Mahjong, the classic Chinese tile game, dates back to the Tai Ping Rebellion of 1851-1864 and was popularized in the West in 1920 with the publication of the book “Rules for Mah-Jongg.” Although normally played with four players, Mahjong can be played by two people with only a slight variation to the rules. In a two-player game, dummy hands are used in place of real players. Mahjong is similar to the card game Rummy in that the object of the game is to create mahjongs by collecting tiles with matching suits.
Determine who plays first by rolling the dice. The player with the highest roll begins the game.
Deal 13 tiles to your opponent and to you. Keep the tiles face down so that you cannot see your opponent’s tiles and he cannot see yours.
Place the remaining tiles face down in between the two players so that both can reach them.
Select a tile for the draw pile and place it in your hand. Discard so that you have 13 tiles. Form a wall with the discarded tiles. Your opponent has the option of picking up the tile or selecting a tile from the draw pile.
Collect pungs, kongs or chows from the tiles. A pung is a group of three matching tiles, a kong is a group of four, and a chow is three sequential tiles. The game continues until one player collects four sets of any combination of kongs, pungs or chows. You cannot add tiles to played sets. For example, if you lay a set of three Red Dragons and you collect a fourth, it cannot be added to the set.
Display your set immediately if you pick from the wall. If a set is made from picking from the draw pile, you can display your set at any time as long as it is your turn.
Win the round by showing four sets of either a pung, kong or chow that you formed along with a pair to your opponent. Score one point for going out first; two points for a pair of suits; three points for a pair of Honors (these are the tiles without a suit); four points for a pung; five points for a kong; six points for a pung of honors and 10 points for a kong of honors. No points are awarded for a chow.
Things You'll Need
- Mahjong tiles
- Note paper
- Pen or pencil
- Patrick Lewis: Mah Jong
- "Beginner's Guide to American Mah Jongg: How to Play the Game & Win"; Elaine Sandberg and Tom Sloper; 2007
- Ned Frisk Photography, Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images