Riichi Mahjong Game Rules

Japanese Riichi Mahjong

After the invention of Classic Mahjong back in the 1800’s the game eventually found its way to Japan early on in the twentieth Century. Despite its popularity the game was actively discouraged by officials due to the war from 1931-1945, however after the second world war popularity sky rocketed with some 60,000 Mahjong parlors in operation throughout Japan by 1983. Despite a slight decline in the years following Japan still boasts almost 25,000 parlors today!
When the game reached Japan the rules evolved slightly to become what is known today as Riichi Mahjong. Japanese Riichi Mahjong is played with 137 tiles divided into 5 main sets, each of which occur four times to form a complete set.

Tiles used in Riichi Mahjong

The 137 tiles used in Riichi Mahjong can be broken down into five main sets and each of the sets appear four times to form a complete Mahjong set. There are three main sets consisting of nine tiles plus two additional sets as shown below.

Bamboo Set

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Character Set

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Circles & Dot Set

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Wind Set

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Dragon Set

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In the 3 player version of Riichi Mahjong, the suits running from two to eight are removed producing a faster game ideally suited for gambling.

Objective of Riichi Mahjong

Riichi Mahjong is played as a series of hands, the objective of each hand is to collect tiles to form one of the scoring patterns described later on in this guide and achieving Mahjong. A Mahjong hand normally consists of four sets made of either Pons, Kans or Chii plus a matching pair of tiles. You are also able to declare RIICHI when you require only one more piece to make Mahjong. This will earn your bonus points, however will limit your next move and allow you only to claim a tile that completes Mahjong for your hand.

A set can consist of either a PON (three of the same suit) a KAN (four of the same suite), or a CHII (three running tiles of the same suite).

See below for example sets in Japanese Riichi Mahjong:

PON Example

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KAN Example

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CHII Example

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A PON or a KAN must be made up using identical tiles, a CHII must consist of three tiles running in the same suite eg. 1,2,3.

Once you have formed four sets all that is needed is to make a pair which can consist of any two identical tiles.

Example Pair

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Forming Sets in Riichi Mahjong

Sets in Riichi Mahjong can be formed by retrieving from the wall (deck) forming a concealed set or retrieving a tile when it’s been discarded by an opponent player to complete a set in your hand. Once a set is formed in this way the tiles are shown face up for other players to see. Mahjong is declared once four sets have been formed followed by a pair to complete the hand.

All sets must be formed using pieces from the same suit either Bamboo, Character, Dots, Wind or Dragon tiles. PON and KAN sets require 3 or 4 tiles of identical value and suit where as a CHII is more like a straight in poker but using only three values from the same set eg. 1 2 3.

The Dora Indicator in Riichi Mahjong

After the tiles have been distributed to all players 14 of tiles from the remaining tiles are reserved as the “Dead Wall”. The third tile of the dead wall is turned face up and is known as the Dora during that hand. The dora is a bonus tile and for each dora tile in the winning hand.

If the dora indicator is a suit tile, the dora will be the next higher tile in the same suit; the number wraps around so if the dora indicator is a nine, the dora will be a one in the same suit. If the dora indicator is a wind tile, the dora is the next wind in the sequence: east, south, west, north. If the dora indicator is a dragon, the dora is the next dragon in the sequence: red, white, green.

Point Scoring in Riichi Mahjong

As soon as Mahjong has been declared play automatically stops and points are allocated based on set/tile values. Point scoring in Riichi Mahjong is quite complex and is performed in two steps.

Step 1 – The base score is calculated. This score is mainly based on the points received for going mahjong plus points for the pons and cons in your hand.

Step 2 – The base score is then doubled a number of times depending on the scoring pattern the hand matches and the number of dora tiles included in the hand.

After the score has been calculated, payment is done to the winner. In case of a tsumo, each player pays the score to the winner, but if the winner goes out on a discard, the discarding player pays for all the other players.

Calculating the Base Score in Riichi Mahjong

The first step in calculating the hand score, is to sum up the base points of the hand. These points consist first and foremost of points awarded for going mahjong. The amount of points awarded for going mahjong depends on how the mahjong was achieved according to the following:

Mahjong Type Points
Closed Ron 30
Seven Pairs 25
Other 20

In addition to the above points are awarded to the hand as follows:

Pon – 3 Matching Values of the Same Suit

An exposed Pong (Simple Values 2-8) – 2 Points
An exposed Pong (Terminal Values 1, 9, Winds or Dragons) – 4 Points
A concealed Pong (Simple Values 2-8) – 4 Points
A concealed Pong (Terminal Values 1, 9, Winds or Dragons) – 8 Points

Kan – 4 Matching Values of the Same Suit

An exposed Kong (Simple Values 2-8) – 8 Points
An exposed Kong (Terminal Values 1, 9, Winds or Dragons) – 8 Points
A concealed Kong (Simple Values 2-8) – 16 Points
A concealed Kong (Terminal Values 1, 9, Winds or Dragons) – 32 Points

Riichi Mahjong (??) Additional Points

Pair of Dragons – 2 Points
Pair of Wind (Matching Seating Position) – 2 Points
Pair of prevalent Wind – 2 Points
Winning on an Edge, Closed or Single Wait – 2 Points
Winning on a Self-Draw – 2 Points
After all points have been accrued and added together the result is rounded up to the nearest even 10 points before doubling occurs

Riichi Mahjong Yakus (Doubles)

Once scoring is completed doubles are then added to the hand a number of times depending on the make-up of each players’ hand at the end of the round. Doubles may come from two sources:

Riichi Mahjong Scoring Patterns

Each scoring pattern is awarded a number of doubles depending on how difficult it is to achieve, as noted in the table below. You need to get at least one double from a scoring pattern to go mahjong.

Riichi Mahjong Doras

Each dora, kan dor and ura dora in the hand gives an extra double. If there are more than one copy of the same dora indicator, you will be awarded a double for each of the dora indicators, for each occurrence of the indicated tile in your hand, e.g., if the dora indicator is bamboo 4 and an additional bamboo 4 shows up as a kan dora, and you have a pon in bamboo 5, you will get 6 doubles.

If the number of doubles is smaller than five, the base pointed is doubled by the above number of doubles plus two extra ones, e.g., if you have achieved a scoring pattern valued as one double, you will double the result three times, i.e., multiply by eight. The result may never exceed 2000 points.

If the number of doubles is five or larger, the hand is a limit hand and the base score is not used. Instead the score is taken from the following table:

Doubles Name Points
5 Mangan 2000
6-7 Haneman 3000
8-10 Baiman 4000
11-12 Sanbaiman 6000
13+ Yakuman 8000

If you achieve 13 or more doubles or have a hand that matches one of the special yakuman scoring patterns. The exact number of doubles are no longer of interest. However, it is possible to have multiple yakumans, for which you will be awarded 8000 points each.

List of Yaku Patterns in Riichi Mahjong

 Name  Open   Conc.   Description 
Riichi 1 Going out with mahjong after having declared riichi. One extra yaku is awarded if you go out within the next uninterrupted go-around, including your next draw from the wall. One extra yaku is awarded if riichi was declared in the very first uninterrupted go-around.
Fully Concealed Hand 1 Going out on self-draw with a concealed hand.
All Simples 1 A concealed hand consisting only of suit tiles 2-8.
Pinfu 1 A hand with four chiis and a valueless pair, that has not been won by going out on a single wait, a closed wait or an edge wait.
Pure Double Chii 1 Two chiis of the same value and suit.
Mixed Triple Chii 1 2 Three chiis of the same value, with one in each suit.
Pure Straight 1 2 Three consecutive chiis (1-9) in the same suit.
Dragon Pon 1 1 A Pon or Kan of Dragons.
Seat Wind 1 1 A pon or kan in the players wind.
Prevalent Wind 1 1 A pon or kan in the prevalent wind.
Outside Hand 1 2 A hand where all sets contain a terminal or honor tile, and at least one of the sets is a chii.
After a Kan 1 1 Going out on a replacement tile for a kan.
Robbing a Kan 1 1 Going out by robbing a kan
Bottom of the Sea 1 1 Going out on the last tile of the live wall, or the discard thereafter.
Seven Pairs 2 A hand consisting of seven pairs. Note, that this is one of the two special hands that don’t follow the standard 4 sets plus 1 pair formula. It is also special in that you are awarded 25 points for going mahjong with a seven-pairs hand.
Triple Pon 2 2 One pon or kan in each of the three suits, all having the same number.
Three Concealed Pons 2 2 Three concealed pons or kans.
All Pons 2 2 A hand with four pons/kans and one pair.
Half Flush 2 3 A hand with tiles from only one suit plus honor tiles.
Little Three Dragons 2 2 Two pons/kans of dragons plus one pair of dragons.
All Terminals and Honors 2 2 A hand consisting of only terminals and honors.
Terminals in All Sets 2 3 A hand with atleast one chii and where all sets and the pair contains terminals.
Twice Pure Double Chiis 3 Two pair of chiis, where each pair consists of two identical chiis.
Full Flush 5 6 A hand with tile from only one suit and no honor tiles.

List of Yakuman Patterns in Riichi Mahjong

Name  Open   Conc.   Description 
Thirteen Orphans 1 One of each honor tile and terminal plus a fourteenth tile forming a pair with one of those tiles.
Nine Gates 1 Going out with a waiting hand consisting of the tiles 1112345678999 in one suit.
Blessing of Heaven 1 East wins on the initial hand.
Blessing of Earth 1 A hand won on self-draw in the first go-around.
Blessing of Man 1 A hand won on discard in the first go-around.
Four Concealed Pungs 1 Four concealed pons or kans.
Four Kans 1 1 Four kans.
All Green 1 1 A hand consisting of only green tiles, i.e., green dragons and bamboo 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8.
All Terminals 1 1 A hand consisting of only terminal tiles.
All Honors 1 1 A hand consisting of only honor tiles.
Big Three Dragons 1 1 A pon or kan in each of the three dragons.
Little Four Winds 1 1 A pon or kan in three of the winds and a pair in the fourth wind.
Big Four Winds 2 2 A pon or kan in each of the four winds.

Payments in Japanese Riichi Mahjong

The final score calculated in the previous section serves as a base payment for the other players. In case of a tsumo each player pays this amount to the winner. East is treated slightly different, and will pay double the score if loosing, or receive double the score from each of the other players if he or she is winning. This means that the winning player of a four-player game normally receives four times the score (two times from east, and one time from each of the two other players), but if east is winning, he or she gets six times the score (two times the score from each of the other players).

If the winner goes out on ron, the discarding player pays for all players, i.e., six times the score if east is winning, or four times the score if another player is winning in a four-player game.

Sometimes it can happen that more than one player goes out on the same discard. In that case the discarding player will settle the payment separately with the winners, and pay the full amount to each of them.

All payments that are made are rounded up to the nearest 100. The rounding is done after all doubles have been applied, e.g., if west wins with tsumo and the score is 240, east will pay 500 points and the other two players will pay 300 points. The points are assigned a value in currency agreed at the beginning of the game, depending on the stake that you enter at and payments divided equally based on the score.