Mahjong is a highly popular tile game that involves two to four players in its traditional version. The players take turns removing tiles from the wall and discarding a tile in their hand each time their turn comes around. Each player has 13 tiles in their hand at all times during the Mahjong game (unless they create their winning hand, which takes 14 tiles.)
The point of Mahjong is to form a Mahjong hand to win the game. To do this you need to collect four sets (or melds) of three or four tiles and one pair. Sets are same suit triplets (pongs), same suit quadruplets (kongs), or same suit straights (chows.)
Much like other games that are a mix of luck and strategy such as solitaire, Mahjong play can vary based on different sets of rules or types of Mahjong you are playing. There are a lot of options for varied gameplay out there, but the basic idea remains the same. Strategically claim and discard tiles to create a winning hand.
Mahjong does involve a great deal of luck, but there are things you can do to increase your odds of winning. You can practice learning the basics of the game by playing online Mahjong to make sure you have a great grasp of the rules before you take on more experienced players.
Finding online Mahjong options is as easy as a simple web search so it shouldn’t take too much effort to get going. After you have a good understanding of basic gameplay it’s time to take things to the next level. With that in mind here are five strategy hacks you need to know about winning a Mahjong game.
1. Don’t Jump To Grab A Discarded Tile Too Quickly
Since Mahjong rules allow you to claim another player’s discarded tiles if it will create a meld, it can seem tempting to jump on the first chance you get to start your meld. This isn’t always the best way to go about winning the game, especially if the game has just begun.
Keep in mind that other players will be able to get a sense of your plan on how to create your winning Mahjong hand by watching what you claim and what you discard. If you’re too eager to create a meld with someone’s discarded tile you can give your opponents valuable information that may change how they play their game.
If the game has just begun, there are going to be plenty of tiles left to start forming melds, so if you plan things out and take a little more time before jumping on a discarded tile you stand a better chance of winning the game.
2. Don’t Limit Your Options
Building on the previous strategy, keep your options open early on in the game. You can do this by using the tip to not claim tiles too quickly, as well as watching what sets you start to build within your 13 tiles.
You’ll need to remember that once you commit to a meld you have less flexibility to plan out your way to building a Mahjong hand. Once you commit to a set, your plan to win is more cemented than before you made the meld.
This isn’t always a bad thing but it’s something to do with caution. Keeping your options open for as long as possible gives you a better chance of winning. Mahjong is a game of patience more often than not, especially when you’re focused on strategy over luck.
3. If You Have A Pair, Keep It
Once you look over your 13 tiles and start to plan your game, make sure you’re not going to discard a tile that is part of a pair. It’s much easier to create a Pung if you have a pair already than it is to create a pair if you only have one tile.
Pairs are also part of the requirement to win the game so they can be valuable in that sense as well. You don’t have to commit to making a pair you start out with the pair you’ll use in your Mahjong hand but don’t get rid of it either. Build on what you have in your hand as much as possible to keep yourself in the game.
4. Watch The Wall
When you’re removing tiles from the wall, keep in mind what you’re removing and what it will free up. A tile is only free when it is completely uncovered from the row below it. Watching what’s in the wall and planning your moves can be used to both help you win, and to block your opponents from gaining a tile that could help them make a meld.
Always keep in mind there are four of each tile, so if you remove a pair there’s still an identical pair left somewhere within the remaining tiles. Ask yourself what you’re freeing up and what you’re blocking each time you create a pair or remove a tile from the wall.
When you’re deciding which tile to remove this tip will help you make the best decision. Sometimes keeping another player from having the chance to grab a tile from the wall is just as valuable in your winning strategy as creating melds from the tiles you take.
5. Play Smart Defense
Earlier on you read about the value of being slow to pick up discarded tiles. Now it’s time to use that same tip to your advantage in another way. Watch what your opponents are claiming closely and make your moves accordingly.
Watching what your opponents claim will help you figure out which sets they are building on. If you know which tiles they are going to need to create a Mahjong hand, you can be even more careful about what you free up in the wall, and what you discard from your hand.
Before you pick up your next tile or discard another one from your hand ask yourself if you’re freeing up something that is going to benefit another player. If your move is going to give them a tile they need, take a moment to rethink things.
It’s inevitable that you’ll free up tiles another player can use, but you can prevent moves that will benefit them more than they’ll benefit you if you spend a little time thinking ahead and playing a good defensive game.
Mahjong is popular for a good reason. The gameplay is highly interactive and addicting when in a group setting. There are a lot of rules and traditions that accompany the game but that only increases its intrigue. It’s not a game that you’re going to get bored with after just a few minutes.
Mahjong gives you a chance to strategize and effectively calculate your options which can be a very rewarding feeling when it results in a win. The more you practice the strategies you’ve learned here the better you’ll become.
When you’re a formidable opponent who keeps other players on their toes the game takes on an entirely new level. Take the time to learn and understand the rules and these strategies so you can really enjoy the next game you join in on. You won’t regret it.