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

Building a Hand with Special Combinations (Yaku)

The ability to build a hand which contains special combinations - or Yaku - is the essence of Mahjong. Yaku bestow privileges on the player who successfully collects them and yield him a higher score if he completes his hand.

Certain special cases are also considered to be Yaku (see the Yaku Table). In one case, a Yaku can even be "bought" (see Going Riichi)1.

Consider the following example hands:

1. A hand with no Yaku:

This hand can be completed with 1-Bamboo or 4-Bamboo. It consists of two runs, two three-of-a-kind sets and a head of Dragon tiles (chun). It will probably be a low-scoring hand because it contains no Yaku2.

2. A two-Yaku hand:

In this example, the player has collected four runs of three3, which is a Yaku called Pinfu. Also, there are no 1s and 9s, winds or dragons in the hand and the player is not waiting for a 1 or 9 tile to complete his hand. This is a Yaku called Tanyao. Moreover, the hand can be completed with one of three tiles, the 2-Bamboo, 5-Bamboo or 8-Bamboo, which increases the probability of success.

The second hand is much better than the first. It will most likely yield more points than the first because the Yaku called Pinfu and Tanyao are worth one point each. The more Yaku a hand contains, the more points a player can win.

Furthermore, the value of the hand is augmented by the Red Five, which will earn a bonus point if the player goes out.


Note 1: While every special combination is a Yaku, not every Yaku is a special combination.

Note 2: The number of points a hand accumulates will also depend on several other factors, such as how many Dora (Bonus tiles) the player has collected; whether or not the player is the Oya for that round; the number of games one player has remained the Oya; and the circumstances surrounding the completion of the hand.

Note 3: The 3,4,5,6,7-Bamboo combination is an uncompleted set of two runs of three. Add either 2, 5 or 8-Bamboo to make two runs of three and complete the hand. Making combinations like this increases the likelihood of completing a hand.

Privacy | Terms of Service

Page last modified: 10th September 2011