IMJ Learning Centre
IMJ Rules: English-Chinese bilingual version
References: EasyPlay | Grade Elements | Conditions of use
Views:
Imj EasyPlay
Copyright 2006 Cofa Tsui. All rights reserved. 2nd edition July 2006. (Updated 2012-03-27)

Play with a goal to meet the world.

Understanding the game and learning to play it, and more!

 

This EasyPlay introduces the mahjong game called International Mahjong that is developed based on the game play of Cantonese Mahjong. INTERNATIONAL MAHJONG® and its short form IMJ® are both registered trademarks and should therefore always be capitalized. Unlike most other variants, International Mahjong comes with a comprehensive set of game rules and the set is properly maintained and managed. All aspects of the game rules can be precisely described and players around the world can communicate and play with one another in mutual understanding. This EasyPlay will introduce, and is based on, the International Mahjong Rules ("IMJ Rules") only; therefore, all rule articles referred to in this EasyPlay are of the IMJ Rules. In addition, this EasyPlay should be used together with the IMJ Rules where most moves and steps of play are described in details. You can view and download the full version of the IMJ Rules via the IMJ Infoweb, located at iMahjong.com.

 

This EasyPlay is written with the new comers in mind. It will introduce the general, but essential, information you would need to know about the game. With this EasyPlay and the IMJ Rules, you should be able to achieve a thorough understanding of the game and be able to play with others with confidence! If you are new to mahjong, read through this EasyPlay several times and from time to time, and you'll be able to get yourself familiarized with the basic knowledge and will soon be a skillful player!

 

1.        General introduction – This EasyPlay assumes you are new to the game of mahjong; or at least new to IMJ. Generally speaking, the "contents" of the game mahjong are quite simple and straight forward. It shouldn't be difficult to learn the contents of the game and to start playing it with confidence - It is the goal of this EasyPlay to teach you just that. However, playing with skill and high level of strategies would require lots of practice and, therefore, is not the scope of this EasyPlay.

 

a.    Brief introduction to terminology: As deviated as the game itself, mahjong terminology is also different from books to books, variants to variants. This situation is not uncommon given the fact that mahjong has been evolved and developed without control for several hundreds of years! Some people insist that a "widely accepted" set of terminology in English already exists; but no one could ever locate such a set. In May 2006 the writer posted a proposed set of World Unified Mahjong Terminology ("WUMT") on the IMJ Infoweb and via the mahjong newsgroup (rec.games.mahjong) for discussions. This terminology set is the first of its kind and will certainly continue to develop. As a reference, this EasyPlay adopts terms and phrases recommended in the WUMT Table.

b.    Brief introduction to game: Mahjong is a game played by four players. The playing pieces can be plastic tiles or paper cards - in IMJ they all are called PAIS. A game is a short playing process. Understandably, in an event or a gathering, many games will be played. To start a game, every player is dealt with a hand of pais: one player is dealt with fourteen pais while all other three players each gets thirteen. The purpose of the game is that each player shall, by means of certain allowed moves, arrange his hand of pais to reach certain predefined combinations, which will then be called a winning hand. The player who has a winning hand is then said to have won the game and is entitled to receiving scores from other players. And, as you read through this EasyPlay further, the "predefined combinations" mentioned above are more precisely called "structures" and "patterns", respectively. In this EasyPlay, section 5 contains introduction to the "winning hand structures" and sections 7 and 8 have more details about "patterns" that may contribute scores or values to a winning hand.

c.    Brief introduction to rules: Mahjong is a game originated in China but no written rules of the origin of the game have ever been found. Over time mahjong has been evolved and developed into many variants. In the future you shall not be surprised to see that mahjong can be played by so many rule sets. However, most variants have similar details in the playing process. The major differences between variants are in the combinations of pais of winning hands and how the hands are scored. Among the variants, Cantonese Mahjong (also known as Hong Kong Style), Taiwanese Mahjong, Chinese Classical, American Mahjong, International Mahjong ("IMJ") and the Chinese Mahjong Competition Rules ("CMCR", published in 1998 by the Chinese government agency for sports), are among the most known game types.

d.    Brief introduction to IMJ: International Mahjong is a mahjong game that is uniquely designed based on Cantonese Mahjong, but further developed from it. Cantonese Mahjong, also known as "Hong Kong Mahjong", is widely played by people in Hong Kong, China and in most parts of the world where the game mahjong is of interest. In addition to the traditional Cantonese Mahjong scoring patterns, IMJ increases the total number of valid patterns to 55 so as to add playability to the game. Score values to the patterns are also carefully adjusted so as to achieve a batter balance between the skill and luck factors of the game. More importantly, a comprehensive rule set is available in writing so that introduction of the game will no longer rely solely on physical practice with trained players, and that the rules of the game will not be deviated while being propagated. You can learn more information about International Mahjong at the IMJ Infoweb.

 

2.        Instrument – A mahjong set shall comprise of 144 pais that are divided into several groups. Each pai can be distinguished by its unique symbolic designs as outlined in the following paragraphs. It is recommended that new comers spend a little more time to recognize and understand these designs and characteristics that come with it.

 

Current display of playing pieces is in IMJ images.
Please click here if you want the playing pieces to be displayed in traditional mahjong images (click here)

a.    Serials: Serials are categorized into three suits. Each suit has 9 titles and each title has 4 identical pais, thus making a total of 108 pieces.

(1)        The Tans – Titled 1 through 9. See further introduction at "The Wans".

(2)        The Soks – Titled 1 through 9. See further introduction at "The Wans".

(3)        The Wans – Titled 1 through 9. We call this group of pais by the number plus the suit name (same for the Tans and the Soks), as in the following examples: 1 Tan, 3 Tan, 8 Sok, a pair of 7 Sok, 345 Wan (three pais of Wan in the sequence of 3, 4 and 5), 5678 Sok (a group of 5, 6, 7, and 8 Sok). Note that when used with the title number (i.e., 1 through 9) the name of the suit shall always be in singular form. The plural form is used only when you mean to refer to the suit generally (e.g., the Tans, the Soks and the Wans).

The Serials
1 Tan 2 Tan 3 Tan 4 Tan 5 Tan 6 Tan 7 Tan 8 Tan 9 Tan
The Tans - Images are displayed in the sort order of 1 Tan through 9 Tan. Memorizing hints: The number of the "dots"; how those dots are arranged; 123 Tan are obvious; 4 Tan looks like 4 dots forming a small "square"; the 7 Tan looks like an open lid (formed by 3 green dots) of a small box (formed by 4 red dots); 8 Tan is in all blue; and lastly, the 9 Tan is bold and is occupying the surface fully. (Hover the cursor over an image to display the title of the pai.)
1 Sok 2 Sok 3 Sok 4 Sok 5 Sok 6 Sok 7 Sok 8 Sok 9 Sok
The Soks - Images are displayed in the sort order of 1 Sok through 9 Sok. Memorizing hints: The number of the "sticks"; how those sticks are arranged; 1 Sok looks like a bird; 234 Sok seem "roomy" while 6789 Sok are very "congested"; titles 23468 are all green; also each image of 6789 Sok is quite distinctive. (Hover the cursor over an image to display the title of the pai.)
1 Wan 2 Wan 3 Wan 4 Wan 5 Wan 6 Wan 7 Wan 8 Wan 9 Wan
The Wans - Images are displayed in the sort order of 1 Wan through 9 Wan. Memorizing hints: The bottom part of the symbols are all the same (the Chinese word for 10,000); upper part is the "number" in Chinese. The memorizing effort is to distinguish the difference in the shape of the numbers and, however, you have to memorize them one on one. (Hover the cursor over an image to display the title of the pai.)

b.    Honours: Honours are categorized into two groups, a total of 28 pieces.

(1)        The Winds: Titled East, South, West and North, each has 4 identical pais, thus making a total of 16 pieces. The Wind pais always have a relation with the sitting sequence of the four players and may affect the scoring of a winning hand. More information on this relation will be explained in section 7.f. There shall be no plural form for individual titles (e.g., A pair of South, three West, two North, four East).

(2)        The Dragons: Titled Red Dragon, Green Dragon and White Dragon, each has 4 identical pais, thus making a total of 12 pieces. (These Dragons are also called Red Centre, Green Fortune and White Board, respectively.) Extra scores may be assigned if a winning hand contains Dragon pais – refer to section 7.g for more information. Again, plural form is not used for individual titles (e.g., A pair of Red, two Green Dragon, three White).

The Honours
East South West North
The Winds - Images are displayed in the order of East, South, West and North. Memorizing hints: The East (Chinese word) looks slim and tall; while the South looks fat and short (a little bit of your imagination is required). The West looks like a small box (square) and the North seems to have lots of horizontal and vertical lines. (Hover the cursor over an image to display the title of the pai.)
Red Dragon Green Dragon White Dragon
The Dragons - Images are displayed in the order of Red Dragon, Green Dragon and White Dragon. Memorizing hints: The names and the colours tell it all! (Hover the cursor over an image to display the title of the pai.)

c.    Flowers: Flowers are categorized into two groups, a total of 8 pieces.

(1)        Blue Flowers: Titled 1 through 4, each has 1 pai, thus making a total of 4 pieces. These Flowers are normally called Blue 1, Blue 3, etc.

(2)        Red Flowers: Titled 1 through 4, each has 1 pai, thus making a total of 4 pieces. These Flowers are normally called Red 2, Red 4, etc.

The Flowers
Blue 1 Blue 2 Blue 3 Blue 4
Blue Flowers - Images are displayed in the order of Blue 1, Blue 2, Blue 3 and Blue 4. Memorizing hints: The Flowers are quite readily distinctive from pais of other groups. The title numbers (1 through 4) and its colour on the symbol will tell its name. (Hover the cursor over an image to display the title of the pai.)
Red 1 Red 2 Red 3 Red 4
Red Flowers - Images are displayed in the order of Red 1, Red 2, Red 3 and Red 4. Memorizing hints: See Blue Flowers above. (Hover the cursor over an image to display the title of the pai.)

 

3.        Accessories – Accessories include the following commonly used items: dice, start indicator, jong indicator and chips. Depending on your situations, the following items may also be included to help make your games more comfortable and enjoyable: game table, table lamp, tile rack, score record sheets, etc. You will easily get familiarized with these items once you've started playing.

 

a.    Dice: Three dices are cast whenever there is a need to determine which player shall have the privilege for certain moves.

b.    Start indicator: An instrument, usually a small plastic pad marked "START", that is used to identify the player who has started the four rounds of games. The start indicator shall remain in its place throughout the four rounds period.

c.    Jong indicator: Usually a small plastic block, which is used to identify a player as the JONGA of the current game (jonga, similar to "dealer" found in most card games, is the player who has the duty to lead the process of a game). The jong indicator is placed on the left hand corner of the player so long as he remains as the jonga. If the jonga loses his hand, he'll pass the jong indicator together with the three dice to the player to his right (called his NEXTA), who shall become the jonga of the new game. The jong indicator shall usually have some small parts that can be switched from time to time to display a Wind name representing the current round of play (i.e., the round of East, South, West or North). When the jong indicator returns and meets the start indicator again, the player who originally started the four rounds of play shall advance the Wind of round on the jong indicator.

d.    Chips: Chips are used to represent the scores, and may be in different colours or may bear various markings to represent different score values. During the game, score values are settled between players by exchanging chips among them. At the beginning of an event, each player shall be assigned 20,000 mados (short for "mahjong dollars", unit used to represent the scores). IMJ recommends that each player shall have a complete set of chips as follows:
Green 5x (2 mados each) + Blue 9x (10 mados each) + Red 9x (100 mados each) + Yellow 4x (1000 mados each) + Purple 3x (5000 mados each)
= 10 + 90 + 900 + 4000 + 15000 = 20,000 mados.

Accessories
Dice Start indicatorJong indicator Jong indicator Jong indicator - Dice removed Chips
a b c d
a. Dice - (no additional comment)
b. Start indicator - Picture shows start indicator and jong indicator placed side by side. It is recommended that the start indicator be in a square or rectangular shape, printed with the "score table" on its surface for handy reference.
c. Jong indicator - Picture shows two jong indicators - One has the dice removed to show how the Wind of the round is changed.
d. Chips - The actual colours and quantity of chips is not important, but each player shall have a total of 20,000 mados before the start of an event.

 

4.        Combinations of pais – A hand of pais (or "a hand") means all pais in a player's possession. In the beginning of a game each player shall have thirteen pais while the jonga (the player who leads the game) shall have fourteen. Your original hand shall, naturally, comprise of pais that are randomly mixed. Your goal is to arrange all pais into certain recognized combinations (explained below) by means of exchanging your pais through certain "moves" of play. Details of all allowed moves are found at section 6 of this EasyPlay. With certain allowed moves you are also required to disclose the combination you have arranged and display it at your left hand corner. Pais of your hand that have not been disclosed is called your CONCEALED HAND (see also section 7.b(6) of this EasyPlay). Below are the brief descriptions of various forms of recognized combination of pais:

 

a.    CHOW: A chow means three pais that are of the same Serial suit, and are in consecutive sequence. Examples: 123 Sok, 678 Tan, 789 Wan. Note that the following combinations are not chows: 891 Wan, 912 Tan. (See samples below.)

b.    PUNG: A pung means three pais that are identical: 777 Sok, 3 Red Dragon, 3 South. (See samples below.)

c.    KONG: A kong means four pais that are identical: 9999 Wan, 4 Green Dragon, 4 North. (See samples below.)

d.    EYES: Eyes (a set of) are defined as two identical pais of any kind in a winning hand that are independent of other combination of pais in the hand. (See samples below.)

e.    PAIR: A pair means two identical pais of any kind, unless specified otherwise.

Combinations Of Pais
a. CHOWS - Images above are samples of four chows: chow of 123 Sok, chow of 678 Tan, chow of 789 Wan and chow of 987 Wan. Note, however, that you don't normally call a chow in a reverse sequence (e.g., "987 Wan"). By nature you can only make chows from the Serials.
These are NOT chows - Note that NONE of the samples above are chows, because chows, by definition, must be pais (a) of the same suite, and (b) in consecutive sequence.
b. PUNGS - Samples of pungs: 7 Sok, Red Dragon and South.
c. KONGS - Samples of kongs: kong of 9 Wan, kong of Green Dragon and kong of North. You can make pungs and kongs from any pais other than Flowers.
d. EYES - Assuming the above is a WINNING HAND (containing typically 14 pais in total), the pair of East is called the EYES (one eye, a pair of eyes, a set of eyes, etc.). The eyes can be made of any pais.
7 Tan 7 Tan North North White Dragon White Dragon 8 Sok 8 Sok 3 Tan 3 Tan 9 Wan 9 Wan 2 Tan 2 Tan
e. PAIRS - The above is a sample of winning hand in the structures of SEVEN PAIRS. It is made up of seven pairs - totaling 14 pais in the hand. (Can you tell the names of these pais in the pairs?)

 

5.        Winning hand – A winning hand is a hand of pais having been arranged in a predefined "structure" recognized as a winning hand. Having a good understanding of the recognized structures (detailed in the following paragraphs) could help you plan to build a winning hand more effectively and efficiently. In International Mahjong, winning hands can be in any of the following structures:

 

a.    Basic structures: All basic structures of winning hand may comprise of either four sets and a pair; or seven pairs only. For the purposes herein, a "set" can be a chow, a pung or a kong, but not a pair. The required "four sets" can be in any combination of chow, pung and kong. There are four basic structures of winning hand as described below (refer also to article 19.1 of the IMJ Rules):

(1)        ALL CHOWS: A basic structure that contains a pair of eyes and four sets of chows only. Note the emphasis of "chows ONLY". Among the four basic winning hand structures, All Chows will give you the MEDIUM grade of value.

Basic Structure - All Chows
Sample 1 - A sample hand in the basic structure of All Chows: comprising of four chows and a set of eyes.
Sample 2 - This All Chows has White Dragon as the eyes.
Sample 3 - Another sample hand of All Chows. Note the differences between the three sample hands: Sample 2 contains only one Serial suite and the Honours while Sample 3 contains one Serial suite only!

(2)        ALL PUNGS: A basic structure that contains a pair of eyes and four sets of pungs only. Note the emphasis of "pungs ONLY". Among the four basic winning hand structures, All Pungs will give you the HIGHEST grade of value. (Note: Generally, if a rule covers pung, it is also valid with kong, but not vice versa - See art. 24.2 of the IMJ Rules. Therefore, in the "pungs only" stipulation above, a kong is also valid.)

Basic Structure - All Pungs
Sample 1 - A sample hand in the structure of All Pungs. Note that there is a kong in the hand and it is still called the All Pungs hand.
Sample 2 - This hand has four kongs in the hand. Since "kong" is also valid in a definition involving "pung", this hand is still qualified for All Pungs.

(3)        THE COWARD: A basic structure that contains a pair of eyes, and four sets of chows and pungs in random combination. Note the emphasis of "chow AND pung". Among the four basic winning hand structures, The Coward will give you the LOWEST grade of value but it is a structure considered the easiest to achieve. (Note: The "kong is also valid" rule also applies here.)

Basic Structure - The Coward
Sample 1 - A sample hand of The Coward, which contains both chow(s) and pung(s) ("kong" is valid as a "pung").
Sample 2 - Another Coward hand, but contains only one Serial suite.

(4)        SEVEN PAIRS: A basic structure that contains seven pairs only. Note the emphasis is on "the form of SEVEN PAIRS ONLY". Among the four basic winning hand structures, Seven Pairs will give you the MEDIUM grade of value.

Basic Structure - Seven Pairs
Sample 1 - A sample hand of Seven Pairs. Note that in a Seven Pairs hand, four identical pais cannot be called a "kong", because the Seven Pairs structure defines that all sets are in pair.
Sample 2 - This sample hand of Seven Pairs contains only one Searial suite and the Honours.
Sample 3 - This Seven Pairs hand also contains a special feature: All pais are Unios (the mix of 1s and 9s of the Terminals and the Honours).

b.    Special winning hands: Winning hands that meet certain predefined criteria. A special winning hand can be in a form of any of the four basic structures, or in any of the forms specified by the rules (refer to article 25 of the IMJ Rules).

 

6.        Actual play, moves and basic rules

 

a.    How to start an event: When four players are in front of the game table and are ready to start, there are several steps to follow in order that a game can actual start. To many new comers these steps could seem complicated. However, these steps are well laid in Chapter Three and Chapter Four of the IMJ Rules - Please refer to these chapters as details will not be repeated here. In summary these chapters cover the following topics in details (article numbers quoted are those of the IMJ Rules):

(1)        determination of the "prerequisite settings" that should remain valid throughout the whole event of play (art. 7);

(2)        the "choosing seats" procedures that determine the sitting positions of players for a four-round period (art. 8);

(3)        how pais are being stacked up as "walls" (art. 10.2);

(4)        how the first jonga is determined (art. 10.3(1)); and

(5)        how players are actually dealt with their first hands of pais (art. 10.4).

b.    How the play should proceed: At the beginning of a game the jonga is dealt with a hand of fourteen pais while each of the other three players shall have thirteen pais in hand. The purpose of the game is that each player shall arrange his hand of pais to become a winning hand. When the winning status is reached a hand shall normally have fourteen pais. Basically, when you have fourteen pais in hand (like the jonga does in the beginning of a game), you must present a winning hand, or you must discard a pai from your concealed hand (any pai of your choice), so that your hand reduces to thirteen pais. On the other hand, if you have thirteen pais in hand you will need to get the 14th pai to your hand in order to arrange the hand into a winning hand. You can obtain the 14th pai through various moves which include: WIN, PUNG, KONG, CHOW or DRAW. Only one move can be executed at a time and each move has a specified level of priority for execution. Once a player has discarded a pai, all other three players shall compete to exercise the only one move allowed. To exercise a move, other than to draw, one must declare it verbally and only the player whose move carries the higher priority is allowed to execute the move. The following sections list those moves in the order of its priority. More details about exercising these moves may be found in article 21 of the IMJ Rules.

(1)        DISCARD: "Discard" may be considered as the "signal" for the qualified players to compete for a turn to perform a move or a series of moves, as well as the "end" of a previous player's turn. In a new game it all starts with the jonga. That is, in the beginning of a game the jonga is dealt with a hand of fourteen pais. If he does not declare win he must end his turn of move(s) by making the first discard of the game. In other part of the game, discard must be exercised by a player who has fourteen pais on hand but does not declare a winning hand status.

(2)        WIN: If a player finds all pais, disclosed or concealed, of his hand together with the pai already discarded can meet the requirements of a winning hand, he can declare WIN. To win, a player must declare "WIN" verbally and disclose all pais of his hand for examination by other players and for determination of rank, and to receive scores from other player(s), and the game is then completed. Win has the highest priority of all moves.

(3)        PUNG or KONG: If a player can form a pung or a kong by combining the discarded pai and corresponding pais in his concealed hand, he can declare PUNG (or KONG). The priority of pung (or kong) is just below win. He must then display the set of pung (or kong) so formed at his left hand corner. If he forms a kong, he can subsequently draw a supplement pai from the tail of the wall. After the pung (or kong) and if he does not declare a winning hand status, he must discard a pai from his concealed hand.

(4)        CHOW: Only the nexta of the player who has just discarded a pai can exercise this move, which carries the lowest priority of all moves. If a player wishing to form a chow of the discarded pai and corresponding pais in his concealed hand, he can display the set of chow so formed at his left hand corner. He performs this move only if he so wishes and no verbal declaration is required. After the chow and if he does not declare a winning hand status, he must discard a pai from his concealed hand.

(5)        DRAW: If none of the moves of win, pung (or kong) and chow is exercised, the nexta of the player who has just discarded a pai must draw a pai from the wall. After having drawn a pai from the wall, he may arrange the pai so drawn together with other pais inside his concealed hand to make sets of chow, pung or kong without disclosing them, or set up a "special kong" (refer to article 22 of the IMJ Rules), or declare win if situation allows. If, however, he eventually does not declare win he must discard a pai, and the pai so discarded may not necessarily be the one just drawn in.

c.    Move at will or move that is mandatory: If you review the previous section carefully you'll see that some moves are mandatory (e.g., discard and draw where applicable) while other moves can be exercised at will. In other word, if you can win, pung, kong or chow, you can either declare it (so as to trigger the competing process), or do nothing by keeping silent. With this freedom, you'll have the opportunity to selectively exercise a move only when it is in your favour, so as to build the better "contents" to your hand (see also section 7.a of this EasyPlay). On the other hand, moves may be restricted by other stipulations, for more details please refer to article 23 and Chapter Eight of the IMJ Rules.

d.    Arranging the pais of a hand: Through the execution of the moves mentioned above a player can arrange his hand of pais into various recognized combinations and therefore advance his hand towards the winning hand status. The competing process among players for a move continues every time a pai is discarded until a winning hand is achieved or until there is no more pai on the wall to be drawn. You are encouraged to go through Chapter Five of the IMJ Rules to learn more details about the moves and about certain restrictions governing the moves.

e.    The winning of a hand and receiving of scores: When your hand reaches a winning hand status you must declare it verbally in order to actually win. There are rules and restrictions governing how a hand can be declared as a winning hand and how scores are to be paid and received among players. Articles 19, 21.1, 29, 30 of the IMJ Rules cover details that apply to all winning hands and winning situations. For new players it could be difficult to assess the correct scores of a winning hand. At the early stage of a learning process players could apply an easy way to bypass this difficulty by assigning a fixed score for every winning hand (regardless of its contents) - players just play for practising purposes. Section 8 of this EasyPlay has more details about scoring of a winning hand.

f.      To remain as jonga or jonga retirement: The jonga status of a player will change if the jonga loses his hand in a game or if the game is ended involving paying and receiving of scores. Have a brief review of articles 12, 13 and 23.10 of the IMJ Rules regarding changing of the jonga status. If you are the jonga in the current game, it is always beneficial if you keep your jonga status for as many games as possible. You can plan this strategy at the beginning of your hand - If you think you could achieve a quick win (probably not of high value), then win quick, and become jonga again in the next game! In contrast, if you are not the jonga of the current game, you could also apply this "win quick" strategy to force the current jonga retire fast!

g.    End of a game and end of an event: If a game is ended because no more pai is left to be drawn and there is no winning hand, a new game shall start all over again without the change of jonga. This rule can be used as another strategy to last a jonga status; in fact it is used very often by experienced players! If a game is ended with a winning hand, score shall be awarded and paid according to stipulations of Chapter Seven of the IMJ Rules. When the whole event is ended, players shall compare their scores on hand and determine the winning players of the event.

 

7.        Patterns, scoring and related characteristics – "Patterns" are various forms of combination of pais, which may contribute scores or values to a winning hand. The size of a pattern could be as small as just one pai (e.g., a Flower), or a set of pung or kong, or as large as the whole hand. You build up various patterns gradually during play while you are also advancing the hand towards the winning hand status. One of the objectives of the game is to win a game and, obviously, to achieve the highest possible scores. A winning hand may be ranked differently (hence the total scores of the hand may vary) based on the patterns the hand could demonstrate. The following paragraphs introduce some general features and characters that come with various patterns. A good understanding of these features and characters could help you plan better in building the patterns of your hand during play, thus could help you achieve the highest possible score of your hand.

 

a.    Building up patterns and planning ahead: As you obtain new pais to your hand by claiming discards of other players and by drawing pais from the wall, you are gradually building up sets of chow, pung or kong to your hand. This is how patterns are built. You can, and should, always plan ahead what patterns should be built. For instant, if your original hand contains many pairs, you might wish to build up patterns of or related to pungs or kongs. As your skill and experience grows, you'll find planning ahead is getting easier. However, skills and strategies require lots of practice to reach its higher levels. So, play often and over time you could become an expert in mahjong!

b.    Various conditions of pais: During play pais can be in various conditions that may restrict your ability to access them or make changes to or about them. Below is a summary explaining various such conditions:

(1)        The wall, the head and the tail: The "wall" is where you can draw a new pai to your hand in your turn of move, and only in your turn of move. You normally draw the pai from the HEAD of the wall. However, when you set up a kong or replace a Flower, you shall draw a pai from the TAIL instead. Refer to articles 10 and 16 (including sub-articles) of the IMJ Rules for more descriptions about the wall, the head and the tail.

(2)        Discarded: When your hand has 14 pais but you do not present a winning hand, you must get rid of a pai by "discarding" it to the centre of the game table (where it is called the FLOOR). Your turn of move ends immediately when you discard a pai. That means, you are not allowed to make any change or do anything, but to let go the discarded pai. You are even not allowed to make correction if you've displayed a set in error - see section (4) below. So, discard wisely and carefully! Your "discarded pai" may then be claimed by other players for the purposes of "winning a hand", "setting up a pung or a kong", or "setting up a chow". Discarded pai that is not claimed immediately by other players shall remain on the floor, and cannot be claimed any more throughout the game.

(3)        Concealed: Pais in a player's hand shall be kept "concealed" at all times unless they are to form a set of chow, pung or kong by claiming a discarded pai. You have the best flexibility with the pais in your concealed hand as you can make sets of or make changes to them anytime you want.

(4)        Displayed: Sets (chows, pungs and kongs) that are formed by claiming a discarded pai must be disclosed and "displayed" on the left hand corner of a player. Displayed pais are part of a player's hand but players are not allowed to make change to the displayed sets. This includes where a set is displayed in error. For example, you've claimed a discarded 3 Sok to form a chow. Instead of disclosing a 4 Sok and a 5 Sok from your concealed hand, you have picked a 6 Sok and a 5 Sok to display a set of 365 Sok without knowing the mistake. After you have discarded a pai, you will not be allowed to correct the mistake any more. However, if such error happens to you, you have no obligation to tell other players about the error. Keep silent as some players may not discover the error and may continue to play defensively which will be to your benefit. (Note: you can always correct the mistake if you find out immediately, but only BEFORE you have discarded a pai.)

(5)        Exposed: When you disclose one pai from your concealed hand to set up a "melded kong", or disclose four pais at the same time to set up a "concealed kong", you are disclosing a pai that is fresh to other players. It is similar to, although not the same as, discarding a pai. Other players can claim your disclosed pai to win (this is called "robbing a kong" - refer to article 23.7 of the IMJ Rules). In IMJ Rules, disclosing a pai for the purpose of setting up a melded kong or concealed kong, and discarding a pai to the floor, are summarized as "exposing" a pai. In both scenarios, you are exposing a pai from your concealed hand and the exposed pai can be claimed by other players for the purpose of winning a hand (article 23.6 of the IMJ Rules). So, expose cautiously!

(6)        A hand: A hand of pais of a player is defined as all pais in the possession of the player, including pais disclosed but kept in his display line and pais kept in his concealed hand, as well as pai obtainable in his turn of move. "Obtainable in his turn of move" includes claiming a discarded pai to set up a pung, a kong or a chow, or to win. If you do not declare win while you have fourteen pais in hand, you must discard a pai (any pai in your concealed hand) so that your hand reduces to thirteen pais. For the purpose of calculation under this rule, disclosed Flowers are not counted, any disclosed kong (four pais) is to be counted three pais only and all other pais are counted in unit of pai. This rule may be found in article 18 of the IMJ Rules.

(7)        Counting of pais: Remember that each title of pai, other than Flowers, has four identical pieces only (see section 2). If you are waiting for a particular pai to win a hand, be sure to look up how many of this particular pai have been disclosed (on the floor or on the display lines of all players). If you see that all four pieces of this particular pai are disclosed, you will have to change to wait for another pai for your winning hand.

c.    Pure or Mixed: "Pure" (or "All") and "Mixed" refer to the overall contents of a hand. If a hand is so described, it is worth some extra value. For instant, if the hand contains only one suit of the Serials (the Tans, the Soks, or the Wans), or only the Honours, the hand may be described as "Pure". If the hand contains Honours, plus any one suite of the Serials, it may be described as "Mixed". "Pure" carries more value than "Mixed". If a hand contains Honours and more than one suite of the Serials, it is not worth any extra value.

PURE or MIXED
Sample 1 - A structure of The Coward (comprised of the mix of chows and pungs/kongs), with the feature of containing one Serial suite only - PURE.
Sample 2 - A structure of All Chows (comprised of sets of chows alone), containing the Soks only - PURE.
Sample 3 - This sample is in the structure of All Pungs (comprised of sets of pungs or kongs only), and containing just the Tans - PURE.
Sample 4 - This hand is in the structure of Seven Pairs, and containing Honours only - PURE. From the illustrations of samples 1 through 4 above, you can see that the feature of PURE: (a) can be associated to any of the four basic structures, and (b) can be formed by any of the three Serial suites or by the Honours.
Sample 5 - A hand in the structure of The Coward, containing both Honours and the Tans - MIXED.
Sample 6 - An All Pungs hand, containing one Serial suite and the Honours - MIXED. Note this hand has more unique features to mention: containing Unios only, all of the three Dragons are present! You'll learn more about grade elements in section 8 of this EasyPlay.

d.    Big or Little: "Big" and "Little" refer to the completeness of a specific group of pais named in a statement. For example, pattern "Big Four Winds" means all four titles of the Winds are present and in the form of "pung" or "kong" - Obviously you must have four complete sets (each being pung or kong) to be qualified as "Big". "Little Four Winds" refers to the scenario where one of the Winds is in the form of the "eyes". This description applies also to the Dragons (comprising Red, Green and White Dragon). A pattern called "Big" or "Little" carries a substantially high value and "Big" has more value than "Little".

BIG or LITTLE
Sample 1 - In the above winning hand, all four titles of the Winds are present and in the form of either "pung" or "kong". The grade element covering the Winds is considered BIG (this element is actually called "Big Four Winds").
Sample 2 - In the above winning hand, three out of the four titles of the Winds are in the form of either "pung" or "kong" while one title forms the eyes. The grade element covering the Winds is considered LITTLE (this element is actually called "Little Four Winds").
Sample 3 - The above winning hand contains all three titles of the Dragons in the form of either "pung" or "kong". The grade element covering the Dragons is considered BIG (this element is actually called "Big Three Dragons").
Sample 4 - In the above winning hand one of the three Dragons is in the form of "eyes". The grade element covering the Dragons is call LITTLE (this element is actually called "Little Three Dragons").

e.    Jumping and Stepping: "Jumping" is used to describe pungs that are in consecutive order and "Stepping" is to describe chows that are in consecutive order. Of the sets in sequence, they could be either "PURE" (all sets are in one Serial suit) or "MIXED" (all three Serial suits are present). The "Jumping" or "Stepping" combinations may add small to medium amount of value to a winning hand.

Jumping & Stepping sets
a. Jumping Pungs Sample 1 - Illustrated are four jumping pungs in one Serial suite (also qualified for "PURE").
b. Jumping Pungs Sample 2 - Illustrated are three jumping pungs in one Serial suite (also qualified for "PURE").
c. Jumping Pungs Sample 3 - Illustrated are three jumping pungs in three Serial suites (also qualified for "MIXED").
d. Stepping Chows Sample 1- Displayed are four stepping chows in one Serial suite (also qualified for "PURE").
e. Stepping Chows Sample 2- Displayed are four stepping chows in one Serial suite (also qualified for "PURE").
f. Stepping Chows Sample 3- Displayed are three stepping chows in three Serial suites (also qualified for "MIXED").

f.      Sitting sequence (related to the Winds and the Flowers): A player's "sitting sequence" (also called "seat number") refers to his sitting position with respect to the jonga of the game in progress. The "sitting sequence" starts from the jonga as 1, and counts anti-clockwise. On the other hand, each of the Winds (East, South, West and North) and the Flowers (title numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4) is assigned a "sequential number" of 1, 2, 3 or 4, respectively. If a player's seat number coincides with the sequential number of a Wind or a Flower in a winning hand, extra value will be added to the hand if it contains pais of the specific Wind and/or Flower. Example: If you sit on the right of the jonga, your seat number is 2 in that particular game. If you win the game and if you have a pung of South and a Blue 2 (Flower), you'll get extra value because of the pung of South and the Blue 2. Learn more details in IMJ Rules by referring to articles 15, 27.3(6) and (7), and 28.5(2). As you study a little bit further, you'll see that one out of the four Winds and two out of the eight Flowers would get you extra value if you win a hand - With this knowledge in mind it will help you better plan your hand during play.

Sitting Sequence - The Winds and Flowers
Sitting sequence - The sitting sequences of the four players shall start with the jonga as 1. The sequence of the Winds shall start with the East as 1. The sequence of the Flowers are as numbered.

g.    The Dragons: A pung (or kong) of any of the Dragons will bring you extra value. Refer to articles 27.3(3), (4) and (5) of the IMJ Rules for more details. Again, keep this knowledge in mind and plan a better hand during play!

Pungs of Dragon
Pung Of Dragon - Illustrated is a winning hand containing two sets of pung or kong of Dragons. Since not all of the Dragons are present the element is not qualified for "BIG" or "LITTLE" - See section 7(d) above.

 

8.        Grade elements – A winning hand will earn scores for the winning player based on the "patterns" the hand could demonstrate. These patterns are called GRADE ELEMENTS. Chapter Six of the IMJ Rules contains detailed scoring definitions of a total of 55 valid grade elements. In addition, there is a "Grade Elements Table" posted on the IMJ Infoweb. The table provides detailed illustrations of grade elements in various sample winning hands. You don't need to memorize all elements right away but going through Chapter Six and the Grade Elements Table every now and then will definitely help you memorize the details and improve your skills in achieving higher scores.

 

a.    Elements are grouped by categories. In most cases only one element out of a group can be added to the scoring of a winning hand (e.g., a winning hand may qualify to claim three grade elements but they might need to be from three different groups). Understanding the general characteristics of each group would help you better manage memorizing the elements and making use of them during play. The following is a brief summary of the groups of grade elements:

(1)        Groups 25.1 and 25.2 cover all special winning hands. Note that each element is considered complete on its own and the grade value awarded is final. Have a clear understanding of the definitions and you'll have better advantages over other players who don't.

(2)        Group 26 covers grade elements that are based on the "basic structure" of a winning hand. Note that in the scoring process, you must identify a basic structure of your hand and stick to that structure.

(3)        Groups 27.1 through 27.4 cover grade elements that are based on the "combination of pais". Group 27.1 covers the pure or mixed series; Group 27.2 involves the Honours series. Group 27.3 involves the pung series of the Serials while Group 27.4 involves the chow series.

(4)        Groups 28.1 through 28.5 cover grade elements related to "how" - How the winning pai is obtained (groups 28.1 through 28.3) and how the general status of other pais is at the time of winning (groups 28.4 and 28.5). Although the value of these elements are relatively small, most circumstances in which these elements are about to form are all under your control, or may be taken advantages of at your own discretion! For example, if your win is only one pai away, and if your chance of getting that pai by self draw is high, you can pass any discard and wait for your self draw to win (winning by self draw gives you 1 fan more, plus you receive scores from ALL players instead of just one) - This is something you can control on your own to potentially increase the value of your hand. Another example: If you have two Chance Flowers on hand you have already secured 2 fans, and if other players seem to be very close to a win, you might wish to win on any pai available to you (discard or self draw) and get rid of the danger - Again, this is something you can decide on your own. So make best use of these elements!

b.    Counting the elements of a winning hand: You would need to have a good memory of all valid grade elements in order for you to effectively build good contents of your hand during play, and to correctly identify all elements a winning hand could produce. On the other hand, whether you have reached this high level of experience, it is always a good practice to assess, i.e., to count the elements of, a winning hand by applying the following steps:

(1)        Identify the basic winning hand structure of the hand (The Coward, All Chows, All Pungs, or Seven Pairs). Where applicable, the hand might fall within the "special winning hands" category.

(2)        Check if any elements related to "Pure" or "Mixed" exist.

(3)        Check if there are elements involving "Honours only", the "Pung Series" or the "Chow Series".

(4)        Add all other elements with smaller value as you could find in groups 28.1 through 28.5 (art. 28 of the IMJ Rules).

 

9.        Settlement of a winning hand – In International Mahjong, a winning hand is first assessed its grade ranking by counting the total grade elements achieved of the hand. The ranking is represented by the total number of FANS those grade elements could produce. We then refer to the Standard Scoring Chart of the Rules and convert the total number of fans into SCORES. Other players (or could be just one other player) then pay the appropriate scores to the winning player. Details of the scoring of winning hands and settlement between players may be found at Chapter Seven of the IMJ Rules. Below is a brief summary of Chapter Seven:

 

a.    Only one player can win in each game. Article 29 has detailed stipulations in case more than one player have declared win because of an exposed pai.

b.    The winning player may receive scores from just one player or from all three players, depending on how the pai enabling the win is obtained. Refer to article 30.3 for the detailed stipulations.

c.    After settlement of scores, a new game may start if the event is not at an end.

 

10.    Notes beyond just playing – We hope this EasyPlay, together with the International Mahjong Rules ("IMJ Rules"), will bring you to the full understanding of International Mahjong! To help you explore further about International Mahjong, we have established a website called iMahjong Infoweb (iMahjong.com) where you can find lots of information about International Mahjong and other related topics. Feel free to tell friends about this online resource and refer the documentation to your readers in any of your discussions or communications about mahjong.

 

a.    IMJ Online Resources: On the iMahjong Infoweb there is an Online Resources section where you can find useful information related to International Mahjong. In particular, you'll find full set of the International Mahjong Rules, this EasyPlay and the Grade Elements Table that are available for online viewing and download.

b.    You have the questions, we have the answers: As mentioned earlier in this EasyPlay, IMJ Rules is properly maintained and managed, and is comprehensive in coverage of all steps of play. If you have any questions about IMJ Rules we are ready to answer them! Please refer to the online copy of the IMJ Rules for answers to your questions; or send us your questions via our "Contact Info" section.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTT: Images of mahjong pais were modified from the original images of the Wikipedia® website. July 1, 2006.



(Modified: V120331)




Copyright 2003-2014 Cofa Tsui. All rights reserved. INTERNATIONAL MAHJONG® and IMJ® are registered trademarks. Refer to www.iMahjong.com for more information.

^