Taiwanese Mahjong Rules


2. Preliminaries


The complete game of Mah Jong ordinarily consists of 16 hands (or deals), though the number may be increased each time the dealer (East) wins, or when a deal ends in a draw. Each hand begins with the building of the Wall, breaking it, and dealing the tiles.
Before the game starts players throw the dice several times in order to determine the seat order, the first dealer (East) and to determine the place where the Wall is to be broken.

2.1 Seats

First the four players take temporary seats arbitrarily. Any of them throws two dice and beginning with himself as one, counts counterclockwise to the number shown by the dice. The player so indicated becomes "temporary East", and the other three seats, in counterclockwise order, temporary South, West and North.

Next any player mixes four wind tiles, one of each wind, face down on the table and arranges them in a stack.

Temporary East then throws the two dice and counts counterclockwise, starting with himself. The player indicated by the dice then picks up the topmost wind tile. The other three players, in counterclockwise order, pick up the next tiles from the stack. Each player then assumes the seat indicated by the tile which he has drawn; the seat locations are determined in stage one (for details, see Fig. 1).

The player who is now temporary East then throws the two dice and counts counterclockwise, starting with himself. The player indicated by the dice will become the final East for the first deal of the game. The other players are assigned winds accordingly in counterclockwise order.

Note. There are significant variations related to preliminaries of the game. Some players simply stack up four wind tiles in random order, after which dice is thrown to determine who picks up the uppermost tile, each player in counterclockwise order picking up the next tile from the stack. The player who gets the East wind remains seated, the player who gets the South wind will sit on his right, etc.

The players retain their relative positions (though not their seat designations, as the winds rotate) until the game has been completed.

Figure 1. Example of selection of seats.

a) Any player (here A) throws the dice. Here A throws seven, so C becomes the "temporary East".

b) The other players take temporary seats in counterclockwise order. (Note the difference to compass winds.) This determines the final location of seats.

c) Any player (player A in this case) mixes four wind tiles and arranges them in a stack.

d) Temporary East throws the two dice – four in this case – and counts counterclockwise, starting with himself.

f) The other three players, in counterclockwise order, pick up the next tiles from the stack. Each player then assumes the seat indicated by the tile which he has drawn, i.e., player C picks up the second tile (in this case West), player D picks up the third tile (South) and A picks up the fourth tile (East).

g) Each player then assumes the seat indicated by the tile which he has drawn, the seat locations being determined in stage B. Note that the winds follow each other in counterclockwise direction in order East, South, West and North (the order in which winds are customarily listed in Chinese) so they do not follow compass directions.
Player A is now temporary East.

h) Temporary East (player A) throws the two dice – four in this case – and counts counterclockwise, starting with himself.

i) The player thus indicated becomes the final East, and the other players are assigned the winds accordingly in counterclockwise order.

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