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Beginner's Lesson 6

Mahjong Lite

Mahjong Lite is another minigame and the next step up from the Tibet Rules. In Mahjong Lite, not only do you have to complete a hand of 8 tiles, but it also needs to fulfill some requirements called, “yaku”.


Depending on the number of players, you should use 1-2 suits and 2-4 different honor tiles. The recommended number of players is 2-4. For 2-3 players, you can use 1 suit and 2 different honor tiles. For 3-4 players, you can use 2 suits and 4 different honor tiles.


At the start of the game, everyone should start with an equal number of points (10-15 points is recommended). You can use poker chips or point sticks to keep track of points. Decide who will be the first dealer and how many hands will be played (4 times the number of players is recommended, so that everyone gets to be the dealer 4 times).


Start each hand by shuffling all of the tiles face-down. Each player draws 7 tiles to form their hands. The game proceeds with each player taking turns drawing a tile from the undrawn pile, then discarding a tile from their hand. The dealer takes the first turn, and play moves counter-clockwise. Players should place their discarded tiles in a neat row in front of them from left to right so that everyone can see who discarded what in and in what order.


Just like where we left off with Tibet Rules, the objective is to build a hand of 8 tiles (2 sets and a pair). However, just making a complete hand is not enough; it has to satisfy at least one yaku. Yaku are like types of hands in poker; some portion of your hand or your entire hand is used to fulfill the requirements for various yaku so that your hand is worth points. Mahjong Lite uses 6 different yaku.


A winning hand must fulfill at least 1 of the following yaku:

Tanyao - 1 point

A hand consisting of only number tiles 2-8 (no 1s, 9s, or honor tiles).


Pinfu - 1 point

A hand with a finished sequence and pair, waiting on a ryanmen wait to complete the last sequence. Must not have yakuhai (honor tiles; see below) as the pair.


Iipeikou - 1 point

Two identical sequences.


Yakuhai - 1 point each

A triplet of honor tiles. In this game, all honor tiles are treated as yakuhai.


Toitoi - 2 points

A hand where all sets are triplets (no sequences).


Chanta - 2 points

A hand where all sets and the pair include a 1, 9, or honor tile. (The only sequences you can use are 123 and 789, and any triplets and the pair must be of 1s, 9s, or honor tiles.)


Once a hand is won, points are paid to the winner from the other player(s). For a tsumo, the winner is paid points equal to the value of their hand from each other player. For a ron, the winner is paid points equal to the value of their hand from the player who discarded the winning tile. The value of a winning hand is calculated by adding up the points from each yaku the hand fulfills.


After points are paid for a winning hand, or if there are no tiles left to be drawn, the hand is over. If no one has won a hand after there are no tiles left to be drawn, the hand is considered a tie, and no points change hands. Dealership passes counter-clockwise after each hand.


Optional Rules:

  • Headbump or multiple ron: If playing with 3 or more players, decide whether or not 2 or more players can win on the same discard. If not, then only the player whose turn would be next in order gets to claim the discarded tile for a win; the other players do not win their hands.

  • Furiten: This rule can limit whether a player can win by ron if they have already discarded a tile that would complete their hand. Choose 1 of the following 3 options. Note that regardless of which option is used, a player may always win by tsumo.

    • No furiten: A player may win by ron even if they have discarded their own winning tile. This is the easiest option and is recommended for beginners.

    • Genbutsu furiten: A player may not win by ron on a tile that matches a tile in their discard pile, but they may win on other tiles that would complete their winning hand.

    • Complete furiten: A player may not win by ron at all if any of the tiles in their discard pile would complete their winning hand, regardless of whether that tile would provide yaku.


Example Hands:

    This hand qualifies for tanyao and pinfu, a common combination of two yaku. It only contains number tiles between 2 and 8, has a completed sequence and pair, and is waiting on a 5-8 ryanmen for the final sequence. This hand is worth 2 points.
     This hand qualifies for iipeikou and chanta. It has two identical sequences of 789, and the pair is of 1s. This hand is worth 3 points.
     This hand qualifies for chanta only. It has two sequences, 123 and 789, and a pair of honor tiles. Because the pair is of yakuhai, it does not qualify for pinfu. Although a 4 would complete the hand, it would not have any yaku, and therefore this hand cannot win on a 4. This hand is worth 2 points.
     This hand qualifies for toitoi and chanta, and has two sets of yakuhai. Both triplets are yakuhai, and the pair is of 1s. This hand is worth 6 points. If this hand had be completed with the 1 instead of the chun (red dragon), it would only be worth 5 points.

     This is a rather complex hand. To start, it has a 4-sided wait on 5, 6, 7, and 8.

     If this hand were to win on the 8, it would qualify for tanyao and pinfu. The pair would be of 5s, it would have a completed sequence of 567, and the final sequence would be 678, having been waiting on a 5-8 ryanmen. Winning on the 8 would make this hand worth 2 points.

     If this hand were to win on the 5, it would qualify for tanyao and pinfu, like with the 8, but it would also qualify for iipeikou because the resulting two sequences would be identical. Winning on the 5 would make this hand worth 3 points.

     If this hand were to win on the 6 or 7, it would qualify for tanyao and toitoi. The final shape would be a triplet of 5 and either 6 or 7, with the remaining 6 or 7 being the pair. Winning on the 6 or 7 would make this hand worth 3 points.

This game is much more challenging than the Tibet Rules, but mastering Mahjong Lite will get you that much closer to real mahjong.


In the next lesson, we will review some of the basic yaku in riichi mahjong.

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