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More elaborate superstitions in Mahjong range from those found in the game poker, like not counting one’s wins and losses, to the comical, like changing one’s undergarments after a loss. As with all superstitions in gaming, none of them have been properly demonstrated as effective, though, for some, the rituals have become an integral part of the game experience and its aesthetics. Mahjong, as of 2010, is the most popular table game in Japan. As of 2008, there were approximately 7.6 million Mahjong players in Japan and an estimated 8,900 Mahjong parlors did ¥300 billion (converting to US$2.8 billion according to exchange rates for April 30, 2020) in sales.
Taiwanese Mahjong adds three tiles to a hand requiring a 5th set to be formed, making a clean hand or all Pong hand very difficult to procure. American Mahjong has distinctive game mechanics and the article on American Mahjong details these. Some differences include many special patterns, a different scoring system and the use of jokers joker and five-of-a-kind. Each player in turn, in counterclockwise direction, draws a tile from the wall; as long as the tile drawn is not one of the Bonus tiles, the player proceeds to discard a tile to maintain a hand of 13. The discarded tile is thrown into the centre and, if desired, the player announces out loud what the piece is.

All players score and it is possible to score higher than the winner. – – – A high-scoring hand formed using only circles, known as a pure hand. Hand is made of Chows, Pongs and the eyes of circles. For example, players will try to find seats with the best Feng Shui or wear their lucky clothing or trinkets. Some believe that specific pieces bode bad luck if received in their opening hand.
The game was imported to the United States in the 1920s. The first Mahjong sets sold in the U.S. were sold by Abercrombie & Fitch starting in 1920. It became a success in Washington, D.C., and the co-owner of the company, Ezra Fitch, sent emissaries to Chinese villages to buy every Mahjong set they could find.

While drawing the 13th piece to complete the initial hand, the dealer will typically also draw a 14th piece to initiate the game. This creates a smaller square wall the length of about half of each stack, with walls extended away from each corner of the square. The diagonally positioned stacks and a smaller square creates a bigger space for players’ tiles and also makes an ergonomic position for drawing tiles from the stack. In addition, unlike the suited and honours tiles, there is only a single tile of each Bonus tile, so there are a total of four flower and four season tiles in the set. The tiles have a different artistic rendering of a specific type of flower or season.
Kongs are worth collecting to score more points and deprive opponents of the opportunity to obtain specific tiles. Most players play with a table minimum, meaning a winning hand must score a minimum number of points . In Hong Kong Mahjong the most common point set is three but can be higher or lower depending on house rules. Whenever a player in the East position wins a hand, or if there is no winner (a draw or « goulash hand »), an extra hand is played with the same seating positions and prevailing wind as in the previous hand.
In addition, tile discards are specifically arranged in front of each player by discard order, to take discarded tiles into account during play. Some rules replace some number 5 tiles with red tiles so that they can eventually get more value. A winning hand must consist of four melds and a pair and must also score the agreed table minimum. Bonus tiles cannot be used to form a Pong because they are set aside and there are not three identical bonus tiles in the set. A Pong may either be concealed or exposed (formed by seizing another player’s discard).

One reason for this is that there are cases in which bars of 1,000 points for declaring rīchi cannot be divided by three. In the American variations it is required that, before each hand begins, a Charleston be enacted. In the first exchange, three tiles are passed to the player on one’s right; in the next exchange, the tiles are passed to the player opposite, followed by three tiles passed to the left. If all players are in agreement, a second Charleston is performed; however, any player may decide to stop passing after the first Charleston is complete. The Charleston is followed by an optional pass to the player across of one, two, or three tiles. The Charleston, a distinctive feature of American Mahjong, may have been borrowed from card games such as Hearts.
Players may agree on table rules if the pace of the game is brisk or leisurely. For brisk games players may agree that a couple seconds after a discard are allowed for a « window of opportunity » before the next player picks up from the wall. Usually it is agreed once the next player has waited the duration of the « window of opportunity » and draws a tile from the wall, the previous discard is lost and cannot be claimed.
A player can steal a discard to form a Chow only from the player whose turn was immediately before theirs; however, a player forming a Chow from a seized piece has the lowest priority for that tile. Any other player who needs that tile to make a Pong, make a Kong, or to win may seize that piece instead. Like the Pong, the Chow is either concealed or exposed (formed by seizing the prior player’s discard). Each player now sets aside any Flowers or Seasons they may have drawn and takes turns to draw replacement piece from the wall in the anti-clockwise direction.

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