Mahjong for 2 players      Home      Scoring and Hand Combinations

Mahjong for 2 players is a rich game of strategy that you can learn and start playing in 5 minutes!
Mahjong for 2 resembles both Cribbage and Gin Rummy - there's much skill & subtlety needed to outscore the opponent - ranging from hedging your bets with a discard to preventing the opponent from going out with a big hand.

As a game of strategy, mahjong for 2 is not about a simplistic race to meld sets. It is mostly about balancing short-term vs. long-term strategy, about maximizing gains while cutting losses to a minimum.   Where one player may seek to build a high-scoring hand, another player may decide to go out for minimum points just to stop their opponent from capitalizing on a good hand that they were dealt.

The Goal in 2-player Mahjong
Just like in other mahjong versions, the goal in a 2-player Mahjong is to score points by being the first to play down all of own tiles, in the precise combination of 4 sets of 3 tiles (can be either exact triplets or suited runs) and one pair:
set   set   set   set   pair  
The 1st player to make a combination of 4 sets and a pair wins the hand immediately and receives points. As opposed to other mahjong versions, the opponent does NOT score anything. The rounds continue until one player reaches an agreed number of points (e.g. 100 points) first and wins the game.

Sets in a 2-player Mahjong can ONLY be a sequence of 3 (chow) or 3 of a kind (pung) like in a picture below.

  3 identical tiles
example: Mahjong Bamboo #4 Mahjong Bamboo #4 Mahjong Bamboo #4
  3 same-suit consecutive tiles
example: Mahjong Character #1 Mahjong Character #2 Mahjong Character #3
  2 identical tiles
example: Mahjong Circle #3 Mahjong Circle #3

Mahjong Tile Set
Like a set of playing cards, a mahjong tile set has suits, but instead of Hearts, Diamonds, Spades and Clubs, there are just 3 suits: Bamboos, Circles, and Characters. Each suit is numbered from 1 to 9 and there are 4 of each tile.
Three Mahjong Suits
Bamboos 1 - 9 mahjong tile set - three suits
Circles 1 - 9
Characters 1 - 9
Also, there are Honor tiles --
Dragons & Winds - 4 each
mahjong tile set - three suits
There are 8 Flowers & Seasons
tiles - 4 each
Finally, there's an optional
"wildcard" Joker tile - 4 of them

Starting the Game

Roll 2 dice: the player with the highest roll will start the game.

Picking and Discarding Tiles

Tiles are shuffled face down and each player receives 13 tiles.
  • If a hand contains a Flower or a Season tile, this tile is opened up and placed in front of own tiles and a new replacement tile is dealt. If Flower or Season tile is picked during a game, it is similarly replaced. Flower and Season tiles only count at the end of the round.
  • The starting player discards one tile face up. Upon discard, the opponent has the option of picking up that discarded tile or selecting a tile from the draw pile. A discarded tile can only be used to make a set or to go out (go Mahjong).
  • Each player keeps picking one tile and discarding one tile while collecting tile sets: pungs or chows. The game continues until one player collects four sets of any combination of pungs or chows and a pair.
  • If a tile set is made by picking a just discarded tile, that set must be displayed immediately.
  • If a tile set is made by picking a tile from the draw pile, such set may be displayed at any time on that player's turn.

  • Scoring in Mahjong for 2 players