Rules Summary

Mahjong Rules Brief Summary


The following is a brief summary of some of the mahjong rules for the competition. The purpose is to provide the reader with a quick list of key points of notice which may be different from one’s local games. The rules here are not complete; the player ought to read carefully the full version of the rules before playing in the competition.


  1. Concerning the tournament format and schedule, please see the “Tournament Format” chapter. One cycle is four hands. The deal always passes after each hand; East never repeats the deal.
  2. 136 tiles are used for the game; the flower tiles (bonus tiles) are not used. A player’s hand is 13 tiles.
  3. Player Enforcement Principle: When a player feels offended by another player’s violation or bad etiquette, he may point it out to the offender, or summon the assistance of a judge. For most trivial or etiquette-wise offenses, if the judges feel that the fairness of the competition is not impeded, they will not actively intervene unless an opponent complains.
  4. A player must arrange his discarded tiles in an orderly fashion, from left to right in rows of six. When a row is filled with six tiles, start a new row below it. (Just like writing a poem with six words in each line.)
  5. Claims (chi, pong, kong, win) must be verbally announced properly. An unvoiced claim has no precedence, and the opponent may ignore it and proceed with his play. Exposed sets should be placed to the upper left of one’s concealed hand; one specified tile should be rotated to indicate the claimed tile.
  6. For a pung or kong claim to take precedence, it should be announced promptly. Once a player has announced “chi” and subsequently displayed his set or discarded a tile, the two other players lose their rights to claim the tile for pung or kong.
  7. Kong: A player may make a concealed kong or a “small exposed kong” (adding a fourth tile to an exposed triplet) after drawing a tile (or after East’s deal, or after drawing a supplement tile), but not after claiming a chi or pong. A concealed kong must be revealed the moment it is declared.
  8. Time Limit: In each hand, each player has 3 minutes total for all his plays. Each turn should be played in 15 seconds. But at the start of the hand, the first 15 seconds do not count against these limits.

  10. Winning Hand

    1. There are two types of winning hands: the Regular Hand and the Irregular Hand.
    2. Regular Hand: The regular hand consists of 4 sets (each set being a sequence, a triplet, or a kong) and a pair (called the “eyes”).
    3. Irregular Hand: The irregular hands are listed in category 10 of the “Scoring System” chapter. There are two of them: “Thirteen Terminals” and “Seven Pairs”.
    4. A hand must conform to either a regular hand or an irregular hand in order to win (go out).
    5. In principle, one can win in all cases as long as he has completed a winning hand. While there is the “Rule of Same-Turn Immunity” in the “Scoring System” chapter, the World Series of Mahjong does not adopt any “sacred discard” rule or such which prohibits the player from winning with a completed winning hand in certain cases (“penalty tiles” excepted). Similarly, there are no such prohibition rules for Pong or other claims.

  12. Scoring the Winning Hand

    1. The winning hand is scored according to the “Scoring System” chapter.
    2. Each player is issued a copy of the “Pattern List Card” (Appendix A), to which they may refer during play and when scoring a winning hand.
    3. No Minimum Requirement: A player may win with a regular hand even if it contains no patterns. Said hand scores 1 point (called a “chicken hand”). Note that any pattern is worth at least 5 points, with bigger patterns being worth 40 points or more; the 1 point for chicken hand, being merely a token score, is virtually nothing,
    4. Responsibility of Scoring: In principle, the winning player is responsible for counting the score of one’s own hand. One may ask the opponents or a judge for help, but they are not responsible for any mistakes in the counting.
    5. After the winning player reveals his hand, he should declare (name) the patterns in his hand, and announce the total score (before tripling as per the payoff scheme) for his hand.
    6. After agreeing on the value of the winner’s hand, the players should summon a judge, who records the score for the hand on the “Score Record Card”. Alternatively, if the players know how to record the scores properly, they may appoint one among themselves to record the scores. Each player should verify that the score has been recorded properly before commencing the next hand. At the end of the half (or quarter), each player should, after verifying that the score totals are correct, sign the Score Record Card in the space designated for him.
    7. Freedom of Count: If there are multiple ways of arranging the concealed tiles in order to compose the winning hand, the winning player may freely choose an arrangement which one feels is best for oneself, and score the hand according to that arrangement. A hand may only be scored according to one arrangement; patterns from different arrangements cannot be both counted. (For example, a hand cannot score both “Three Identical Sequences” and “Three Consecutive Triplets”, nor both “Two Identical Sequences Twice” and “Seven Pairs”.)
    8. Each player’s Seat Wind is determined solely according to the passing of the deal, and is never affected by the dice thrown when “breaking the wall”.

  14. The Dead Wall and the Seabed Tile

    1. Dead Wall: The last 14 tiles in the wall are called the “Dead Wall”, and are not played.
    2. Seabed tile: The last tile in the wall before the Dead Wall (i.e. the 15th last tile in the wall) is called the seabed tile. The player who draws the seabed tile may not declare a kong, and must discard a tile unless one is winning. This discard is called the riverbed tile.
    3. Riverbed tile: The riverbed tile may not be claimed for chi, pong or kong; it may only be claimed for a win.
    4. No Win: If no one wins on the riverbed tile, the hand is a draw, and all players score zero for the hand. The deal (East) always passes after each hand.

  16. Penalty Tiles


    1. If a player illegally exposes his hand tiles, those tiles will remain open on the table as live penalty tiles.
    2. A live penalty tile may be discarded on the player’s current or next (if the player is not currently playing) discard. Once the player discards any other tile (even another live penalty tile), any live penalty tiles in front of him become dead penalty tiles, which may not be discarded thereafter.
    3. Penalty tiles (whether live or dead) cannot be melded (including melding when winning on discard) into an exposed sequence, an exposed triplet, or an exposed kong (big or small), and may not form the pair of “exposed” eyes with a discarded tile when winning. In other words, penalty tiles may only constitute concealed sets, and may not be used to claim discards to constitute exposed sets.
    4. During the deal, before (or when) the player organizes his tiles, if one inadvertently exposes some tiles, one of the exposed tiles is exempt from penalty. If one exposes two or more tiles, he may pick one up and put it back into his hand, and the rest become (live) penalty tiles.
    5. False Win: A False Win will basically be treated as the player’s illegal exposure of all the tiles in his hand: the play of the hand continues, and all illegally exposed tiles become penalty tiles. (The player will not have to pay a large score penalty.)