Riichi means announcing a ready hand, while dora are bonus tiles that have the power to add more value to regular tiles. Also, the Japanese terms pon, chii, and kan replace the traditional terms like pung, chow, and kong.

Cantonese Mahjong

Cantonese or Hong Kong Mahjong is arguably the most popular form of this game. The main difference in rules as opposed to the standard version is that it is not allowed for more than one player to win using one discarded tile.

Western Classical Mahjong

Western Classical Mahjong, usually referred to as American Mahjong, comes in several variations. The most important aspect is that these variations include joker tiles and allow a series of five of a kind.

Online Mahjong Games

Luckily, we live in a time when Mahjong fans can easily access and play this game online. You can even play Mahjong for free without leaving your home! There are plenty of online casinos that offer Indians a chance to try this game from the comfort of their home: you can play against other players, or play Mahjong Solitaire that you can enjoy on your own.

To learn how to play Mahjong Titans or even how to win Mahjong Titans, simply install this Microsoft game and give it a go. The rules are intuitive and respect the basic Mahjong version, where you make pairs of matching tiles. If you manage to clean the table, you win the respective hand! Mahjong Titans is probably the most well-known version of the online game, with Mahjong Solitaire coming a close second. That’s why many people ask how to play Mahjong Solitaire? You simply choose the layout of the tiles (it can be pyramid, square, or classic), and then start clicking on tiles that make pairs. Start with the ones on the sides and continue until you match all your tiles.

When you want to learn how to play Mahjong King, you first need to install the game. Don’t worry this is a version of Mahjong that you can play for free! You can pick your layout and then start matching your tiles in pairs. That’s it!

Mahjong Tips

Before starting your adventure and learning how to play Mahjong against other players, you need to check out our tips. These will elevate your gameplay and take it to the next level, improving your odds of winning!

  • Arrange your tiles on your rack carefully, so it is easy for you to notice the hand you have. This way you will not miss any opportunities.
  • Take it to the next level by arranging your tiles from the same suit together, based on their value.
  • Be careful not to make your moves evident for your opponents to notice and take advantage of this.
  • Pay attention to the tiles you pick up because the rules dictate that you can pick discarded tiles you want to use for a chow, pung, or kong. Experienced players can keep track of this and understand the sequences you are trying to make.
  • Stick to your plan, but be flexible and patient. If the winning hand you were planning on is not happening, adapt and try to come up with another strategy before another player gets the winning hand.

How to Win in Mahjong

Generally, the traditional Mahjong game ends when a player gets the winning hand which consists of 4 melds and a pair. Points are awarded for matching the winning hand with a specific set of rules, depending on the type of Mahjong game you are playing.

Important

When you are playing in real life against other players, make sure you establish these rules from the very beginning, so there is no confusion.

An important thing to keep in mind in order to win this game is that Mahjong is not only a luck game, it mixes skill, calculation, and strategy. So it is more similar to poker than to lotto games in this respect.

How to Withdraw Winnings on Online Mahjong

When you play Mahjong online and you win, you will want to withdraw your cash immediately. There is nothing easier since most online casinos offer you 24-hour withdrawal times. All you need to do is access your personal account on the respective platform and submit a cash withdrawal request. You have the step-by-step instructions below:

  1. Access your personal casino account and click on your balance. This option is usually available under your username.
  2. Locate the Withdrawal option on this page and click to access it.
  3. Pick your favourite withdrawal option from the list. This usually includes cards, e-wallets, or bank transfers. Make sure the money is available in your balance and then type in the amount you want to withdraw.
  4. Click the withdrawal button and then wait for the casino to process your requirement. It usually won’t take longer than 24 hours for you to get your winnings.
how to play mahjong

Conclusion

We are pretty sure that how to play Mahjong in no longer a mystery for you, be it how to play Mahjong online or offline with your friends. This is an ancient game that has taken the world by storm, being a popular and fun way to pass the time. Its multiple variations, Chinese Mahjong, Japanese and American/ Western Mahjong are popular with players everywhere, and we are sure you will enjoy it as well. So get your own set of Mahjong tiles or access the game online and start playing for free! You might end up with some money in our pocket simply for knowing how to play Mahjong successfully!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any free Mah Jongg games free online?

Yes! You can play multiple Mah Jongg variations for free online by downloading the games, installing a game app, or accessing an online casino that has Mah Jongg games in its portfolio.

Is mahjong good for your brain?

Absolutely! Mahjong is a combination of strategy, technique, and a bit of luck, so this game has a lot in common with poker. The Mahjong rules make this game a mind game, so it is highly recommended for everyone who wants to maintain their brain in good health.

How to play Mahjong online?

To play Mahjong online you have to access a casino that offers the game in its portfolio and pick your favourite version. You can also install the games from Microsoft or app games that you can download if you want to play on your phone.

How to play Mahjong for free?

If you want to play Mahjong for free, you have to play online using apps or installations that are free to install.

What’s the best Mahjong app?

There are a lot of Mahjong apps available, but the most popular are Mahjong Gold, Stacker Mahjong 3D, and Mahjong Mystery, with the first two available for Android and iOS, and the last one only on Android.

What is the difference between American Mahjong and Chinese Mahjong?

The main difference between American Mahjong and Chinese Mahjong is that the traditional Chinese game uses 144 tiles, and the American game uses 8 additional joker tiles.

Can you play Mahjong alone?

Yes! It is very easy to play Mahjong Solitaire online, and you don’t need other players. You simply play against the computer.

December 29, 2020