How to Play Japanese Three-Player Mahjong
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Introduction

Preliminaries

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

Mistakes

Points and Payments

Yaku Table

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Interrupting Play with Pon and Kan



Going Pon

A player may claim a tile that has just been discarded by one of the other players in order to make a set of three-of-a-kind. The player claims the discarded tile by saying "Pon!" (see note 1). He then takes the tile from his opponent's discard pile, places it face up to his right and takes the two similar tiles from his hand and adds them to it to make an "open" set of three. These tiles are considered "open" because everybody can see them.

When the player places the three tiles to his right he turns one of the tiles sideways. If he claimed a tile from the player on his right he turns the right-hand tile sideways. If he claimed a tile from the player on his left he turns the left-hand tile sideways. If he claimed a tile from the player opposite him he turns the middle tile sideways. This informs everybody where the tile came from.

The player who went Pon now completes his turn by discarding a tile from his hand. Play then passes to the player on his right.


The player has made a set of three Chun (Red Dragons) by going "Pon".



Going Kan

A Kan is a set of four tiles of the same kind. Whenever a Kan is declared another tile is turned over in the wall. There are three ways of going Kan.

1. Hidden Kan (Ankan)
When a player collects four of the same kind of tile he may choose to go Kan (fig. i).

i.

The player draws a fourth 4-Coins from the wall.


He declares Kan by turning two of the tiles round so that their faces are exposed to the other players (figs. 2 & 3).

ii

Two tiles are turned around to declare hidden Kan.


iii.

The hidden Kan as it appears to the other players.


Another Mekuri-pai is turned over in the wall, next to the first on the side that is farther away from the end of the wall (fig iv).

The player now takes another tile from the back of the wall and adds it to his hand to replace the tile that was used to make Kan (fig. iv).

Finally, the player discards a tile and play proceeds to the player on his right.

iv.

The Mekuri-pai (8-Coins) has been turned over. Next the player takes a tile from the back of the wall


2. Open Kan
If a player has a three-of-a-kind set of tiles hidden in his hand (i.e. not open) he can claim the fourth tile if another player discards it by going "Kan! " (fig. v).

v.

The player can go Kan and claim the 6C which the player to his right has just discarded.


He takes the tile from the end of the player's discard row and places it face up on the table to the right of his hand and takes the three similar tiles from his hand and adds them to it. He turns one of the tiles sideways to indicate which player he claimed it from. Now he takes another tile from the other end of the wall and adds it to his hand. He discards a tile, and only AFTER he has done this is the Mekuri-pai turned over.

Hidden Kan Procedure
  • Turn two tiles around to declare Kan.
  • Turn over a tile in the wall.
  • Take a tile from the back of the wall.
  • Discard a tile, or declare Tsumo.
Open Kan Procedure
  • Claim a tile from another player as he discards it.
  • Set aside the Kan tiles.
  • Take a tile from the back of the wall.
  • Discard a tile, or declare Tsumo.
  • Turn over a tile in the wall (unless you declared Tsumo).



Going Kan increases the number of Mekuri-pai and creates more Dora tiles

When a player goes Kan another tile on the wall is turned over next to the other Mekuri-pai, but on the anti-clockwise side (see Bonus Tiles). This new Mekuri-pai indicates that another Dora (Bonus Tile) has been created.


When to turn over the Mekuri-pai

In the case of a hidden Kan the Mekuri-pai is turned over before the player who went Kan discards. He goes Kan, then turns over the Mekuri-pai, draws a tile from the back of the wall, and then discards a tile.

In the case of an open Kan, the Mekuri-pai is turned over after the player has discarded a tile.

The reason for this is that a hidden Kan is superior to an open Kan. The player's reward for making a hidden Kan in a hidden hand is to have a chance to increase his Dora count should he declare Tsumo with the tile he draws from the back of the wall.

If he does not complete his hand he can still enjoy the benefit of being able to check the Mekuri-pai before he discards a tile. Remember, the Mekuri-pai tells the players which tiles are extra Dora (Bonus tiles) for the game, and this may affect the player's decision as to which tile he will discard.

Warning No. 1: Open Hands Limit a Player's Options

A player who has opened his hand by going Pon or Kan cannot complete his hand unless it contains either a set of Dragons, a set of active Winds, or a 2 point or higher value Yaku.

Warning No. 2: Open Hands Lower the Score of a Completed Hand

When calculating the score of a partially open hand, 1-Yaku combinations except for Dragons and active Winds (and Bonus Yaku - see Yaku Table) are eliminated from the scoring and cannot be counted. Moreover, most higher value Yaku are reduced by one point. So a 2-point Yaku is counted as just one point, a 3-point Yaku is counted as just two points and so on. BUT there some important exceptions to this rule (see note 7).

Despite the warnings given above there are several occasions when opening your hand by going Pon or Kan may be useful:


When to Go Pon

1. Going Pon to complete a set of dragons or active winds
A player who has two of the same kind of Dragons or active Winds may go Pon when another of the same kind is discarded. This is a very common form of Pon and usually the first Pon a player claims because it gives him a Yaku.

To count as a Yaku a Dragon or active Wind open Pon or Kan must be the first open Pon or open Kan that a player claims (see note 8).

2. Going Pon to develop a hand with a hidden Yaku
If a player has already built a hand which contains one or more hidden Yaku worth a total of 2 points or more he may claim an open Pon, provided he does not destroy those Yaku by so doing. He is not obliged to go Toitoi (see note 3 below). The purpose of this play is to try and bring the hand closer to completion more swiftly.

3. Going Pon to get Toitoi ("Ponning Out")
A player may decide that his best chance of completing his hand lies in claiming any open Pon he can even though he does not have a Yaku in his hand. To successfully go out by this method a player must collect sets of 3-of-a-kind only, hidden or open. This method creates a 2 point Yaku called Toitoi.


Why Kan?

The main reason to go Kan is to increase the number of Mekuri-pai on the wall in the hope that this will increase the Dora (Bonus tiles) count in the player's hand. This move is best done by a player who is confident that he will complete his hand otherwise he may simply be helping another player to improve his score should that player go out first. There is little point in going Kan with an undeveloped hand.

Ideally, the player will collect 4-of-a-kind himself and declare a hidden Kan. That way he will not forfeit his right to go Riichi. If he goes Riichi he will also be able to check each tile beneath the Mekuri-hai in the wall for Dora. By making a hidden Kan the player will have two extra tiles to check in the wall, the new Mekuri-hai, and the tile beneath it.

Remember that a player who makes an open Kan (claiming the fourth tile from another player as he discards it) forfeits his right to go Riichi. This means he will not be able to check the tiles below the Mekuri-hai for extra Bonus points. He should therefore consider carefully whether the potential gains of going Kan will match the potential losses.


Rinshyan

Another reason for a Tenpai player to go Kan is in the hope of going out on the tile that he takes from the other end of the wall to make his hand up. This finish is called Rinshyan and adds one point to the player's final score.


Going Kan to Improve the Hand: Sankantsu (2 Yaku) or Sukantsu (Yakuman)

It may be that the player has collected two sets of Kan (hidden or open) and wishes to claim a third in order to build a 2 Yaku hand called Sankantsu. In this case he would probably seek to make a third hidden or open Kan. Likewise, a player who already three sets of Kan in his hand may seek to build a high scoring Yakuman hand called Suukantsu by claiming a fourth Kan, hidden or open.

Warning: Beware of Kan Atozuke! An open Dragon or active Wind Kan is considered Atozuke if it is preceded by a Pon or an open Kan that is not a dragon or active wind (and if his hand contains less than two hidden Yaku, no hidden 3-of-a-kind dragons or active winds). Check what was said in the section on Pon Atozuke as the same circumstances apply to Kan Atozuke too.


Going Kan after Riichi

After having gone Riichi a player can only go Kan if he takes the tile from the wall himself and only if this Kan does not alter what he is waiting for in order to complete his hand (see note 9).

A player who has gone Riichi cannot make an open Kan by claiming a tile that another player has just discarded.


Next


Chankan

This is a neat way of completing a hand! It is known as "Robbing the Kong" in the West.

If a player adds a tile to an open Pon to make an open Kan, and if another player can complete his hand on that tile, he may do so provided his hand contains at least one Yaku.

If a player makes a hidden Kan with a 1, 9, Wind or Dragon, and if a player who is Tempai on Kokushimusou needs that tile to go out, he can declare "Ron" and go out.


Supplementary Notes



Note 1: Of course a player may decline the option of going Pon. He may be hoping to draw the remaining tile from the wall while keeping his hand hidden, or he may simply be keeping his options open (perhaps hoping to build two runs-of-three).

Note 2: A player may go Pon even if he has already discarded one of the same tiles.

E.g. Player A has one 8-Bamboo in his discard pile and two 8-Bamboo in his hand. Player B then discards the fourth and last 8-Bamboo. Player A may go Ponand claim that tile if he wishes. However, under no circumstances may he claim it by going Ron.

Note 3: Do not turn over a tile (Mekuri-pai) if the player who declared an open Pon goes Tsumo on the tile he draws from the back of the wall.

Note 4: If a player has an open Pon and draws the fourth tile from the wall he may convert his open Pon to an open Kan. He may not convert an open Pon to an open Kan with a tile discarded by another player.

Note 5: Once a hidden or open Kan or an open Pon has been declared those particular tiles cannot be discarded.


Note 6: There is a limit to the number of Kan that can occur in a single hand of play; once the fourth Kan is declared the hand is finished, even if nobody has gone out.

However, if all four Kan have been made by one player, that player scores Yakuman even if his hand lacks a two-tile head!!

This is the only case where a hand can be completed without having to make a head!

Note 7: Yaku that retain their value in an Open Hand:

  • Sananko
  • Sankantsu
  • Daisangen
  • Paarenchan
  • Suukantsu


Note 8: To count as a Yaku during play, a Dragon or active Wind that is claimed by open Pon or open Kan must be claimed Sakizuke. That is, a Dragon or active Wind must be the first open Pon or open Kan that a player claims in order for it and all subsequent open Dragon or active Wind Pon or Kan to count as Yaku during play.

However, a Dragon or Wind open Pon or Kan claimed Atozuke is still counted as a Yaku in the scoring if that player completes his hand.

Note 9: Here are two examples that illustrate how a Hidden Kan may be made after having declared Riichi:

2C,2C/5C,6C/5B,6B,7B/8B,8B,8B/E,E,E

The player has declared Riichi and is waiting for 4-Coins or 7-Coins. However, if he draws 8-Bamboo he may declare Kan. Likewise, if he draws East he may declare Kan. He has a chance of declaring Kan twice without changing what he is waiting for (4C, 7C).

There is another way of declaring hidden Kan. Consider this hand:

2C,2C/5C,6C/7C,8C,9C/6B,7B,8B/8B,8B,8B

Once again, the player has declared Riichi and is waiting for 4-Coins or 7-Coins. He also has a 6-7-8 run of Bamboo and a set of three x 8-Bamboo. This player has all four 8-Bamboo tiles in his hand. Now, if he draws a 5-Bamboo even after he has declared Riichi, he may add it to the 6B and 7B to make a run-of-three that releases the 8-Bamboo. The player can now declare a hidden Kan with the four 8-Bamboo tiles! This is perfectly legal as it does not affect the rest of his hand; he is still waiting for the same combination of tiles (4C or 7C) to complete his hand.















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Page last modified: 10th September 2011