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

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Special Cases

Hands with no Winner

Sometimes nobody is able to go out before the supply of available tiles in the wall is exhausted. When only fourteen tiles remain in the wall and nobody has gone out that hand comes to an end.

Tenpai and No-tenpai Players

When play comes to an end without anybody having completed a hand any player who was ready to go out (i.e. who was Tenpai) reveals his hand in order to receive a payment from any player who was not ready to go out (No-Tenpai).

A player who is No-tenpai pays 1000 points to any player who is Tenpai. Thus, if only one player is Tenpai he receives 1000 points from the other two players. If two players are Tenpai they both receive 1000 points from the player who is No-Ten. If all three players are either Tenpai or No-tenpai nobody pays.

The Oya and the 100-Tenbo Score-Tallies

After each hand in which the winds do not change the Oya places a 100-Tenbo on the table in the corner to his right.

When a player completes his hand he receives from each liable player a Bonus of 1000 points for each 100-Tenbo on the table. See note 3.

If a new Oya takes over after nobody has completed a hand, the former Oya informs him how many 100-Tenbo have accumulated on the table. The former Oya then removes his 100-Tenbo and the new Oya takes the same number of 100-Tenbo from his tray and places on the table to his right.

When a player other than the Oya completes his hand the Oya and the winds move round one place anti-clockwise, and the former Oya removes the 100-Tenbo from the table.


Once there are four 100-Tenbo on the table the players need to make hands consisting of two Yaku in order to go out.

Ryanshi and Pon/Open Kan

If the player declares Pon or open Kan he must ensure that all his finishing options enable him to complete his hand with 2 Yaku. For example, he cannot wait to go out on a wind that is neither his player-wind nor the current table wind:

By going Pon the player has opened his hand and reduced his Yaku count by one.

In this case the player has gone Pon in order to collect three Red Dragons, worth 1 Yaku. He is waiting for either a third Green Dragon or a third South tile in order to complete his hand.

If the table wind, or the player's wind is South then it is perfectly legal for the player to wait for the South Wind in order to complete his hand, but if neither the table wind nor the player's wind is South, this hand becomes illegal even if the player completes his hand with Hatsu (Green Dragons), and even if he does this himself by going "Tsumo!" This is because one of his possible finishes is not a Yaku. (Remember, Tsumo "disappears" - i.e. it does not count as a Yaku - if any part of the hand is "open".)

So great care must be taken in completing hands after having gone Pon or open Kan when Riyanshi is in operation.

In similar hands that are completely hidden this problem does not occur:

This player has collected a set of Chun (Red Dragons), worth 1 Yaku. His hand is completely hidden.

In this case the player has one Yaku, the set of three Red Dragons and his hand is completely hidden. He now has the option of going Riichi, which will give him his second Yaku. He can then complete his hand with either a Green Dragon, or South, irrespective of whether South has been allocated to that player or to the table or not.


If the Oya accumulates eight 100-Tenbo by winning eight hands in a row or by having a Tenpai hand when there is no winner, he earns the right to complete his ninth hand as Oya without having to collect a single Yaku. He may even complete a no-Yaku hand by going Ron without declaring Riichi. If the Oya completes his hand it is automatically counted as Yakuman (see Score Table and Yaku Chart).

The Ko players, however, do not enjoy this privilege. For them Riyanshi still applies and they still need collect two Yaku to complete their hands.

If the Oya succeeds in completing his Paarenchan hand (the ninth hand of his term as Oya, in the tenth and succeeding hands of his tenureship of the Oya Ryanshi will once again apply to him as it does to the two Ko players.

Paarenchan does not occur if at any time during the player's turn as Oya if...

  • there is a Chombo (see next section).
  • some of the 100-Tenbo were inherited from the previous Oya
  • a hand ends without any winner and the Oya's hand is not ready (i.e. if it is No-Tenpai).


Supplementary Notes

Note 1: A player is Tenpai even if he had previously discarded one or more of the tiles he happens to be waiting for. However, if all four of each of the tiles that the player requires to complete his hand are already exposed, either in any of the players' discard rows, or as Pon, Kan, Dora or Mekuri-hai, then there is no possibility of his completing his hand as it stands, and he is considered to be No-Tenpai.

Note 2: If a Tenpai player does not wish to reveal his hand he does not have to. But in that case it is treated as a No-Tenpai hand and he has to pay each Tenpai player 1000 points.

Note 3: An example of how the 100-Tenbo increase the score.
The winds have not changed for three hands and so there are three 100-Tenbo on the table to the Oya's right. In the fourth game West goes Tsumo on a hand worth 7 points (Mangan). For a Mangan hand the Oya pays 4,000 plus a 3,000 Bonus (3 x 100-Tenbo), making a total payout of 7,000; the other player (South) pays 2,000 plus a 3,000 Bonus (3 x 100-Tenbo), making a total payout of 5,000. So West receives a total of 12,000.

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Page last modified: 10th September 2011