Some Questions About Play

Neil Pallavar writes in from America to ask a few questions:

Hey David,

I’ve got some questions I’m wondering if you
could ask somebody regarding play.

1. Let’s say I’ve got a hand with both
coins and bamboo and there’s no yaku in it to
possibly finish with. It’s nearing the end
of the wall so the game is almost over. If I
pon a pair in order to make myself one piece
away from winning, am I really Tenpai even
though I have no yaku to finish with and
can’t reach either now that I’ve opened my
hand? When the game ends can I flip my hand
over and claim I’m Tenpai (thus avoiding
paying the 1000 or 1500 penalty of not being
Tenpai to those players that are)??

2. Sanankoh – I thought this hand only
counted when the entire hand was hidden, not
just the three sets involved in Sanankoh. I
could pon a dragon and still have Sanankoh
present in my now open hand then?

3. If you have two hidden kans (two Ankans)
do you get two yaku or is it still just
worth one?

4. (This just happened the other day,
thankfully she didn’t win or else I might’ve
scored it wrong). If somebody gets three
hidden kans, then they would have ankan (1)
+ sanankoh(2) + sankantsu (2) as well as
whatever else, correct?

5. I’ve read a couple of different rules on
this one. If somebody gets 4 kans it’s
considered top hand even if the remaining
two tiles aren’t a pair. Is that correct /
how you play? I’ve also played where 4 kans
is the limit and stops the game if it’s
shared between 2 players (i.e. player number
1 gets 3 kans, player number 2 makes the
fourth, the game is over no matter what due
to 4 kans being made between two different
players). Is this how you play as well?

The group I’ve got started here is 5 strong.
Hopefully we’ll play once a week as well and
I’ll get a blog up and running with scores.
🙂 – Pallaver

1. No, you can’t claim Tenpai because you can’t legally go

2. As long as you have 3 x 3-of-a-kind in the hidden part of
your hand you can claim Sanankoh, even if the fourth set
of three is open.

You could complete Sanankoh by going Tsumo, or you
could already have it and be waiting for the second head
tile – a “Tanki” wait.

3. One or two hidden Kan are not Yaku – for each hidden
Kan you turn over one tile in the wall. If you go out on Kan
you get one bonus Yaku in the scoring, just one irrespective
of whether you have one or two Kan in your hand. It is “the
action of going out on a Kan” that is scored.

4. If all three Kan are hidden, score for Sanankoh and
Sankantsu so a total of four Yaku. Having a hidden Kan is
not in itself a Yaku, so you’d only count one extra if the player
went out on Kan.

5. Suukantsu is complete as soon as the fourth Kan is made
even if the hand lacks a head. We would not stop the game on
the completion of the hand, however.

DH & Noda.

David Hurley


  1. 1. Can be tenpai. It’s not in our 3-player version, but in the 4 player version (at least the one on my keitai) it counts. There are actually a lot of variable rules even amongst the three player. Many thinks that we disallow are allowable under some rules.

    5. I think you misunderstood his question. We never stop the game for number of kans, but four is a huge number anyways, not one I think I’ve seen in 2.5 years of play.

  2. Kenyon,

    Yes, our rules are quite strict.

    About the answer to question 5, see “Interrupting Play with Pon and Kan”, Note 6:

    “There is a limit to the number of Kan that can occur in a single hand of play; once the fourth Kan is declared the hand is finished, even if nobody has gone out.

    “However, if all four Kan have been made by one player, that player scores Yakuman even if his hand lacks a two-tile head!!

    “This is the only case where a hand can be completed without having to make a head!”


    I ought to make clear at the beginning of my site that I use “hand”, “game” and “session” to mean three distinct things:

    One evening or whatever of mahjong = a “session”.

    One session consists of at least one but usually several “games”.

    One game consists of a series of “hands” in which the players compete to complete!

  3. That just confirms that I’ve never seen four kans in a game cause I’ve never seen a game stopped cause of kans. I thought you were using game in the sense he was, which would be the way you use hand. Stopping a game as per the empty tray rule for four kans seems non-sensical.

    What is the logic behind stopping the hand when four kans have been made? I understand making it yaku-man if one person gets four as that would be incredible, but I don’t see why the game would need to end if different players get them. I’d propose ignoring that rule if it ever comes up.

  4. In 3 years of playing, I’ve also never seen 1 player complete 4 kans.

    I have seen though a couple of times 4 kans between 2 or all 3 players, and have played that in the event that the piece discarded after the 4th kan is made doesn’t allow somebody to finish (no ron), then the hand is considered null, tiles are all reshuffled, and oya adds a 100 ten-bon to his right.

    I have started a blog but haven’t added much to it yet and haven’t figured out how to add a word document to it as an attachment, perhaps that’s not possible with blogger.

    That being said though, a completely new player to the game completed the very first yakuman hand (sanankoh). Luckily she was not Oya, but I was, hence paying 2/3rd of the 32K ten. Ouch.

    And yes, I asked that tenpai question since mahjong on my keitai also allowed you to be tenpai without a finishing hand. I never liked the keitai mahjong since it didn’t follow very well the 3-player rules I knew, but it was a formidable time-waster on the train.

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