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American Style Mahjong Rules

Waiting to Win

A player with one tile short of winning the game is considered to have a “ready hand”. This is called “waiting” because that player is basically waiting for certain tiles to complete his hand.


When a player creates a set of hand or “mahjong”, he wins the game. A winning hand consists of combinations of pung, kong, quint, pair or special hands as described in the yearly standard hands & rules published by National Mah Jongg League.

After a game is completed (whether by a winning hand or no winner after the last tile in the wall has been picked), the player to the right becomes the new dealer (East) as the wind / seating position rotate counterclockwise.


In mahjong, there are 4 rounds: East, South, West and North Round.
Within each round, the winds / seating position will rotate as follows: East, South, West, North (counterclockwise). This also happens in the event of a dead hand (where nobody wins).

1 (East Wind Round)
2 (South Wind Round)
3 (West Wind Round)
4 (North Wind Round)

1st Round
2nd Round
American Mahjong - First Round American Mahjong - Second RoundAmerican Mahjong - Second Round
3rd Round
4th Round
American Mahjong - Third RoundAmerican Mahjong - Third Round American Mahjong - Fourth RoundAmerican Mahjong - Fourth Round

Thus, there are total of 16 hands in one complete game of mahjong.

More Details on Jokers

Jokers can be used as a wildcard to complete any Pung, Kong, Quint or Sextet only. A Pung, Kong, Quint or Sextet may be composed of all Jokers! Thus it can’t be used to replace a single tile or to complete a pair.

Jokers cannot be passed during The Charleston.

A Joker can be discarded during the game and is called as the same tile of the previous discard.

If a player exposed a Pung, Kong, Quint, or Sextet with a Joker and you have the tile that the player needs, you may exchange the Joker with your tile during your turn (whether you just picked the tile from the wall or already in your hand, you can exchange it during your turn.

For example: If East exposes a kong composed of three of one dot and a joker and you have a one dot in your hand or just picked a one dot from the wall, you may do the following:

pick a tile during your turn (if the one dot is in your hand),
take the one dot and exchange it with the exposed Joker,
put the Joker in your hand,
discard a tile.
When a tile has already been discarded, you can’t take it back and exchange it for a Joker.

If a Joker has been exchanged for a tile and there is no other Jokers remaining in the hand, the hand is considered a “No Joker” hand.

A symbol tile can be exchanged for a Joker, but a Joker can’t be exchanged for a symbol tile.

A symbol tile cannot be exchanged for a Joker for the purpose of claiming the last discard for an exposure or Mahjong.

Only a properly exposed Joker can be exchanged. A Joker that is going back to the rack due to a dead hand cannot be exchanged.

Any Joker that was properly exposed prior to a dead hand stays in the game and can be exchanged even after the hand is declared dead.

More Details on Flowers & White Dragon

Flowers can be passed during Charleston

A Flower can be discarded and called as “Flower”.

When a White Dragon is used as a Zero, it has no matching suit and can be used with any suits.

More Details on Rules & Penalties

The tile needs to be called/named correctly in order to be claimed. There is no penalty for incorrectly naming a tile that wanted for Pung, Kong or Quint in an exposed hand. However, if the miscalled tile is wanted “Mahjong”, the game ends and the player who miscalled the tile pays four times the value of the hand of the claimer. Other players do not need to pay. If the miscalled tile is not claimed for Mahjong, it then needs to be correctly named and then called for Pung, Kong, Quint for exposure, or the final tile needed for a Run, Pair, Pung, Kong or Quint for Mahjong.

A player may challenge another player’s hand and call it “dead” for the reasons below:

Invalid Hand – The current exposed tiles do not match with any of the possible hands.
Invalid Exposure -- The current exposed tiles points out that the hand must be concealed.
Impossible to Win – The current exposed tile and dead tiles point out that it is impossible for the player to win. For example: a player needs to make a pair of two dots to win, however there are already three of two dots discarded on previous moves.
Breaking the Rules – such as, picking up tiles when it is not your turn, etc.
Here is how the challenge works:

- A player states that another player’s hand is dead
- A player with the questionable hand may responds as follows:

Admit that the hand is dead – this player stops playing and does not pick up or discard, part of the hands that is in error is returned to the rack, and pays the winner the full value of the hand.

Deny that the hand is dead – The game continues. At the end of the game, the challenger’s hand is inspected. If the challenger is correct (the hand is dead), then the challenged pays 25 points to the challenger. Otherwise (if the hand is ok), then the challenger pays 25 points to the challenged.

If no player catches the error, the play may continue. However, the player who has the incorrect exposure cannot declare Mahjong.

More Details on Declaring a Wrong Mahjong

If a player declares a wrong mahjong but catches the error prior to exposing the hand and all other hands remain intact, the play continues with no penalty.

If a player declares a wrong mahjong, exposes the hand but all other players’ hands are intact, the games still continues. However, the declarer’s hand is “dead”, means the player stops playing, does not pick up or discard, and pays the winner the full value of the hand. The same applies for calling a wrong discard and making a wrong exposure.

If a player declares a wrong mahjong, exposes the hand and one other player exposes the hand, the two remaining players continue the game. If only one player manages to hold the hand intact, the game has to be stopped. The player who declares wrong mahjong pays double of the incorrect hand to the one remaining player.

If a player who declares a wrong mahjong has an exposed hand, the Joker(s) in the exposure may be redeemed by other players with a like tile during their turn. However, if the hand becomes dead, the part of the hand that was in error is returned to the rack, and no Jokers may be redeemed.


Please go to "American Style Scoring" section.

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