Not even Chinese citizens know exactly when the game of Mahjong or Mah Jong began. It is surmised that Chinese officers created it during China's civil war called the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864) to pass the time. However, in the late 1800s, Mahjong became a household and gambling game played by nearly every Asian resident. Mahjong was later banned in China in 1949 because The People's Republic of China believed Mahjong was tied to corrupt capitalism.
Then in 1985, Mahjong became legal to play again and it took off like wildfire among Chinese communities and nearby regions. Mahjong was introduced to the West and the global communities in the 1920s. Many parts of Europe, America, and Japan adapted Mahjong to suit their own gaming styles. Mahjong was introduced to the United States by Joseph P. Babcock, who worked for the Standard Oil Company. It was the Abercrombie and Fitch company that made the first Mahjong game sets.
Joseph Babcock did a great deal to simplify the game and as such, he wrote a book called “Red Book,” which presented his interpretation of the rules of Mahjong. In 1937, Mahjong became regulated when the National Mah Jong League (“NMJL”) was formed. NMJL changed Babcock's American rules and created their own as well as publishing their own rulebook called “Maajh” which is used today. Today, there are two U.S. Mahjong organizations: National Mah Jong and American Mah Jong. These organizations are the hosts of American tournaments where Canadian and American players compete.
Basically, Mahjong is played with a set of domino-style tiles. The tiles feature several different age-old Chinese symbols and are divided into three categories called suits, honour tiles, bonus tiles, and sometimes dragon tiles. There are four players and two dice.
a. The suits are the largest numerical tiles within the three categories. Within the tiles, there are three different suits known as characters – 36, circles – 36, and bamboos – 36). Each suit in this category has nine tiles with each one numbered 1 to 9.
b. The honour tiles feature two symbols known as winds – 16 and dragons – 12 equalling 28 tiles. The wind tiles involve the north, east, south, and west.
c. The dragon tiles feature red, green, and white dragons. There are 12 tiles featuring 4 white dragons “soap” (can be played as zeroes), 4 green dragons, 4 red dragons.
d. The bonus tiles in are numbered 1 to 4 and they feature seasonal tiles and floral tiles. There are eight bonus tiles in total.
e. Optional Joker Tiles*: Jokers involve 8 tiles that are identical. Jokers can be used as a substitute for any tile except when there are 2 identical tiles or a single tile.
The game is won when a player calls Mahjong with a winning Hand of 14-tiles of four sets, a pair, and when the scores are added. If any of the players don't call Mahjong by the time all the tiles from the have run out, it is considered a draw and Mahjong will be replayed or redealt.
How to play Casino Mahjong
Each player draws 36 tiles at random then stacks a row of tiles(18)which are formed two tiles high and placed in front of each player to form a square. Players need to collect different combinations of tiles. The combinations are called Chows, Pungs and Kongs.
* A Chow is a sequential set of three tiles forming the same suit.
* A Pung is three identical tiles of forming the same suit.
* A Kong is four identical tiles forming the same suit.
Each of the four players represents the four directional winds, North, South, East, and West round. The Wind Round means that if you collect three or four Pung or Kong tiles, then you have collected Winds that represent a score that is higher than the other players.
Each player throws two dice and whoever gets the highest score is the “East Wind,” which means that player starts Mahjong. Each player's “Hand” consists of a total of thirteen tiles. When it's a player's turn, they are dealt a tile, giving them a total of 14 tiles. Then, the player can choose to keep the tile which was just dealt or the player can discard the tile.
Looking at their Hand, if a player has two or three tiles that is the same as the tile that was discarded then that player can call “pung” or “kong” and pick up this tile. Also if a tile is discarded by the player on their left and the player makes a run of three tiles, they should call out “chow” and then quickly pick up the discarded tile that has been placed in the middle of the table.
Just as long as no other player wants to use the same discarded tile to make a better combination, a player can use the tile to make a winning combination and to display it to raise the stake you made. The fun part is when a rowdy casino Mahjong game is played when all the players scramble to pick up the discarded tile. But in fun civil games, all the players generously remember to allow other players a chance to claim the discarded tile. Mahjong continues with each player picking up a tile and then discarding a tile, just like in cards.
* Playing With Jokers
Jokers can be used in Pungs, Kongs, and Quints, but they can not be used as singles and pairs. The Joker is inserted in a player's
. If a player accidentally discards a Joker, then the rules state that it can't be picked up.
When playing Mahjong online, then players are playing Mahjong Solitaire where the rules are made a lot simpler. Playing Mahjong online mahjong is limited to match pairs of identical tiles to remove them from the game board. In online plays, only free tiles can be used to slide left and right to form pairs.