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How To Play Mahjong & The Rules of Mahjong

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Mahjong solitaire is a puzzle game based on a classic Chinese tile game played by four people. offers a version of Mahjong solitaire that you can plan online for free.

Note that this game can also be spelled Mahjongg, Mah Jongg and Mah Jong.

How To Play Mahjong Solitaire

The goal of Mahjong solitaire is to remove all tiles from the playing board. You remove tiles in matching pairs. A pair is defined as two tiles that are both:
  • free — when no tile is partly covering it, and no tile is lying to the left or right of it
  • identical — tiles match exactly
Our version of Mahjong solitaire does not have tiles for seasons and flowers. (When a version of mahjong has them, flowers and seasons tiles do not have to be identical to be removed. All flowers tiles match one another. All seasons tiles match one another.)

Each tile appears four times.

Mahjong is more challenging than it seems. If you do not look ahead and play strategically, you can remove pairs in a manner that gets you “stuck.” That is, stuck with tiles that cannot be matched and that block tiles that you need. The layout cannot be cleared.

Thus, look ahead before removing pairs of tiles. Look for the other two tiles of the pair you are considering removing. If all four of a tile are “free” (able to be removed), then remove both pairs. This “unclutters” the table. More tips are below.

The Tiles for Mahjong Solitaire

The look of Mahjong tiles is different in different versions of the game. Here are the tiles used in our game. Mouse over any tile to see its name.

Bamboo Tiles
bamboo tile 1 bamboo tile 2 bamboo tile 3 bamboo tile 4 bamboo tile 5 bamboo tile 6 bamboo tile 7 bamboo tile 8 bamboo tile 9

Bamboo tiles are also known as “sticks ” or “bams.” There are 9 different bamboo tiles and 4 tiles of each bamboo (36 total bamboo tiles).

Their numerical value ranges from 1 to 9 and is represented by the number of sticks shown on the tile.

Ball Tiles
ball tile 1 ball tile 2 ball tile 3 ball tile 4 ball tile 5 ball tile 6 ball tile 7 ball tile 8 ball tile 9

Ball Tiles are also known as “circle,” “badge” or the “dots” tiles. Their numerical value is from 1 to 9 and is represented by the number of balls shown on the tile. There are 4 of every ball tile (36 total ball tiles).

Character Tiles
character tile 1 character tile 2 character tile 3 character tile 4 character tile 5 character tile 6 character tile 7 character tile 8 character tile 9

The character tiles are also called the “number,” “Wan,” “Ten Thousand” or “craks” tiles. On each character tile, the red symbol is the Chinese sign for 10,000 (the sign for prosperity). The black symbol at the top of the tile is the sign for the numbers from 1 to 9. That makes them numbers from 10,000 to 90,000. The western number is written very small in the top right of the tile to help identify each. There are 4 of every character tile (36 total character tiles).

Wind Tiles
wind tile -- east wind tile -- south wind tile -- west wind tile -- north
There are four different wind tiles: east, south, west and north. On each wind tile is the Chinese symbol for that wind direction. On our tiles, the first letter of the wind direction is in the upper right of the tile. There are 4 tiles of every wind (16 total wind tiles).

Dragon Tiles
white dragon tile green dragon tile red dragon tile
There are three different dragon tiles: white, green and red. Our version of the white dragon is like many versions in that the tiles is a rectangle. There are 4 tiles of each dragon (12 total dragon tiles).

Additional Tiles
additional tile additional tile
These additional tiles complete the layout because we do not use season or flower tiles. There are 4 tiles of each (8 total additional tiles).

Strategy for Mahjong Solitaire

(Based in part on the “Shanghai Second Dynasty” Help):
  • There are 4 of each tile. When removing a pair, remember that an identical pair exists in the layout. Is it trapped by your removal of the first pair? Choose wisely.
  • Focus removing tiles on long rows and tall stacks
  • Plan ahead as many moves as you can
  • If all four of a tile are available, remove them all to unclutter the field
  • Identify as many matching pairs as possible. Check for tiles that need to be unblocked.
  • Beware of “triples” (three matching free tiles). Choose carefully which pair you remove. Leave the tile that is blocking the least important tiles.
  • Focus on removing pairs that will unblock the most tiles.
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