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Mahjong 101: How to Play

Created over 300 years ago, Mahjong is a game that has become popular the world over. Originating in China, people on every continent have learned how to play Mahjong, many of which have created their own variation of this game. Naturally, because of the game’s engaging mix of luck and strategy, many PCH fans are also massive Mahjong players. But if you still don’t know how to play Mahjong, don’t worry! Here is a complete rundown on how to play this classic.

The Basics of Mahjong

The goal of the game is to get Mahjong, which means that a player has turned all of their tiles into four sets (called melds) and a single pair. While a pair is simply two matching tiles, a set can either be three identical ones or three consecutive numbers in the same suit. Generally speaking, players will play for 16 rounds or until all players are simply done playing.

To set up a game of Mahjong, shuffle all of the tiles facedown and determine the dealer by rolling a die for the highest number. Then, each player draws thirteen tiles from the pool in the middle of the table or has the dealer dole them out.

All this said, if you are learning how to play Mahjong online, the game will automatically handle this for you.

How to Play Mahjong

When learning how to play Mahjong, it is important to know that there are many different forms of the game, which means that one definitive set of rules does not exist. That said, there are some commonalities among most versions.

To play, the first player draws a tile from the pool and either keeps or discards it, keeping their hand of tiles at thirteen. Go around the table until each player has drawn from the pool. If a player discards a tile, any player may choose to pick it up, regardless of turn order.

The game continues in this manner until one player has achieved four sets and a pair.

If this game sounds right up your alley, check out all the different Mahjong variations PCH has to offer!

Play Mahjong on PCH for Free!

Playing American Mahjong

If you are learning how to play American Mahjong, it is important to know that there are a few key differences, such as the inclusion of tools called racks and pushers, allowable hands listed on a card, joker tiles that can replace any tile in a set, and a total of 152 tiles, as opposed to the Chinese version’s 144 tiles.

However, the biggest difference is a tile exchange at the beginning of the game, dubbed “the Charleston.” During this step, players take three tiles from their hand and pass them to their right. Then, this is repeated with the person across from each player and to their left. If all players agree, and only if everyone agrees,  this can be done a second time.

Playing Chinese Mahjong

In Chinese Mahjong, 144 tiles are used. During setup, each player selects 36 tiles, arranging them in 2 sets of 18 stacked on one another to resemble a wall, leaving a square space in the middle of the table for the pool. Then, the dealer is chosen via a die roll or randomly selecting a wind tile. Then, each player sits in the north, south, east, or west wind seat, with the dealer in the east. Players will rotate these seats counterclockwise as the game progresses. This is important as each round will have a “prevailing wind,” which will alter the end scoring of the game.


Now that you know how to play Mahjong, check out the many variations of Mahjong that PCH has to offer. Our games are always free to play, and you could win tons of tokens and cash prizes just by having fun!

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  1. Mahjong Games are the first gambler style since “Checkers” or “Go @to believe this true! Now at times date everyone makes game circles friends they meet regularly! It replaces old style fashion deck if CARDS it is tiles of Mahjong’s players!