September 8, 2021

Brief History of Mahjong and How to Play it

Ethan Lim
Written byEthan LimWriter

The game of mahjong online is not one of those you’ll find on any live casino. That’s because this game shot to fame only a century ago in North America.

Brief History of Mahjong and How to Play it

So, if you’re interested in having a brand-new casino experience, try online mahjong. In this guide, you’ll learn some valuable insights about this game and how to play it on your favorite online casino.

History of Mahjong

Mahjong is an entertaining gambling game invented in China in the 19th century. The game’s original versions were played in South-Eastern Asia and Eastern Asia. Today, the game is a popular casino game in Western countries.

That said, the earliest version was played using a deck of money-suited cards, with each deck divided into myriads of strings of cash and three suits of coins. Each suite has nine ranks with three wild cards: Old thousand, While flower, and Red flower.

In the 1920s, mahjong was introduced into the American gambling culture. A company called Abercrombie & Fitch was the first to sell mahjong sets.

After immense success in Washington, Ezra Fitch, a co-owner of the company, dispatched emissaries to China to purchase all mahjong sets available. In the end, the company sold about 12,000 mahjong sets.

To help increase the game’s popularity, Joseph Park Babcock published a book called “Rules of Mah-Jong” in 1920. The author had learned this game in China, and his game insights helped simplify and popularize the game even further.

Basics of Mahjong

At first glance, mahjong can be a bit intimidating. That’s because the game doesn’t use cards, dice, or wheels, unlike most live casino games. Instead, mahjong players use tiles. However, the number of tiles may vary between 136 to 152, although the most common version has 144 varying tiles.

That aside, Mahjong tiles are divided into three sections numbered 1 up to 9. The categories are Dots (balls), Bams (bamboos), and Cracks. The set also includes dragons (red or red) and winds or players (N, S, E, W). In this case, the East Wind is the dealer, whereas the player on the East Wind’s right, the South Wind, will start play.

The player’s main objective is to get a 14-tile hand, also called mahjong. Typically, a complete hand has a three of a kind like three 9 dots and a pair. The pairs have two identical tiles. So, for example, you can land a pair with two 5 dots.

How to Play Mahjong Online

  • First and foremost, the basic game has four players on the table, although other variants have three. Primarily, the tiles include 36 bamboos, 36 characters, and 36 circles.
  • As said initially, each suite is divided into a set of 1 to 9. You’ll also get 12 dragon tiles and 16 wind tiles. Then, a pair of dice will determine the deal.
  • After that, the dealer will shuffle the tiles before giving 13 tiles to each player. The dealer will start with one extra tile.
  • Next, each player will arrange the tiles so that other players cannot see them (no need for this online) before the dealer discards one tile.
  • Players then try to reach a set number of points or until they all agree that the game ends. Also, some variants have a maximum of 16 rounds. Remember to say “I’m calling” when a tile away from hitting mahjong.

It’s important to note that some online live casinos offer a Mahjong Solitaire. In this variant, players form matching pairs until the pile is cleared.


While mahjong isn’t the most played online casino game per see, it’s still one of the most entertaining and strategy-filled games. For instance, always match tiles horizontally as they are more challenging to remove.

Another mahjong strategy is to leave a pair of tiles that don’t open anything. In other words, match tiles that can free up space for new ones. But of course, try your hand on a free version to learn the basics before going live. The game is available for PC and mobile players. You can even play it on Facebook.

About the author
Ethan Lim
Ethan Lim

Ethan Lim, a native of the Lion City, is Singapore’s rising star in the domain of online casino guide localization. He masterfully blends his intimate knowledge of local culture with international gaming standards to produce content that resonates deeply with Singaporeans.

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