To play Mah Jongg, you first need to know that there are three different suits for the tiles. They are the circle, bamboo, and character suits. Each suit has four tiles from one to nine. In the bamboo suit the bird is a one. In addition to the numbered suits, there are four tiles for each of the four winds and four tiles for each of the three dragons. The dragons are green, red, and white.
To start the hand there needs to be four players, and each player sits at one of the compass points. Each player will shuffle the tiles as is done in dominoes, with the tiles facing down. Then the players draw out 34 tiles and arrange them in stacks of two to form a wall. Each player’s wall is pushed together to form a square like a city wall.
The player in position “East” will roll the dice to decide who breaks the wall, then counting himself as one in a counterclockwise rotation will count each player until he reaches the number on the dice. That player rolls the dice again, then counts the total of dice rolls one and two. Then the selected player counts that number along his “wall” from right to left. The two stacks after the counted tile are taken by the dealer, and the next two are taken by the player to his right and so on until each player takes 3 double stacks. After twelve tiles are taken each player takes one more for a total of thirteen, then the dealer takes one more to give him the discard to start the game. The remaining seven stacks are separated and not used during game play.
Playing the game happens in turns going counterclockwise. The players then draw a tile from the break and work to the separated tiles. Once a tile is drawn, one has to be discarded. Each player must keep thirteen tiles in hand.
When you want to pick up a discard, you must announce your intentions. The tile you pick up must also be used to complete a set. When a discard is taken it is placed in the up position to prove it’s a set and that it was drawn correctly.
To win a hand you need to get triples, quadruples, or three in a row of the same suit. Once you get four each and a pair in your hand you earn Mah Jongg and win the hand.
Scoring in Mah Jongg is 20 points awarded to each hand winner. Each player tallies up their points as follows: 3 of a kind is worth 2 points if revealed and 4 in the hand, 3 ones or nines are four or eight, 3 of any wind group or 3 of any dragon group is four or eight, four of a kind is eight or sixteen, four ones or nines are 16 or 32, four wind or dragon groups is 16 or 32, and a pair of dragons per players’ wind group is worth 2 points. The higher number is for ‘in hand’ and the lower is for revealed tiles. Double scoring only happens if a player has three or four of his own wind or dragon groups, based on the dealer position. A winning hand is also a hand of one suit with a pair of dragons or winds, and an 8-times score is won if a player has a hand of just one suit.
A full game is defined as at least 16 hands or each player has been the dealer four times, whichever comes first. The deal rotates to the right unless the dealer won, then he remains the dealer.