How to Play Japanese Three-Player Mahjong

More Mahjong Styles




The Winds & "the Oya"

Bonus Tiles

Playing the Game

Building a Hand - The Basics

Building a Hand with Special Combinations

How to Complete a Hand

Interrupting Play with Pon and Kan

Special Cases


Points and Payments

Yaku Table

Other Stuff



Mahjong in Japan

Books on Mahjong

Mahjong Sets & Accessories


Drop me a line



Mahjong Tiles

A standard (four player) Mahjong set consists of 144 tiles. There are 35 different types of tile, each type occurring four times (4 x 35 = 140 tiles). However, in the standard Japanese three-player game only 108 of these tiles are used.


There are three suits, Coins (Pinzu), Bamboo (Souzu), and Characters (Manzu). Each suit runs from 1 to 9, with four tiles for each number, making a total of 36 tiles per suit. In the Japanese three-player game the tiles 2 to 8 of the Characters suit are removed. Only the 1 and 9 tiles of this suit are used.

Winds (Kazepai)

There are four winds: East (Ton), South (Nan), West (Sha), North (Pei). There are four tiles for each wind making a total of sixteen wind tiles altogether. All these tiles are used in the three-player game.

Dragons (Sangenpai)

There are three Dragons: White (Haku), Green (Hatsu), and Red (Chun). There are four tiles for each Dragon, making twelve Dragon tiles in all. All these tiles are used in the three-player game.

Flowers and Seasons

These tiles are only occasionally used as Bonus tiles in three-player Mahjong.

Tiles for the Three-Player Game

The tiles that are used in the three player game are:
    • 1-9 of Coins (Pinzu) = 9 x 4 tiles = 36 tiles.
    • 1-9 of Bamboos (Souzu) = 9 x 4 tiles = 36 tiles.
    • 1 & 9 only of Characters (Manzu) = 2 x 4 tiles = 8 tiles.
    • 4 Winds (Ton, Nan, Sha, Pei) = 4 x 4 tiles = 16 tiles.
    • 3 Dragons (Haku, Hatsu, Chun) = 3 x 4 tiles = 12 tiles.
    • Total = 108 tiles

    Dice (Saikoro)

    Mahjong sets usually include three or four dice. However, in Three Player mahjong only one die is used.

    Scoring Tallies (Tenbo)

    There are four denominations of scoring tally:

      • 10,000 points
      • 5,000 points
      • 1,000 points
      • 100 points

    Each player starts the game with a tally of 45,000 points, divided into the following denominations:

      • 3 x 10,000 tallies (30,000 points)
      • 2 x 5,000 tallies (10,000 points)
      • 4 x 1,000 tallies ( 4,000 points)
      • 10 x 100 tallies ( 1,000 points)

    Allocation of Seats

    Take one of each of the wind tiles East, South and West, place them face down on the table and shuffle them. Each player takes a tile. The person who drew the East tile chooses a seat and sits down. His seat is the temporary-East seat. The person who drew the South tile sits to his right, and the person who drew the West tile sits opposite him.

    Building the Walls

    To build the wall, turn all 108 tiles face down and shuffle them well. Then each player should build a wall consisting of two layers of tiles, 18 tiles long.

    The players then push their walls a few inches towards the centre of the table so that they meet to form three sides of a square.

    After the walls have been built the Oya is chosen.


mahjong wind tiles
The Four Winds

mahjong dragons
The Three Dragons

mahjong seasons
Flowers & Seasons

Click here to view all the tiles that are used in Three Player Mahjong.

mahjong tenbo scoring sticks
10,000, 5,000, 1,000, 100
Scoring Tallies
and Dice

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Page last modified: 10th September 2011