Four Winds Rule Collection Japanese Modern

2. Preliminaries

The complete game of Mah Jong ordinarily consists of 8 hands (or deals), though the number may be increased each time the dealer (East) wins; sometimes the deal is retained also after 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 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 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 suit tile.

Temporary East then throws the two dice and counts counterclockwise, starting with himself. The player thus indicated 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.

Now temporary East throws the two dice and counts counterclockwise round the players, beginning with himself as one, to the number thrown. The player thus indicated throws the two dice again, and counts round the players, as before. The player thus indicated becomes the first dealer of the actual game. The non-dealers are named accordingly in counter-clockwise order as South, West and North.

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

Note. There may be variations related to preliminaries of the game. E.g., it is common that the seat order is determined simply by mixing four wind tiles, one of each wind, each player drawing one in turn, thus determining his final seat for the first deal of the game.

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.)

c) Any player arranges four wind tiles between an odd and even numbered suit tile.
 
d) Temporary East (player C in this case) throws the two dice four in this case and counts counterclockwise, starting with himself.

e) The player thus indicated (player B 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 B's 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 C picks up the third tile (in this case South), player D picks up the second tile (West) and A picks up the first tile (North).
 
g) Each player then assumes the seat indicated by the tile which he has drawn. 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.
 
h) Temporary East (which now is player B) then throws the two dice three in this case and counts counterclockwise, starting with himself.
 
i) The player thus indicated (player D in this case) throws again the two dice four in this case and counts round the players, as before.
 
j) The player thus indicated (player C in this case) becomes the final East, and the other players (D, A and B) become South, West and North.
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 36 tiles and builds a row of tiles in front of him, 17 tiles long and 2 high. 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). The player thus indicated then casts the two dice and adds the sum to the total thrown by East. He then counts off along the tiles of the top tier of his wall (a stack of two tiles at a time), starting from the right end. If the grand total exceeds 18, the count continues around the corner (to the left). 

He makes a break in the wall, separating 7 stacks of 2 tiles (i.e. 14 tiles) from the Wall. These 14 tiles 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. The Dead Wall is replenishing so the used supplement tiles are replaced by taking tiles from the tail of the live 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.

Figure 2. Building and breaking the Wall.

a) The walls are pushed together so that they will meet at all four corners.
 
b) East throws the two dice eight, in this case and counts counterclockwise round the walls.
 
c) The player thus indicated (North in this case) throws the two dice three in this case and adds the sum to the total thrown by East (grand total being 11 in this case). He then counts off along the tiles of the top tier of his wall, 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