The Rules of Mah Jong
There are multitudinous rules to Mah Jong, and the rules differ depending on who is playing the game. There are groups that have attempted to standardize the rules, but despite that there is slight variation in the rules in different areas and with different players.
The game is conducted in an orderly fashion with each player getting a turn. When a turn happens, the player whose turn it is picks up a tile from the "wall" of tiles laid out. They then discard or throw away a tile in the centre. It is optional, but the player can announce to the other players what the tile was.
The players continue in this fashion until one of the players gets a legal hand, or one of four actions are taken by players that interrupts the play. But if the player gets a legal hand, the player calls out "Mah Jong" and shows the other players his or her hand.
There are four interruptions that can happen during play and they are described as follows:
1. Flower or Season – whenever the player pulls a tile that is a flower or a season, they first alert the other players as to what it is and then it is put down to the side. It is not counted as part of the payer's hand, but if it is a winning hand it enables the player to get a bonus point. Then, the last tile of the wall is taken, and this becomes a replacement tile which ensures that the player has all fourteen tiles needed prior to them discarding a tile.
2. Stealing or melding a tile another player throws away -- When one of the players throws down a tile, any of the other players can "call" or make a bid for that particular tile. The downside to taking this action is that the player is forced to show their set of tiles that they are using the one tile to complete to all the other players.
When two or more players put a call or make a bid for the same tile that was thrown down, the player who would win the hand with the tile is allowed to have it. This is followed by those people who would have a meld if they got the tile. When a player has a meld, it is called Pong or sometimes Chow.
3. Going Mah Jong – This occurs when a player can make use of a tile that another player has thrown away to complete their hand. When this happens, they call out "Mah Jong", grab the tile, and show their hand to the other players. This finishes the hand and scoring begins.
4. Robbing a King – This is something that happens very infrequently in the game of Mah Jong, but it does happen sometimes. This is a type of move made when a player declares a kong. They do this by adding a fourth tile to a pong to make a kong, or declaring a hidden kong. What also has to happen is another player or players can use the tile to make their hand complete. A player ias able to steal the tile from the player who is declaring the kong and "go Mah Jong" or be the victor of that particular hand.
What does it take to win a hand in Mah Jong? In order to claim victory, you must have 14 tiles. This consists of the 13 tiles plus the extra tile you can acquire by stealing it when another player puts it down in the discard pile or when it is gotten from the wall. If the former happens, it is referred to as "winning by discard". With the latter, it is called "winning from the wall".
A winning hand in Mah Jong has four melds, which are a particular pattern made from three pieces. You also need what are referred to as the eyes, which are two tiles that are absolutely identical n appearance.
Melds or Hands
There are four kinds of melds, which are listed below.
Pong · Kong · Chow · Eyes
Pong is created when the player has a set of three matching tiles. You can use any of the tiles to make a pong, with the exception of the flower tiles. When you draw a flower tile, you have to put it aside for the bonus portion of the game. When you make a pong, all the tiles have to be identical, meaning that you cannot mix any of the suits.
Kong is created when you get a set of four identical tiles. This is basically the same as a pong, with the only difference being that you need an additional tile to make a set of four, rather than just three matching tiles. You can make a kong using three distinct methods:
Concealed or Hidden Kong – A player reveals the meld and putting two tiles face up in the middle and the other two tiles on the ends face down. The more hidden pongs or kongs you have, the more points you get.
Tolen Kong -- If another player throws away a piece and a player has in his or her possession the remaining three matching tiles in their hand, a stolen kong occurs. The player puts three tiles face down and the fourth tile face up on top of the centre tile.
If a pong has already been made into a hand (melded) and that particular player draws a fourth tile from the wall, this also creates a kong. The player can put the tile resting atop the middle tile in the meld made from the pong.
No matter which way a kong is formed, the player must take an extra tile from the end of the wall and then throw a tile away. As far as scoring is considered, kongs provide players with extra points.
A Chow is a series of three tiles that are all of the same suit. This is a meld of the tiles. This meld has to follow a numerical order (for example, 4,5,6). You cannot skip any numbers, and you cannot go straight from nine to one or vice versa. You cannot use seasons, flowers or honours to create a chow. A player can steal a thrown away tile to create a chow from the player who has their turn before them, as long as the player did not make a pong or a kong.
Finally, there are The Eyes. Eyes are a pair of tiles that are identical. You cannot make eyes from a tile that has been thrown away, unless you can make your hand complete by doing so.