Three Handed Mah Jongg

Of course Mah Jongg is most fun with four people, but sometimes that just doesn’t work out. The National Mah Jongg league says that when you play with three people you just omit the Charleston. That is no fun at all.

There have been many rouge ways developed to play three handed and still do the Charleston and this way is the best in terms of keeping the game most like four handed.

Build the walls the way you always do. I will call the empty seat wall “Ruth” in honor of the past long time president of the National Mah Jongg League.

You determine one real player to be East and deal the tiles out to the three live players just like you always do. When needed you push Ruth’s wall out for her. One thing to keep in mind with three players is after everyone has taken 12 tiles, East does not take “One and three” because the “three” tile would not be their 14th tile. So when you get to the point of needing to take your 13th tiles, East just takes one, the person on her right takes one, the person on her right takes one and you are back to East and she takes one more making 14.

You do not give Ruth any tiles in the deal.

So the real players rack their tiles and find three to pass to the right as in a normal Charleston. You pass them to the wall directly to the right of you including Ruth. That means that the person to the left of Ruth puts her tiles in front of Ruth’s wall. The Person who would be receiving tiles from Ruth does NOT take the tiles that were put in front of Ruth, but instead takes three random tiles out from a Ruth’s wall.

That is the only time more tiles are taken from the wall. The tiles in front of Ruth now get used in every passing. In other words you pass to Ruth and you get tiles from Ruth.

Now it is time to pass across. The player across from Ruth puts her three tiles in front of Ruth and takes the three tiles that are already there, having been put their by the first passer.

Next pass to the left, works the same way. The person receiving from Ruth takes the ones in front of her and the person passing to Ruth leaves her three tiles in front of Ruth. This continues all the way through both Charleston’s.

At courtesy the person across from Ruth can exchange up to three tiles with the three tiles in front of Ruth.

If you play garbage, Ruth’s three tiles get included In the garbage. At the end of garbage, or courtesy, if you don’t play garbage, Ruth’s three tiles get placed back in her wall randomly and the play begins.

To make the game as fair as possible after three games the person who was East first moves seats to sit give a new player the chance to pick the first three tiles from Ruth’s wall. There is the smallest advantage to be that person because you have the opportunity to pick a joker, but the chances are so small it is not much of an advantage.

Enjoy playing three handed and feel free to pass these instructions on to other players. It would be much easier if we all played the same way.

I am available for questions and lessons.

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