The Unwritten Rules of Mah Jongg

by Kimberly Powell

Courtesy. It’s not just the optional pass!

We have all experienced times when:

Playing at the table, the tiles are passed and received and then the play STALLS.

Calling for a discarded tile, the caller starts counting and then recounting the tiles in their rack, but not making a move to pick anything up.

A player grabs tiles off your rack when exchanging their tile for your joker.

A player questions a decision to throw a discard when it leads to someone else’s “Mah Jongg”.

A player rushes to show you their hand when you have called “Mah Jongg”, but not had time to show your winning combination of tiles.

These are only a FEW of the instances that may come up in a regular game among players, fast and slow, new and old. They offer us an opportunity to examine a chance to be more gracious, considerate, and CALM.


That is a given. We are playing a game we all love, with friends (usually), and game playing is a competition. But as in all sports, rules (written and unspoken), help to aid in the flow, fairness and enjoyment of the game.

We all know the written rules of Mah Jongg. Here are a few of the UNSPOKEN RULES!

1.  Wait until all players have their tiles before turning yours over to review. This allows for all players to have the same amount of time to consider a hand.
2.  Keep up with the pace of the table. If you are always the one who does not have a pass ready, or is asking for more time, consider your table mates and KEEP UP. If this is a recurring theme, you may need a slower table to play at.
3.  When exchanging a joker for an exposure, ask for it. Don’t touch other players’ tiles. It’s not nice!
4.  Allow the player who calls “Mah Jongg” to display their hand before you show yours.
5.  Congratulate the winner, don’t denigrate the thrower of the winning tile. Be a gracious winner. Put a smile on your face!
6.  We are playing a game we all love. Courtesy is not just the optional last pass!!

Kimberly Powell is the creator of the enormously successful Marvelous Mah Jongg score card. You can purchase it by clicking on this link.

Other score cards we sell are:
National Mah Jongg League card (click on link)
American Mah Jongg Association card (click on link), and
The Next Generation League card (click on link).

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