Four Winds Rule Collection Chinese Old Style

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 Determining the seats and the first dealer

First the four players take temporary seats arbitrarily. Any of them mixes four wind tiles, one of each wind, face down on the table and arranges them in a row. At one end of the row he then places face up an even-numbered suit tile, and at the other end, an odd-numbered tile.

Now any player throws two dice (in Southern tradition three dice are used, instead) and beginning with himself as one, counts counterclockwise to the number shown by the dice. The seat a player so indicated currently occupies will become the initial East seat for the game, and the other three seats, South, West and North, are determined in counterclockwise order.

Then any player (normally the same player who threw the dice earlier) throws the dice (2 or 3, as before), and counts counterclockwise round the players to the number shown by the dice. The player indicated by the dice then picks up the wind tile at the odd end of the row, if the number last thrown was an odd number, or even end of the row, if the number was an even number. The other three players, in counterclockwise order, pick up a tile from the same end. Each player then assumes the seat indicated by the tile which he has drawn.

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

Note. There are significant variations related to preliminaries of the game. E.g., it is common to leave out the selection of the location of the initial East seat (the East seat will just be the seat that the first East happens to occupy). Also, 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.

Figure 1. Example of selection of seats.
 
a) Players take temporary seats arbitrarily.

b) Any player (player A in this case) arranges four wind tiles between an odd and even numbered suit tile.
 
c) Any player (here A again) throws the dice. Here A throws seven, so the seat which C is currently occupying will become the initial East seat of the game. The other three seats, South, West and North, are determined in counterclockwise order.
 
d) Any player (normally the same player as in the previous stage) throws the dice. Here A throws four.

e) The player thus indicated (player D in this case) picks up the wind tile at the even (right in this case) end of the row, since the number last thrown was an even number (four). This determines player D's final seat, which is East in this case.

f) The other three players, in counterclockwise order, pick a tile from the same end the first wind tile was picked. Each player then assumes the seat indicated by the tile which he has drawn, i.e., player A picks up the third tile (in this case South), player B picks up the second tile (West) and C picks up the first tile (North).
 
g) Each player then takes the seat indicated by the tile which he has drawn, the seat locations being determined in stage C. Note that the winds follow each other in counter-clockwise 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.
2.2 The Deal

Before each hand all the tiles are placed face down on the table and thoroughly mixed by non-dealers, until East gives the command 'Pow' (meaning 'start'), after which each of the four players picks up 34 tiles and builds a row of tiles in front of him, 17 tiles long and 2 high (if Flowers and Seasons are used, 36 tiles are picked, forming a 18 tiles long row; if only Flowers are used, East and West build a 18-tile long row and South and North build a 17-tile long row). Each player then pushes his row forward to form a hollow square. This formation is called Wall.

To determine the breaking point of the Wall, the dealer (East) throws the two dice and counts counterclockwise round the walls, beginning with himself as one (accordingly, numbers 5 and 9 indicate East, numbers 2, 6 and 10 South, numbers 3, 7 and 11 West and numbers 4, 8 and 12 North). East then counts off along the tiles of the top tier of the wall indicated by the dice (a stack of two tiles at a time), starting from the right end. E.g., if he throws 6, he will count 6 stacks from the right end of the South's wall.

East makes a break in the wall by pushing slightly the tiles to the left of the breaking point.

The seven stacks of tiles to the right of the breaking point are known as Dead Wall (or Kong box); the remaining tiles, starting from the tiles to the left of the breaking point, constitute the live Wall. The 14 tiles of the Dead Wall are reserved as replacement tiles for Kongs (and Flowers and Seasons, if they are used). The Dead Wall is replenishing so the used supplement tiles are replaced by reserving new tiles from the tail end of the live Wall (however, the supplement tiles are always taken from the left end of the Dead Wall).

East starts the deal by taking the first two stacks of the tiles (i.e., four tiles) from the left of the break, then each of the other three players pick two stacks of tiles in order South, West and North. This is repeated twice so that each player has 12 tiles. East then draws the 1st and 5th tile from the open end of the Wall (as displayed in Fig. 2-d below), and South, East and North in turn take one tile each. Thus the dealer has 14 tiles and the other three players each 13 tiles.

The hand starts by each player arranging the dealt tiles so that their faces are not visible to the opponents, but in such a way that the other players may count them.

If Flowers and Seasons are used, and the dealt hand contains Flowers or Seasons, they are immediately melded (placed face up above and to the side of the hand) and replaced with regular tiles taken from the Dead Wall (East replaces first his extra tiles, then South, West and North). Should a player draw further bonus tiles during this replacement procedure, he immediately takes supplement tiles for these, as well.

Figure 2. Building and breaking the Wall.

a) The walls are pushed together so that an enclosed space is formed in the middle of the table.
 
b) East throws the two dice eight, in this case and counts counterclockwise round the walls.
 
c) East then counts off 8 stacks (the number indicated by the last cast of the dice) along the tiles of the top tier of the wall of the player indicated in stage B (North's wall in this case), starting from the right end, and breaks the wall. The 14 tiles to the right of the breaking point (gray tiles in the picture) constitute the Dead Wall.
 
d)
The players take each 2 stacks of tiles (i.e., four tiles at a time) from the start of the live Wall, in order East, South, West and North, until each player has 12 tiles. East picks his 13th and 14th tile as illustrated in picture above (note that these two tiles are picked at the same time and South, West and North pick their final tiles only after this). This is called chan-chan because of the sound made by the clicking of the two tiles (see picture).

Related topics:
Introduction
Tiles
Playing
Miscellaneous
Scoring
Payments