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Rules Variants for Japanese-style Mahjong

Mistakes in Gameplay

If at any time a player has a wrong number of tiles in his hand, he becomes a dead weight. He goes on playing as usual, but he is not allowed to go out for the rest of the current deal.
If a player deliberately reveals any of his, or any other player’s, tiles, he becomes a dead weight.
If a player melds a set which is only afterwards noticed to contain inappropriate tiles, the set remains as it is, and the player becomes a dead weight.
If a player declares ‘out’, but fails to produce the required four sets and a pair, he is penalize by not being allowed to go out until his next turn. However, if any of the other players has already revealed some or all of his tiles after the incorrect declaration, the deal has to be interrupted, and the offending player pays half the scoring limit to each other player (East pays double, receives double).
If a player mistakenly discards a tile he didn’t want to, he cannot take it back after it has touched the playing surface.
If, when building the wall, a tile is revealed, that side of the wall is completely rebuilt.
If a player accidentally reveals a tile he is about to take, he will have to take it anyway.
If any other tile is revealed during the game, it is shuffled with a couple of stacks from each wall, and the appropriate portion of the wall is rebuilt. Another, simpler method is to mix the tile with six adjacent stacks. Shuffling is especially necessary when the revealed tile is from the dead wall and/or is a honour tile.
When a player declares his intention to claim a discard, but changes his mind and decides not to meld his set (or cannot do it), he forfeits 100 points to the winner of the deal.

Mahjong for an Unusual Number of Players

Two-player game: The players are East and West. Claiming discards for sequences is forbidden, and the winning hand has to contain at least four doubles. (Ridiculous.)
Three-player game, version 1: Four rounds are played, with three deals in each. The first deal of the round has no West player (or West tiles), the second has no South, and the third no North. Three 16-stack-long walls are built, after which each player takes 12 tiles at random from the tiles remaining on the table. After opening the gate, East takes two tiles (one stack), and the other two take one stack each. The game is otherwise played as a normal four-player game. A three-player game is a barely sufferable version of the standard game. It breaks the delicate probability structures which make Mahjong  the balanced and enjoyable game it is, and works suprisingly badly. We can’t recommend this – do find the fourth player.
Three-player game, version 2: The North player is removed, and north wind tiles are considered a ‘fourth dragon’. Only three rounds are played. (This doesn’t work too well, either. See above.)
Five-player (or more) game: Before the game is started, one (or more) suit tiles are shuffled together with one of each wind tile, and each player takes one tile at random. Those who got a suit tile are out of the game for the first deal. After each deal, East leaves the game, and the next one of the players currently out comes in as North for the next deal. One round consists of as many deals as there are players, and the whole game of four rounds, as usual. (Works quite nicely.)

Preliminaries for the Game and the Deals

Breaking the wall with only one roll of dice: The dice are only rolled once when breaking the wall: the number shows both the player and the exact position of the breach.
Loose tiles: When separating the dead wall, the very last stack is placed on top of the dead wall, ‘on the roof’. The lower tile of the stack is dropped on the dead wall close to the breach, and the upper one a bit farther. When drawing supplementary tiles the latter one is drawn first, and when both roof tiles have been taken, new loose tiles are placed in the same manner. This custom which has no effect on the actual game at all is nowadays a bit old-fashioned, but we like it.
Changing seats: Instead of changing which wind corresponds to which seat during the game, the players themselves change seats around the table (clockwise) and the seats of the winds remain constant for the whole game. 

Draw Rules

Nine orphans: If a player has nine or more different terminals or honours in the first fourteen tiles drawn from the wall (the dealt hand + the tile drawn on the first turn), he may demand the deal to be declared a draw. This demand has to be made during the first round of turns, before anyone has melded anything. Some players award the player points for this: every other player pays him 50 pts., if he had nine ‘orphans’, 70 if he had 10, 100 if he had 11, 150 if 12, and 200 if 13.
Four fours: When a total of four fours have been made, the deal is concluded in a draw. An exception to this is made if the ‘Heavenly Joy’ limit hand is used, and the same player has all the four sets, but a fifth set of four always halts the deal.
Identical first discards: If all four players discard the same tile on their first turn, the deal is considered a draw.
Three players ‘out’ on same discard: if all three opponents declare ‘out’ on a players discard, none of them gets the tile, and the deal is declared a draw.
Passing the deal: Normally, the deal passes after a draw, but some players let East remain where it is, although this is not counted as an extra deal for the current East. A variation of this is that the deal passes if East was not ready when the draw was declared.


Fishing: Declaring ‘ready’ (or ‘fishing’, or ‘sitting on a rock’), is popular Japanese rule which affects the game quite profoundly. A ready player with a concealed hand may, when making a discard on his own turn, inform the other players that he is ‘ready’. He now places his discard in his discard row turned 90 degrees clockwise, and places the tiles in his hand face down (and, if bones are used, puts a 100-point-bone on top of the hand). After this point, he may not look at his tiles or modify it, but his turns consist only of drawing a tile from the wall and discarding it, if it doesn’t complete his hand. The player is obliged to go out immediately if he can, even if he (to make a higher scoring hand), might have preferred to have used another tile to win. If the player wins the deal, he gets one extra double, but if someone else wins, the ‘fishing’ player must pay him 100 points. If this rule is used, the limit should probably be raised to 1000 or 1500 points, and preferably a different scoring system altogether should be used.

Sacred Discards

Completely sacred discards: If a player, on any previous turn, has discarded a certain tile, he may not use this tile to go out for the rest of the deal, except by drawing it from the wall. Even if the ‘fishing’ rule is used, a player with a sacred discard may not declare ‘ready’.
1-4-7 rule: In addition to the above sacred discard rule, a player may not use any discard three numbers separated from any of his discards to go out. For example, if a player has discarded a dot-4, he may not go out on a discarded dot-1, dot-4, or a dot-7. (Especially experts often use this rule, or so we’re told. :-))
Declaring a sacred discard: If any additional sacred discard rules are used, a player may give a warning to the other players that he has made a sacred discard, after which he is no longer considered to have made any.

‘Insurance Penalties’

Player A has two triplets (or fours) of dragons. Player B discards the third dragon and player A uses it to meld a third dragon set. If player a later goes out in any manner, player B pays him for the limit hand.
Player A has three triplets (or fours) of winds. Player B discards the fourth wind and player A uses it to meld a fourth wind set. If player a later goes out in any manner, player B pays him for the limit hand.
Player A has three triplets (or fours) of honours. Player B discards an honour tile and player A uses it to meld a fourth set of honours. If player a later goes out by drawing an honour from the wall, player B pays him for the limit hand.
Player A has three triplets (or fours) of terminals. Player B discards a terminal tile and player A uses it to meld a fourth set of terminals. If player a later goes out by drawing a terminal from the wall, player B pays him for the limit hand.
Player A has three sets (or fours) of green tiles. Player B discards a green tile and player A uses it to meld a fourth green set. If player a later goes out by drawing a green tile from the wall, player B pays him for the limit hand. (Use this only if the ‘All Green’ limit hand is also used.)

Miscellaneous Rules

One double rule: The winning hand must contain at least one double.
High stakes in extra deals: At the beginning of a dealer’s extra hand, each player has to place an extra bet amount of 100 points times the number of the (consecutive) extra deal. That is, in the first extra deal, everyone places an extra bet of 100 points; if East wins again, the extra bet is 200 points, etc. The winner of the deal gets all the extra points as well.
‘Out’ with the same discard, a variation: Instead of the normal rule, those players who need the discarded tile to complete the pair have highest priority. Next come the players who need the tile for a pung, and last the players who wanted the discard to complete their hand with a chow. Another variation gives East the first chance to claim the tile.


Ignoring certain point values: If the hand is completely concealed, the two points for drawing the winning tile from the wall may be ignored.
Payment after drawn games: If three players have ready hands at the moment a draw was declared, the player with the non-ready hand pays each of them 200 points. If two players were ready, pay each of the other two 150 points to each of the ready players. If only one player was ready, each of the others pays him 200 points.


Concealed triplets in a four-triplet hand: A four triplet hand is worth two doubles if one or two of the triplets are concealed, three if three are (in the basic rules the doubles gained would be one and two, respectively).
Concealed triplets: Three concealed triplets is worth two doubles (one in the basic rules).
Three fours: A hand with three fours gets one double.
Three consecutive sequences in the same suit: If all three of the sequences are concealed, the hand gets two doubles, instead of the one double in the basic rules.
Similar sequences from each of the three suits: one double.
Three similar triplets from each of the three suits: one double.
Identical sequences Two identical concealed sequences (same suit, same numbers) are worth one double. Three are worth two, if they are all concealed, but if even one of them is melded, one only gets one double.
One suit with honors: Two doubles instead of the usual one double.
Small three dragons: Two doubles instead of the usual one double.
Fishing: one double (see above).

Special Hands

The following hands are worth the scoring limit in points, unless otherwise mentioned. Some of the hands do not conform to the usual four sets plus pair structure.


Seven pairs: 100 points, which can receive doubles as usual.
The Moon from the Bottom of the Sea : Going out with dot-1, which is the last tile of the wall, or the last discard. (This is a special hand of Chinese origin.)
Plum Blossom from the Roof : Going out with dot-5, which is drawn as a supplementary tile from the dead wall. (This is a special hand of Chinese origin.)
Scratching a Carrying Pole: Going out by robbing a kong of bamboo-2’s. (This is a special hand of Chinese origin.)
Kong on Kong: Going out with a supplementary tile, which was drawn while making a four, the fourth tile of which came as the supplementary tile of another kong. (This is a special hand of Chinese origin.)
All Green: The winning hand only includes ‘green dragons’ and the bamboos 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8. These tiles must form sets and a pair as usual. This limit hand can only be used if (as is usual) the said tiles are colored green in the Mahjong set that is being used. (This is a special hand of Chinese origin.)
Eighth extra hand : If East wins his eighth consecutive extra hand, the hand automatically scores a limit. After this, the deal passes to the next player.
Heavenly Joy : Four fours (and a pair).



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