What is Filipino Mahjong?
The Filipino Mahjong game is a modified version of the traditional Chinese game of Mahjong. Coming from the Philippines, this version of the game distills the complexity of Mahjong down to the absolute essentials, making it a popular game across the globe.
How to play Filipino Mahjong?
Filipino Mahjong is a 4-player game, and all you need to play is a traditional Mahjong set of 144 tiles. The Filipino Mahjong instructions are arguably the easiest to understand among all Mahjong types.
Unlike other versions of Mahjong, tile types are simplified. There are Suited Tiles and Flower Tiles. For those familiar with other Mahjong types, the Flower Tiles consist of the Dragon, Flower, Season, and Honor Tiles. The tiles are as follows:
The Flower Tiles serve no purpose in Filipino Mahjong and are immediately set aside when drawn.
The Suited Tiles consist of numbered tiles, and can be used to form sets, which are integral to winning a game of Filipino Mahjong.
Before the game begins, each player sits on a side of the table. All tiles are placed face-down and shuffled. The player order is determined using a throw of dice, and the player throwing the highest value becomes the dealer.
The shuffled tiles are then built into 4 walls 18 tiles wide and 2 tiles high, placed in front of each player. Each player then draws 16 tiles to form their starting hand, starting with the top of the dealer’s wall, 8 at a time.
Once all players have their tiles, Flower Tiles are set aside as necessitated by the rules, and tiles are drawn from the wall to replace them.
Each turn begins with 2 possibilities. A player can draw from the wall, or take the last discarded tile. Since the dealer goes first, he/she must draw from the wall. A player then ends their turn by discarding one tile from their hand. This turn can be disrupted in 2 ways, by winning, or by stealing.
The goal of the Filipino Mahjong game is to complete a winning hand, which consists of 5 sets and a pair. Sets are combinations of 3 or 4 tiles, and pairs are a pair of the same tile. Sets include Pongs, Kongs, and Chows.
Pongs are three-of-a-kind combinations and can be made using any Suited Tiles.
Kongs are four-of-a-kind combinations, similar to Pongs. However, since Kongs use more than 3 tiles, they must be declared and placed face up before claiming the win. Kongs can also be made by melding the final duplicate to Pongs, and can be done by any player.
Chows are sequences, or straights, and result from three consecutive number tiles from the same suit.
A winning hand must consist of 5 sets and one pair, coming to a total of 17 tiles. Since each hand always has 16 tiles with 1 draw at the start of a turn, that means a player who requires the last tile to win is “waiting”.
Once a player draws the final tile, either from the wall or via a claimed discard, they will have won. The payout is based on conditions discussed in the Scoring section of the guide.
Jokers are native to the American Mahjong sets, and can be used in Filipino Mahjong. Though uncommon, they are used as wild tiles that can be used in any melds.
The Filipino Mahjong rules are:
- All tiles are placed face-down and shuffled, then built into a 4-sided wall.
- The dealer is decided via dice-throw.
- Each player draws 16 tiles, beginning with the dealer’s wall.
- The dealer begins by drawing a tile from the wall and discarding a tile from his/her hand.
- The discarded tile can be stolen by another player with a call.
- The turn skips to the player making the call.
- If no calls are made, the turn proceeds in counterclockwise order.
- The game ends once a player successfully completes a winning hand of 5 sets and 1 pair.
Special rules are included in the case of conflicts:
- When a call is made by multiple players during a discard:
- If all calls are for the same type, i.e. both players call for a Pong, the next player in turn order gains priority.
- If calls are for different types, a Kong wins against a Pong, a Pong wins against a Chow, and a winning call of “Mahjong” wins against any other call.
- Turn skips cannot be called for a Chow. It should be noted that this rule is sometimes omitted in Filipino Mahjong games.
Unlike other versions of Mahjong, Filipino Mahjong scoring does not base winning conditions on a specific scoring system. Instead, scoring is done at the payout stage.
Winning in Filipino Mahjong is mainly preceded by a “waiting” stage. This stage means a player is waiting for the winning tile, which can come from a draw from the wall or via a discard.
If the winning hand is assembled from a discard, the discarding player has to pay double the agreed amount.
If the winning hand is assembled from a draw off the wall, all players need to pay double the agreed amount. This is called Bunot.
There are also specific conditions that may result in a doubling of the payout. If the dealer instantly wins via the first draw from the wall, the payout is doubled.
If a player completes a set of 13 Flowers during the game, a quarter of the payout is immediately awarded.
If a player wins a game with no Flowers, the payout gets a bonus 25%.
Winning Filipino Mahjong hands consist of 5 sets and a pair. An example consisting of 3 Pongs, 2 Chows, and 1 pair is shown below:
Note that the sparrow used as a pair is the Bamboo 1 tile, as traditionally illustrated.
A winning hand can also consist of seven pairs and a set of three (Pung or Chow), though this is rare and gives a bonus payout of 50%.
There are also special hands such as consisting entirely of Pungs, Kongs, and pairs, or even hands consisting entirely of a single suit. However, unlike other variants of Mahjong, these hands do not have an effect on scoring unless otherwise agreed upon.
In general, if a hand is deemed special, all players can agree to double the payout.
- A key factor in Filipino Mahjong strategy is to keep at least a single pair in hand. These can be used to complete Pungs, and allows you an easier win by keeping your options open. Remember that you also need a pair in the winning hand.
- Chows are superior to Pungs. While similar with regards to the payout, Chows are far more versatile, as you can convert them to Pungs as necessary, whereas a Pung in hand cannot be converted to Chows easily.
- Keep tiles disorganized in hand. While arranging tiles makes it easier to see your win condition, it also allows your opponents to read your plays. For beginners, it is worth consistently moving tile positions in hand to practice.
- Carefully consider discards, whether or not a discard is stolen is not that important, but a discard that becomes dead can never be used again, potentially locking out Pungs and Kongs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between Filipino Mahjong and Classic Mahjong?
Learning how to play regular Mahjong is more complicated than Filipino Mahjong. Flower tiles have
With how many players can you play Filipino Mahjong?
While Filipino Mahjong is best with 4 players, the same gameplay can be enjoyed by 2 – 4 players without issue.
How many rounds does a game of Filipino Mahjong last?
A game of Filipino Mahjong lasts 4 rounds, though this can be extended to taste.
How can I play Filipino Mahjong online?
Online Filipino Mahjong simulators are a popular way to enjoy the game without the hassle of shuffling and counting tiles. The Pinoy app is another great alternative if you would like to play the game on your mobile phone.