Having a Mahjong strategy is important; it’s what’s going to help you win the game. But like with anything worthwhile, it will take a lot of practice and some patience.
While a “sure win Mahjong strategy” doesn’t exist, there are some strategies that can give you an advantage in the game.
Thinker and strategist Michael Porter said, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” That is certainly worth keeping in mind as you consider our suggestions below.
In today’s article, we put together a list of Mahjong strategies to help you improve your Mahjong skills.
Is this your first time playing Mahjong? You should check out our How to Play Mahjong Guide!
5 Mahjong Strategies for Beginners
- Always have a clear plan
- Be flexible with your strategies
- Don’t grab the first discard
- Keep a pair in your hand
- Avoid having gaps in your tiles
1. Always have a clear plan
Think carefully about which tiles you choose to pick up and which ones you don’t.
You should always have a clear plan of action or at least have a fairly good idea where you want to go with your hand.
Remember that your opponents are watching and taking note of what you are doing. They are working out what hand you hold with each of the tiles you pick up or don’t.
Don’t be afraid to bluff. Some of the most experienced players use bluffs to win their games.
Sure, use those tiles you need for the hand you have chosen to achieve, but play it smart. Don’t rush into it.
2. Be flexible with your strategies
If the game changes direction be prepared to abandon your plan and change your tactics.
Be flexible; change your strategy when and if it’s necessary.
Keep the other players guessing what you have and what you are doing.
This strategy goes hand in hand with having a clear plan – part of that plan must have a contingency for flexibility.
If you do not see the tiles you need, make use of the available ones as an alternate hand. Switch it up.
For you to achieve Mahjong, you will likely need to adjust your plan as the game progresses.
Abandon your original strategy and adopt a new one. Again, this will keep everyone guessing, just so long as you aren’t guessing too.
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3. Don’t grab the first discard
Taking the first discard can reveal too much of what you already have.
To an astute observer of what you are doing, you will give away your game plan.
Taking the first discard can tell your opponents a lot. Firstly, it might reveal your lack of experience. Additionally, it might reveal the hand you are playing too early.
If you reveal too much, your competitors will begin to see your plan.
Hold off on grabbing discards from time to time; There are a lot of tiles in play in Mahjong. You will likely have another opportunity to build a good hand.
Remember, if you want to play smart, playing a hand later is sometimes better.
4. Keep a pair and sit with them
Pairs are handy to hold onto.
You can use them as pairs or build a Pung (three of a kind), a Chow (three tiles of the same suit), or even a Kong (four of a kind).
If you have a pair, keep it. You can always make a Pung as you go along, and it’s easier if you already have a pair or two in your hand.
Also, in line with the previous strategies, if you claim the third tile early and create a Pung, you must then reveal those tiles prematurely.
This will make it easier for the other players to adapt their own strategies around your play.
5. Avoid having gaps in your tiles
New players to Mahjong are quite often tempted to leave gaps between their tiles when setting up their rack.
It’s easy to understand why. Lining up your tiles in combinations makes it easier for you to see your next moves. You remind yourself what hand you currently have in play.
The truth of it though, is it is too telling. Other players will be able to make a good guess at what you are up. They will adjust their strategy to include blocking.
They can do this by choosing not to discard a tile they don’t need but believe that you need it.
They do this by seeing a gap you have left in your tiles and watching your moves.
This can also be an advantage. You can leave gaps to throw other players off. For example, you can use unrelated tiles to appear to have pairs.
Give the appearance of having something you don’t have.
A Combined Strategy Game
A combination of these methods and plays will get you through round on round and each time you play, you will improve your skills.
You will also learn from watching and talking with other players.
Experienced players will have developed their own strategies.
By studying how they play, you will pick up their tricks and implement them in your feature gameplays.
Slowly you will create your own bag of tricks and strategies to choose from.
Some of those strategies will be listed here, others await you on the playing field of the Mahjong table.
If you don’t have a Mahjong table yet, have a look here at our list of Best Mahjong Table Reviews, 2022.
All the mentioned strategies fall easily within the guidelines of the Mahjong game rules, so you won’t be considered cheating if you decide to use them!
The only way you can have fun in the game is if you play it fair! Always keep that in mind.
No matter how much research you do, you will learn the best strategies by playing the game. Remember, failure grants wisdom.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who wins and who loses. So make sure you are having fun while trying your newly learned Mahjong strategies.
Strategy or none, you are guaranteed to have fun.