Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to Play Filipino Mahjong


To win, you must have 17 tiles.  The simplest winning hand consists of 5 sets of pongs (three of a kind) or chows (consecutives numbers or straight) and one pair (mother).  You can also win with 7 pairs and 1 set of three (pong or chow).  Kongs or Secrets can also be part of a winning hand.


Balls, Sticks, Characters (or Chars) and Flowers

Balls: 1-9


Sticks: 1-9


Characters (Chars): 1-9


Flowers (Everything else):

Wind tiles: East Wind (東, dōng east), South Wind (南, nán south), West Wind (西, west), and North Wind (北, běi North).


Dragon tiles: Red Dragon, Green Dragon, and White Dragon.


Four of the flower tiles represent the four noble plants of Confucian reckoning:  plumorchid, chrysanthemum, and  bamboo.


The other four flower tiles (or season tiles) represent seasons:  springsummerautumn, and  winter.



Four players shuffle the tiles and start building four walls, two tiles tall.

Each player takes a turn to roll the dice.  The highest roll starts the game by rolling the dice once more.  The number thrown determines who picks up their tiles first.  If the thrower rolls a double, all bets are doubled in the game (If this is agreed upon).  The thrower counts as 1. Counting goes counter-clockwise.

For example, if the number on the dice is 8, the person to the right of the thrower (he/she ends up as 8) will count 8 stacks on a wall other than their own and then pull the last set on top of the wall, designating that as the flower wall.

The first person then gets 8 tiles (four stacks of 2) on the non-flower wall. Counter-clockwise, everyone gets their 8 tiles.
Each player is responsible for “serving” the portion of the wall that faces them, in order to speed play.

On the second round, the first person gets 9 tiles. (four stacks of 2, plus 1).

The first person may elect to get the extra tile at any time though.

Each player sets aside their flowers.
Proper etiquette dictates that melded flowers are to be placed to each player’s right.

The dealer (also known as the mano), selects flower replacements from the flower wall.  Counter-clockwise, everyone else gets their flowers.  If you pick up another flower, you must wait until it comes back around to you before you can pick up another card.  This continues until all flowers have been discarded and replaced.

 The players may then want to “organize” their hands, arranging the tiles in order of suits in the hand with each player's hand concealed from the other three as in dominoes.

Game Play:

The dealer (or mano, who has 17 tiles) then discards the first tile.
Players can either call out Pong/Kong/Mahjong (anytime) or Chow (only person to your left or mahjong). A Pong/Kong supercedes Chow.  Mahjong supercedes Pong. The player shows these tiles face down and play continues to the right of this person.

A Pong is three-of-a-kind of the same suit.  You can only Pong a single tile to complete a pair to win.
  • For example:
    MJt9.pngMJt9.pngMJt9.png; MJs3.pngMJs3.pngMJs3.png; MJf2.pngMJf2.pngMJf2.png; MJd2.pngMJd2.pngMJd2.png.

A Kong is four-of-a-kind of the same suit.
  • For example:MJd1.pngMJd1.pngMJd1.pngMJd1.png; MJs7.pngMJs7.pngMJs7.pngMJs7.png.

Chow is three consecutive numbers of the same suit. (Straight).
  • For example:
    MJs1.pngMJs2.pngMJs3.png; MJs3.pngMJs4.pngMJs5.png; MJs7.pngMJs8.pngMJs9.png; MJt5.pngMJt6.pngMJt7.png.

Mahjong is a completed hand.

If no one wants what is discarded, the next player picks up from the draw wall (not the flower wall).  The player either adds the tile to their hand or places it in the discard pile in the center of the table.

A player can only pick up the last discarded tile.  All tiles prior to this are considered "dead".

 As a courtesy to others, each player names his discard in placing it on the table. Each discard should be placed face up where all may see it plainly and not tossed or shoved among other discards.

If a flower tile is picked up during a player's turn, a replacement tile is picked up from the flower wall until no flower is picked up.  The player then discards one of their tiles (either the one that was picked up or another one from their hand).  Always make sure that one or two tiles are on top of the flower wall to designate it as where to pick up flower replacements.


When you only have one tile left to complete your hand, you are "waiting".

If you are waiting for a tile that has either been discarded totally or someone else has in their hand and there is no way to win, you are "dead waiting".

If you are waiting for your winning tile after cards are dealt, you are "standing waiting".

If you have two pairs and need one of those pair to complete your hand, you are "waiting back to back".

You are "waiting up and down" if you have two consecutive numbers and can either complete the hand at the beginning or the end of the sequence. (e.g. You have 2 and 3 balls tiles.  You can either win with a 1 ball or 4 balls).

If you win by picking up from the wall, it's Bunot. You get paid double.

If two or more people are waiting for the same tile, the person closest to the discarder has priority.

When you win, you can call out "todas!" or "mahjong!"

Examples of winning hands:
  • MJw1.pngMJw1.png - MJs3.pngMJs3.pngMJs3.png - MJt3.pngMJt3.pngMJt3.png - MJs8.pngMJs8.pngMJs8.png -
    MJw6.pngMJw6.pngMJw6.png - MJs1.pngMJs1.pngMJs1.png
  • MJt1.pngMJt2.pngMJt3.png - MJt4.pngMJt5.pngMJt6.png - MJt7.pngMJt7.pngMJt7.png - MJt8.pngMJt8.png -
    MJt9.pngMJt9.pngMJt9.png - MJw9.pngMJw9.pngMJw9.png

You can also win with seven pairs and one set of three.

The winner throws the dice to begin the next game.


If no one wins when all the tiles are depleted, the discarded tiles are reshuffled and walls are set up again.

Incentives or Ambitions:

Secret (Kong only known to you).  Place the four tiles face down.  Pick up from flower pile and then discard one. Quarter pay right away. Sometimes a player holds a “secret” in their hand for a time, instead of declaring it at once, hoping to use the tiles or part of them to complete one or more sequences. This is allowable and is sometimes useful.

Kong (Displayed).  Pick up from flower pile and then discard. Half pay right away.

Sagasa.  When a tile you pick up from the wall can complete something you have ponged.  Add the tile to your Pong. Pick up from the flower pile and then discard. Half pay right away. You cannot Sagasa a tile from the discard pile.

13 flowers.  Whenever a player accumlates 13 flowers during a game, Quarter pay right away.

No flowers. Can get paid in the beginning and at the end if you mahjong with no flowers, you get paid again.  Quarter pay.

Seven pairs.  Plus one triple. Half pay.

All up. - None of your tiles are shown when you mahjong. Quarter pay.

Escalera.  1-9 of the same suit.

Flushes.  All the same suit.

Before the Fifth.  When a player declares mahjong before the fifth tile is discarded

Back to Back.  - You have two pairs in your waiting hand.  Pong of either pair results in mah jong.  Quarter pay.

All down. - All tiles except your waiting hand are showing.

All chow. - Everything in winning hand, showing or not, are chows. Quarter pay

All pong. - Everything in winning hand, showing or not, are pongs. Quarter pay

Single. - Only one tile needed to win. Quarter pay.

Pop eye. - When playing with jokers, if a player gets all four jokers anytime within the game, they win.

Paningit (or in-between). - Filling only possible place to win. For example, your waiting hand is a one ball and three balls.  You need two balls to win.  Paningit supercedes Single.

Bisaklat -  When the mano has a complete hand before the game starts and automatically wins!


Goulash - At the beginning of the game, each player chooses three tiles that they wish to discard and places them face down in the center of the table.  The mano  then picks one tile from each pile (excluding his/her own).  Going counterclockwise, each person picks up 3 tiles.  Regular game of mahjong continues after this.

Joker - At the beginning of the game, the dice is thrown again.  One counts the stacks with the resulting number, then turns over the tile.  This tile will serve as the Joker or Wildcard of the game.

Re-Die - Method of switching seats.  Tiles 1-4 are shuffled and placed down at the middle of the table.  Each person picks up a tile.  The number determines where the new seat will be.

Jai Alai.  - After a win, the winner gets a marker.  Bunot gets an extra marker.  Double also gets an extra marker.  The first person to five markers gets an extra dollar (or whatever payment was predetermined).  Afterwards, everyone gives back their chips to start another Jai Alai.  It is possible to carry over a marker into the next Jai Alai.  For example, if you have 4 markers, then Bunot, you end up with 6 markers.  You give back 5 markers and carry over 1 to the next game.

When the dealer throws the dice, a player who has been losing can yell out "Plus x!", where x is a number.  This is a request from the loser to add x to the resulting number on the dice.  The dealer can then agree to the new number or not.

If losing, the mano, can change the number of tiles that each person gets during each round of distributing tiles.  Instead of getting 8 tiles, each person can get 2 stacks of two, or 3 stacks of two, or 5 stacks of two, etc.  Continue until all 16 tiles are distributed.

Strategy and Etiquette

Although Tom Sloper's site doesn't concentrate on Filipino Mahjong,  the concepts can be applied to it:  Strategy and Etiquette

I will include the one's I like the most here as well as some of my own.


  • Keep a pair - It's harder to make a pair than a Pong.  Usually, If I have more than one pair,  I will play them out until I decide which one will serve as the mother.  By looking at the discard pile and other player's showing tiles, you can see what your chances are of turning those pairs into Pongs.
  • "1-4-7 rule" - If the player to your right discards a 4, and you don't have another of those to discard, you /might/ be all right if you discard a 1 or a 7. Remember that these number sequences are key: 1-4-7, 2-5-8, 3-6-9. Between any two numbers in these sequences there can be an incomplete chow; if a player throws one number, then that player probably does not have a chow that would be completed by that number or the number at the other end. Discarding tiles IDENTICAL to what another player discards is always good, if you can.
  • If you are waiting for a Pong to win, but you pick up a card that can turn your waiting hand into a Chow, change your hand because the Chow gives you two ways of winning, but the Pong only gives you one chance.
  • Keep your discards on either side of your rack.  By discarding tiles within your hand, you will allow the other players to figure out your hand.
  • Don't always organize your tiles in the same manner (e.g. Sticks, followed by Balls, followed by Chars).  Switch it up.  Line your Chows up backwards sometimes. Split up your suits.
  • As the wall depletes, try not to discard tiles that haven't been discarded before.
  • Examine each tile you take from the wall with equal time even if you do not need that tile.
  • Do not place all your discards in the same spot on the table.  Other players can figure out your hand easier by seeing all your discards.
  • Do not place gaps in your hand.  This shows players your progress in your game.

  • Do not look at the tile you pick in the center of the table.  Other players may see it.
  • Do not rest your hand in the playing area.  It may block others from seeing the discard tiles.
  • Try to leave the table only in between hands.
  • Clearly announce the tile you are discarding.
  • When a winner displays their mahjong hand, do not expose your hand right away.  Let them enjoy their win first.
  • Do not take too long while thinking about your tiles.
  • When taking from the flower wall, make sure there are loose tiles on top designating it as the flower wall.  If the next player takes from the wrong end, it is your fault for not replacing the tiles.
  • You can only amend a mistake if you have not discarded your tile yet.  Once you discard your tile, you must live with your mistake.
  • Agree with the house rules.
  • When rolling the dice, if one or both dice land outside the four walls, the dice must be re-thrown.
  • A player cannot leave a game unless the pre-determined rounds are played or if all other players agree.

Family Word of Mouth


Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonnymous said...

Hi, I have a question.

If you are going for seven pairs, can you do a Kang or Secret? If so, do you consider the Kang or Secret as part of the seven pairs? What are the rules on that?

mahjongero569 said...

you forgot about 'up and down' when a play has the option of 2 tiles to win for example: i have 4 char and 5 char, i need either 3 char or 6 char to win. and bisaklat! when the mano has a complete hand before the game starts and automatically wins!

Ging Arzadon-Labajo said...

@mahjonero569 Thanks for pointing out that I missed "Up and down", I will edit the page shortly.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (from 5/31/11) - you can use a Kong or Secret for your Seven Pairs as long as you dont get a replacement tile from the flower wall (as you normally would when you get that Kong/Secret). You can then count a Kong/Secret as two pairs.

Ging - maybe also mention all the different varieties of jokers (first bunot, flower wall, Win-Drag, Dreaming, etc)?

Gabrielle Ante said...

but it is weird. it makes sense for me to get seven pairs And a secret. ok, i have 16 tiles and i pick one from the wall (now 17 tiles) and ended up with a secret. so i pick one from the flower wall and discard it (17 tiles still) but i have 13 tiles that is not face down or revealed. i have 6 pairs and wait for one tile to be pair with the last tile to make seven pairs. how come this doesnt work?

Rajib Hossain said...

This looks fantastic! I love the simple and classic subway tiles, you can't go wrong with those babies!
Split face Tile

jimmy jam said...

The player then discards one of their tiles (either the one that was picked up or another one from their hand). Always make sure that one or two tiles are on top of the flower wall to designate it as where to pick up flower replacements.
Italian design ideas

Perla Vasquez said...

when is a discarded tile considered dead and cannot be use to complete your mahjong?

Borxie Eborda said...

Can anyone make a page for all mahjong ambitions....

Celia Hopper said...


Celia Hopper said...


Celia Hopper said...

I want to play mahjong this er moment. Where do I start?

Celia Hopper said...

I want to play mahjong this er moment. Where do I start?

David Martin Leon said...

hi. im from tacloban city, leyte.. the most popular majong here is different than the rest. its single wall file with 64 tiles at the center for the players to play as their hand. im wondering., whats the name of this majong variation?

Ging Arzadon-Labajo said...

@Perla Vasquez - A discarded tile is considered dead once the next player begins their turn. Once the next player begins their turn the last tile is no longer in-play, except for that person. So players need to pay attention to the last discarded tile. Sometimes mahjong play goes fast just for that reason alone.

@David Martin Leon - I'm not sure what this variation of mahjong is called.

Ronald Santos said...

what is "release"?

Tournament Gamer said...

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Ramon Dawis said...

Hi, I have a question.

If you are going for seven pairs, can you do a Kang or Secret? If so, do you consider the Kang or Secret as part of the seven pairs? What are the rules on that?
is it required a file from the flower wall?? or not??

Ramon Dawis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
See Dominic Grow said...

I just learned how to play this weekend and would like to play online.
Is there an app or website you can suggest?

Ging Arzadon-Labajo said...

@ Ramon Davis

If you Kang, and you get paid for the ambition, you no longer can go for seven pairs.
If you Kang, you can also request not to be paid, which will allow you to continue to go for seven pairs, but this lets your opponents know your intentions.
If you pick up a tile that you be used as a Secret, it is better to just leave them standing in your wall, and then throw something else out.
If you call out Secret, and get paid for your ambition, you can no longer go for seven pairs.

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Sin Flor said...

Release is the highest paid "todas" in mahjong. You can only do a release if you have a joker. Your joker will be used as waiting single of any card

Sin Flor said...

"Kang without"

Sin Flor said...

You can still fo seven pairs but excluding the secret or kang as part of the seven pairs. The secret will be considered as back

Sin Flor said...

There are also other "major ambitions" in playing mahjong. It depends on the house rules. Here are the mahir ambitions that I know of: Escalera, Siete Pares (Seven Pairs), Sin Flores (No Flowers), Before the Fifth, One Color (All Flush), and Hard Way.

Sin Flor said...

Sometimes, players agree to make other ambitions as major ambitions or vice versa

Sin Flor said...

Other ambitions: All Pong, All Up, All Down, All Chow, Sin Joker, Paningit, Single,

Sin Flor said...

In some places, the players play for jai alai and kalembang. In a jai alai, 5 markers are needed to win a jai alai. In kalembang, 10 markers are needed.

Sin Flor said...

Talbog (1 marker), Talbog Ambicion (2 markers), Bunot (2 markers), Jackpot/Bisaklat (2 markers), Bunot Ambicion (3 markers), Release (3 markers)

Sin Flor said...

If a player's meld is talbog with major ambition, the player who was "talbog" pays the price and the other two players pay half

Sin Flor said...

If it is talbog with double ambitions or more, all players pay the full price as the one who was talbog or tinodasan

Sin Flor said...

If the rules in paying is 50 10 20, Bunot without any ambition is payed as 70. Ordinary todas or talbog sin ambiciones is payed 50

Joel Reyes said...

Hi i have a question: if you have a secret and hasn't declared it, can you make a chow on your turn and declare your secret on the same turn?

Orlymar Sevilla said...

Itatagalog ko po ang tanong ko:

Ang tiles ko is ganito.. Pair ng 8 char at 7 and 5 balls at 123 balls.. sa deck ko may pong akong 1 balls. Yung sinusundan ko nag-discard ng 4 balls, I chow it with my 2&3 balls, tapos sinagasa ko yung 1 ball ko sa pong ko na 1 balls. Kumuha ako sa flower deck, then discard.. Sabi ng mga kalaro ko bawal daw yun, kasi dapat pina-ikot ko muna, at pagbalik sakin, saka ko raw i-sagasa.. Kailangan bang ipaikot muna yung bunot bago ko sinagasa or pwede direct na after pag-chow? Please reply..thanks..

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Unknown said...

What is joker eye? How do you play it?

Unknown said...

yes, that’s true. Sa amin same rule yan, dapat paikotin mo muna then saka mo sagasa. Malas mo lang kung bago ulit umikot sayo may nag todas na😊

BienJr said...

If you have a melded pung and was able to pick a tile to complete the melded pung into a kong or sagasa, can you instead not declare this as sagasa and use it in the 7pairs ambisyun?