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自摸! Tsumo!

Posted by meronpan on May 20, 2009

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Finally decided to learn more about mahjong and figure out what the heck was going on in 咲 (saki).  Do you know the rules?  The Japanese rules?  Thought I’d throw together a little summary of my research for those who are curious but haven’t gotten around to it yet :P

How to Play!

Around the world people play mahjong with over 20 different sets of rules… for the sake of Saki I’ll only be going into the Japanese rules ^^;

Simply put… each player starts with 13 tiles.  On your turn you draw 1 tile and discard 1 tile.  To win you must simply convert your hand into 4 sets of 3 plus one pair.  For the sets of 3 they must be 3 of the exact same tile (same number, if applicable, and same suit) or a consecutive run of 3 of the same suit (1-2-3, 6-7-8, etc).  The two tiles in your pair must also be same suit.  Note that 4×3 + 2 = 14 — the 14th tile is the last tile that you draw.

You can also declare sets of 4 but when that happens you can no longer discard those tiles.  If you think about it it’s kind of like losing a tile, so to make up for it you get to draw another tile from the wall (if you think of the tiles as playing cards, the wall is like the remaining deck).

When someone discards, you can claim it if it completes a 3/4 of a kind or run of 3.  However, you must reveal those tiles.

There are some exceptions to what I’ve listed above and I could go into a lot more detail, but let’s keep it simple and move on to some verbal queues…

Things to Listen For!

ポン! (PON!)

saki08

aka “pung”… or bump, phoong, pong, tri, bango … Yelled when you take someone’s discard to complete a 3 of a kind.

カン! (KAN!)

saki09

aka “kong”… or quong, koong, gang, kung, gong… Yelled when you take someone’s discard to complete a 4 of a kind.

チー! (CHII!)

saki07

aka “chow”… or sheung, seams, seq, chih…Yelled when you take someone’s discard to complete a run of 3 (can only be done when the person before you discards)

自摸! (ツモ! (TSUMO!))

saki04

Declared when you win by drawing the tile yourself (i.e. not from another player’s discard).  After you calculate the value of your hand, the other three players pay the winner an amount based on the hand value.

栄! (ロン!(RON!))

saki05

Declared when you win by taking another player’s discard (unlike the chii, you can take any player’s discard if it allows you to win the round).  I think in this case the player that discarded the tile you took must shoulder the entire point burden of your hand so it’s really dangerous to discard a ron tile.

立直! (リーチ!(RIICHI!))

saki03

If your hand is closed (you haven’t taken any discards from other players), you can declare riichi when you only need 1 more tile to win.  You must put out 1000 points (the stick in saki’s hand) when you declare.  Now why the heck would you do that?  That brings us to the next section…

Scoring!

Have you ever been confused by a computer version of mahjong that wouldn’t let you win even though your hand looked fine?  Hopefully I’m not the only one ^^;;;  Finally discovered why – in the Japanese rules, you can’t win a round unless your hand is worth something!  Special combinations of tiles, certain conditions like riichi and such give hands values which play into the complicated scoring system.

Declaring riichi adds a value of 1 飜 (han) to your hand – which under most circumstances is sufficient to declare victory in a round.  More complicated hands get you more han, and thus more points.  han stack so you can get a high value hand by combining different winning conditions.

An example of combining score conditions… Saki’s crazy hand in the 2nd episode:

saki02

riichi – saki declared earlier that she was waiting for one tile to win. (or at least, i thought that’s what one of the characters said ^^;;)

四暗刻 (suuankou) – 4 concealed triplets – concealed meaning she completed them without taking any discard tiles.  This is actually special type of hand called a 役満 (yakuman).  Yakuman are all extremely difficult to pull off and as such are awarded a loooot of points.  Other examples of yakuman are getting triplets/quads of all the dragon tiles or triplets/quads of all four winds.

嶺上開花 (rinshan kaihou) – when you complete a kan (4 of a kind), you must draw an extra tile from the wall (that’s why saki got to draw two consecutive tiles).  If that tile causes you to win, it’s a rinshan kaihou.  I believe that’s worth 1 han.

Well, rather than being a combination special hand and riichi, the much more interesting thing was the suuankou ^^;;  With the other 3 players picking up and discarding tiles throughout the round it’s insanely difficult to draw all the necessary tiles from the wall.  There’s only 4 of each tile, so as soon as 2 of a tile is discarded, you can no longer complete a triplet.

I was actually playing and got a yakuman by dumb luck.

mahjong copy

All winds and/or dragons ^_^  Because yakuman hands are worth so much, you can win an entire session with them (like I did above).

There’s lists of the different hands all over the place if you want to see more.  I have a hell of a time remembering them all, especially when some disallow taking discards to complete the hand. (yet another thing that might turn your awesome hand into a worthless unwinnable hand)

A Few more Terms…

聴牌 (tenpai) – When a round ends without a winner, players that were waiting for 1 more tile to go out are tenpai.  They get a small amount of points.

saki06

ノー聴 (no-ten) – When a round ends without a winner and you’re waiting for more than 1 tile to complete your hand.

furiten – A condition that prevents you from taking a discard tile that would otherwise complete your hand.  This is caused by a few things, such as if you require a tile that you previously discarded.  i.e. If another player discards a tile that you had discarded previously, you cannot claim that tile for a ron.  This is another thing that may be preventing the computer from letting you win in what otherwise looks like a perfectly legal move.

Another furiten condition include passing up a winning tile – say you need a 1 or 2 dot to win.  If someone discards a 2, you pass, then the next player discards a 1 – you cannot claim it.  (you might be doing something like that to get a higher scoring hand).

[source]

Finally, if you declare riichi, after passing up a winning tile, you are no longer eligible to win by discard.  From then on you must win by tsumo.

Crazy Table

It actually exists!!  These things shuffle and stack the tiles and everything.  Wish I had one ^^;

From what I read you actually need 2 sets – it delivers the pre-shuffled one then sorts and stacks the other while you’re playing.  Think you can actually get one for ~$1000?  I’d soooo get one if it wasn’t more than a dslr ^^;

In Closing…

Hopefully that was beneficial rather than confusing people further ^^;  If you’d like to give it a try, here’s a free flash game that lets you play against the computer.  It even explains the rules and valid hands if you scroll down the page.

For more information, this site I’ve been linking throughout has a wealth of information from rules to determining if your set is made of ivory or bone ^^;  Or if you’re specifically looking for an exhaustive explanation of the Japanese rules, check here.

Kinda random post, but I love mahjong ^__^

以上!

ttp://www.sloperama.com/mjfaq/yaku/yaku.htm
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51 Responses to “自摸! Tsumo!”

  1. Shiddo said

    Yeah that anime is all “WTH is going on” when they start to play ^^ This will help.

    • meronpan said

      ‘course i’ve still left most of the scoring details out, but I think at the very least knowing the difference between tsumo/riichi/and ron goes a long way ^^

  2. Wow, that was helpful. I was planning on figuring out the Japanese variation on the rules since they seemed to be so much more fun than the plain Chinese rules. I guess most of the variations lie in the scoring, maybe you could go into more detail regarding those!

    • meronpan said

      can’t really comment on the Chinese rules since i’m not familiar with them at all ^^;; hmm maybe i will do a more detailed scoring post to follow up… but it’s pretty dense ^^;;; as far as i understand it now… your hand gets a score of fu x (2^(han))… then depending on who won, who was dealer, and whether it was a ron or not, people pay that amount of points to the winner. So then it’s just a matter of trying to remember all the different things that give you fu, and the things that give you han ^^;

      somehow everyone in saki already has all the rules memorized so well that when they declare victory they immediately state the exact value of their hand. o.O

  3. sonic_ver2 said

    Yeah, glad i read this before i watch Saki. XD

    Watching mahjong competition is fun for me eventhough i don’t know what’re the players doing. I watched some in Chinese movie (of course with Chinese rule) and i liked it.

    Anyway, i’ve played a very simple mahjong games in mahjong mini game from Suikoden 4. I said simple because that game used only pon, tsumo, and ron rules. It only has 1 wall for 2 players only.
    And that game also used custom tiles (using 4 colors to for sets and each sets has 4 numbers IIRC).
    It’s pretty fun, and using that rule, i also tried to develop a mahjong game using cards (the shapes as sets, and the numbers as the numbers). But i never knew how real mahjong games run.

    • meronpan said

      my favorite part of mahjong is the tiles ^^ i dunno why but i love the feel and sound of shuffling them. very soothing or something ^^;

      lots of the ero mahjong games seem to have a modified 2 player game with less wall tiles. but you still use all the crazy scoring rules o.O

      try out the flash game if you haven’t already! it’s pretty good for a free version ^^

  4. Vixion said

    nice one, now i don’t have to worry and ask myself

    what the hell are they doing and then say to myself

    who cares, i just want to see saki and big mac ups i mean nodochi

  5. Smithy said

    Majhong still sounds way too convulted and complicated to me. Even the promise of slight yuri undertones is barely enough to keep me watching “Saki”. ^^;;

    What we really should investigate about “Saki” is the reason behind the absurd breast size distribution. I mean Honoka has a ridiculously large and impossible shaped bosom whereas the rest of the cast are all near flat as a board… why???

    • meronpan said

      if you like/are familiar with rummy it’s not too insane… but otherwise, yeah, with the scoring it gets pretty complicated pretty fast. For the basic game it’s not bad at all though — just think of it like poker where you get to discard and draw but over and over again. Just that’s it’s 1 card at a time, and there’s a loooot of valid hands… ^^;

      nodoka is indeed at the ridiculous/impossible level ^^; more so than the over the top drama (glowing wings, lighting flares and impossible luck)… instead i’m left pondering, “damn, wouldn’t she fall over?” ^^; so much for happy mediums ^^;

  6. phossil said

    I have only played mahjong but the solitaire type.

    • meronpan said

      i was always disappointed when games called themselves mahjong but it was the matching solitaire version -_- not that there’s anything wrong with a good matching game but i don’t like being deceived ^^;

  7. Tier said

    I never learned how to play mahjongg, but I remember being fascinated by the tile sets I saw in old AAFES catalogs when I was a kid.

    The game I miss, though, is go stop. I used to play go stop with some of my relatives but I’ve forgotten how to play. I wonder where I can get a deck of go stop cards?

  8. I understood the rules, having played the game on and off for some time now. But even now, I still don’t understand the scoring system. Also, I play with chinese rules (unless it’s on a game like Idol Suchi pai) which doesn’t have Riichi.

    But I love how everything is heavily dramatised in Saki, like when she gets the winning tile and wthe viewer gets subjected to a quick pan followed by a a flash of light and lightning when she slams it down. Genius!!!

    • meronpan said

      hahah, yeah i love the drama too ^^ that’s probably what secured its place on my watch list — in the 1st ep when saki gets that kan… follows it with a rinshan tsumo with the lightning throw down — cracked me up, so awesome hehehe

  9. Yi said

    I’ve been playing Mahjong since I was kid with my parents and uncles and aunts, and I still don’t know how to count scores…
    This is pretty helpful guide.

    How is the Mahjong gaming in Saki? Competitive and realistic? Or just glanced over as a side thing?

    • meronpan said

      glad ya liked it. as mentioned above perhaps i’ll get into the actual score calculation in a follow up post… but it’s truly insane ^^;

      hmmm well, i’m just getting back into mahjong so i don’t really have much of a frame of reference… but the game play does occupy a good amount of each episode. though… if i remember correctly up ’til now it’s mostly just the end of the rounds that you see. sliiiightly more development of each round once they’re in a competition but still heavy on just the last draws before the winning hands. perhaps as they advance further it’ll get more involved.

      might wanna give the 1st episode a try… i think they spend maybe 10 out of the 24 minutes playing?

  10. Mahjong huh, I used to play it quite often, with the chinese rules of course. I also play eroge mahjong game, still could not figure out what look like utter crap in chinese rules would turn out to be 10 fan in Japanese rules lol. May be I should watch the anime too.

    • meronpan said

      i need to learn the chinese rules still ^^;

      the anime’s not bad, especially if you’re looking for a dramatic mahjong anime :P i wouldn’t call it epic though so if you’re short on time, probably just the first episode will give you what you need to know ^^;

      • Dramatic scene is good, one of my favorite animes is Hikaru no go, which I think would be consider as same genre as this. I might give this a try. Just watched the 1st EP of K-On! yesterday, not terribly impressed but I should continue to watch that as well.

  11. aprilius20 said

    Mahjong is one crazy game>,<

    I got a headache the last time someone tried to teach it to me. Then again, maybe it was because there were two fellas teaching me rules for two different types of mahjong at the same time^^;

    Never did get used to "自摸" either. In chinese, it really means "self-rubbing", which is just… *cough* never mind:p

    • meronpan said

      hahah two different rule sets at the same time? ^^;

      wow, the chinese reading gives me a whole new perspective on the show :P i wonder what the japanese meaning comes from… 自 is self but 模 means to imitate or copy. Hmmm though I guess it can also mean replace, so something like self replacement (from the wall)?

  12. Q said

    Mahjong… From what I know it’s played by the older generation, usually from middle-age onwards, and those who play at a younger age plays for money/gambling as well. It’s a traditional game and therefore its popularity is not as significant with the younger generations (but there’s still quite a portion of them – just that it’s usually played for money like a lot of card games).

    I’ve read up a bit and sure the Japanese system seems a bit different from the normal Chinese system (namely the common “Hong Kong system”, or so Wiki saids). The scoring system there surely sounds like a stranger to me, and apparently due to the dying popularity of Mahjong in Japan there were groups and movements trying to revive it, along with manga such as Saki to bring it back as well. To me, it’s still really out of place how little school girls are playing games that are often played by older generations, especially when they are usually played for gambling.

    • meronpan said

      i generally associate mahjong with older folk also… it’s too bad more people don’t play it just for kicks. it’s a great game!

      tons of school girls playing mahjong is totally out of place ^^; probably a result of the moe overload and authors fanning out into every genre they can think of ^^;

  13. TAKE-T0MB0 said

    Nicely explained there, ive always wondered what the hell goes on with that game XD Thank you for this~

  14. Persocom said

    Since the anime arrived I’ve found myself more curious about Mahjong. I’m still kind of lost but this does help make things easier to understand. Now, we just need a Saki based Mahjong game.

  15. T.I.P. said

    Hahahahaha, Mahjong…or MJ as me and my friends calls it. I know how to play the Canton and Taiwanese versions of it and consider myself to be pretty good with it, but I’m always confused when I play the Japanese MJ games. Now I know why, it’s much like a combined version of Canton and Taiwanese with a different scoring system to keep it simple.

    In the Canton and Taiwanese versions, if one person deals a card and you did not ポン! (PON!), チー! (CHII!), or 栄! (ロン!(RON!)) that particular card you can not do it again even if the next person plays that card until you’ve picked up another card from the deck. Ofcourse, like any game, there could be house rules that are different, but that’s how MJ is played so you don’t pick on one person in particular and take all their money because you don’t like them. ^^;;

    • meronpan said

      ooo nice ^^ wish i was good… would make these games easier ^^;

      what you describe regarding discards sounds like furiten, though i believe furiten only applies to ‘ron’ cases.

  16. woooh~! I literally yelled “Holy Sex!” when I saw that table eat and spew shuffled and ordered pieces! I still am sorta lost in Mahjong but i want one! Thank you for the informative post :D

    • meronpan said

      my pleasure ^^

      darou darou?! those tables are so awesome. i need to find somewhere to play on one (without having to gamble my money away ^^;)

  17. […] difficult to create.  You can combine different types of yaku to get more han.  Covered in the last post, you already know one type of yaku – riichi.  When you declare riichi, your hand gains 1 […]

  18. aprilius20 said

    Needed a simple FAQ to get through the mahjong game in the Code Geass R2 game for the DS, and remembered this post. Never thought it would be useful to me, haha:)

    • meronpan said

      dang, overlooked this comment, gomen m(_ _)m

      just wanted to say, that’s so random they included a mahjong game in a code geass game ^^; (or did they actually play in the series at all? lulu did a lot of chess obviously but i don’t remember the mahjong ^^;)

      glad i could help ^^

  19. casey/eyaru said

    heyo! hey so ive been getting realy interested in this game, but here is the deal. is there anywhere that i can play this game that dosent require me to pay? basicly what im asking is, is there a multiplayer website that plays this version or other of mahjong. after having watch all the current episodes of saki, i actualy though that it was a made up game, but then to my serprise it was real. and now i desire more than ever to play this game wile facing random players all over the world online, tho i cannot find a website that saports such a thing, there are a few examples of the kind of online place i am looking for, yahoo games/kings.com games..
    and so you see, my desire is literaly to play this game with other players, so i ask please. email me a linbk to a free website if posible . my email is , crosses_and_awes@yahoo.com please pleae i need this lol.. thanks if you do, if not thats ok.. arigoto gozaimasu!!!

    • http://tenhou.net/

      What you’re looking for is Japanese-style mahjong, and it’s right here. There’s a Flash version on this page that you can start playing automatically as NoName. You can also download it (worth a shot) and make your own name. Thing is, it’s all in Japanese, so you might have to fiddle around before you figure out what some buttons do :D

    • meronpan said

      alas, sorry but I can’t really help you with a multiplayer site… i’ve kept to the single player vs. computer stuff so i have no clue what sites are out there.

      i glanced at the site that observer extraordinaire recommended above, and it did seem to have free multiplayer play… but as mentioned, it’s completely japanese ^^;

      anyhow again, sorry and good luck!

  20. Paul said

    great article! very useful.

    i tried playing the mahjong flash game you linked us and am enjoying it very much at the moment. only thing i’m flustered about is whenever i get a tsumo or ron option and click that button, i get a “no multiplier” notice. Just wanted to know why it’s restricting me from doing tsumo or ron.. thanks

    • meronpan said

      no prob ^^

      if you’re getting ‘no multiplier’ i believe that’s because you have a hand that isn’t worth enough. i think i briefly talked about it in the “Scoring!” section of the post.

      in one of my other posts i talk more about yaku and their han values, but long story short, your hand needs to be worth at least 1 han (i.e. multiplier) for you to declare a win.

      daunting though it may be (at least, for me it was), you need to memorize at least a few of the special hands/winning conditions so that you can work to create a hand worth at least 1 han.

      some samples of the easier ones to remember:
      riichi – 1 han – you can’t take any discarded tiles from other players (i.e. your hand must be closed). you can win with any valid hand with this method.

      pinfu – 1 han – all sequences. you can’t take any discarded tiles from other players (closed hand) with their hand either.

      some han/multipliers don’t count towards the 1 needed to win though. for example, you get 1 han for each dora tile you have when you win. however, the han awarded from dora do not count for the necessary 1 han to declare victory.

      hope that helps!

      • Paul said

        Oohh I see what you mean now. Thanks for the quick reply.

        Btw, I got a kokushi-musou for my first hand just before reading your reply (felt really lucky when I got it so easily ^^) and this was right after taking a long break from never winning a hand

        Anyways, I’m really enjoying this game now so big thanks for posting that link :D

  21. Rayn said

    Greetings folks.

    I was playin’ that Flash Mahjong game before I came to this site. & the exact problem Paul had, was what I was havin’. Couldn’t understand why, for the past week, I was failin’ to win on a seemingly legit “hand”. Then I just happened to wander unto this site & my exact question was answered.
    Thought all I needed was 4 sets & 1 pair to win. Never occured to me that the “hand” needed points as well.
    What luck you had this site. Thanks.

  22. lashni said

    I realize it’s an old post but I was curious about your yakuman screenshot. Happen to remember which mahjong software that was?

  23. when i play mahjong mini games i got a tsumo but when i clicked it
    it said no multiplier
    what’s the meaning of that?

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