A Quick Guide to Casino Mahjong
For many the excitement of playing Casino Mahjong may be a mystery. Do not fret here is a quick guide for those of you whom are not so familiar with this new game. Just remember this game is the combination of skill, strategy, intelligence, calculation, but most importantly luck. For this game the biggest thing to remember is building complete ‘suits’. The winner is the person whom completes a set of tiles which can be either 14 or 17. For the casino version of Mahjong you will have four people sitting around a table. There are 136 tiles, though in most versions there are 144 tiles.
One thing to remember is that the tiles in Mahjong are like playing cards. There are different suits much like playing cards. Cards consist of: Hearts, Spades, Diamonds, and Clubs. Mahjong consists of: Circle, Bamboo, and Character suits. There are also different tiles: Wind, Dragon, Seasons, and Flower. Wind and Dragon tiles are considered ‘Honors’ tiles in the casino game. For the Wind Tiles there are four different types: East, West, South, and North. Dragon tiles are red, green, and white. Bonus tiles consist of Flowers and Seasons.
Rummy and Mahjong
If you have played the card game Rummy then Mahjong is pretty much the same concept. You need to assemble a winning hand of 14 tiles. The score set determined by the ‘house’ needs to be met by valid sets of two, three, or four tiles. Collecting tiles randomly from a pile in the middle in two’s (two tiles each) then stack them next to each other to form a ‘wall’. Dice are rolled to determine who the dealer is. This dealer will deal out 13 tiles to each player. You will turn your tile face up (perhaps on a rack so others cannot see) and start pairing them or placing them in sets of three and four tiles.
Once all of this is completed you will pick a tile from the wall when it is your turn. If you can use that tile to complete a winning hand you will keep that tile and say ‘Mahjong’. This is called ‘winning from the wall’. If the tile you choose can’t help to complete a winning set you will need to discard it face up. A total of 13 tiles per board has to stay the same during the game. Once you discard that tile another player can pick it up to use it to complete a set.
If more than one person can use that tile the person with the highest scoring set will get to claim it. This is called ‘winning by discard’. If you do claim this discarded tile you have to reveal the set you are going to use it for. One of the biggest excitements with this game is deciding if revealing your set if worth the gamble. Of course this also helps to determine which sets can be completed. Finally the first player to complete a valid ‘hand’ of 14 tiles as well as declare Mahjong with the game. The rules of combining your tiles depend on the version that is being played. There are some basic combinations where you can make pairs or even sets of three or four identical tiles of the same ‘suit’.
Once a game is over you will have a new dealer. That is unless the dealer wins then the dealer stays the same. Usually when a new dealer is used it is the person to the previous dealer’s right hand side. When several hands are used there is a term used called the ‘Prevalent Wind’ or also known as the ‘Game Wind’. The dealer starts out as the East Wind then of course you have North, South, and finally West. After each hand is played the ‘winds’ change for instance if you started out as the East Wind after that turn you would be considered South Wind. The player who was South would become West and the player who was North would take on the role as East. At the end of the round the Wind changes. Now East is West, West is South, and finally South is North thus the beginning of a new round has begun. The Wind is normally present in the middle of the table so everyone will know which Wind they are.
Normally the number of points that are scored in a winning Mahjong hand will give you a ‘base’ payout. There are also conditions where the payouts can be doubled. For instance if you win due to drawing from ‘the wall’ you could double your payout. In another example you could win by using the discarded tiles. It all depends on the version of Mahjong that you are playing. Even though there are different variations of how the game can be played the game really doesn’t change that much. Once you get the hang of how to play it is easy to adjust yourself to the different ways to play. The biggest differences can be seen in how the scores are added up. These variations are preset at the beginning of the game as mentioned in the examples. As always it is the luck of the tiles when playing Mahjong.
Once you get used to playing the game you can quickly form strategies for the best way to play. Many believe it is which tiles you get rid of first. Others feel that it is the sets that you have to be completed or even the number of tiles that you need to complete your hand. In all everyone has a different strategy that they believe in. Once you have the hang of playing Mahjong you will quickly see that your strategy will form and why this ancient game is still played today. A couple practice hands couldn’t hurt before diving into the real thing. Good luck!