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Japanese Mahjong yaku

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Japanese Mahjong yaku

In Japanese Mahjong, yaku (Japanese: 役) is a condition that determines the value of the player's hand. It is essential to know the yaku for game strategy, although the knowledge is not mandatory. A player must have a minimum of one yaku in their hand in order to legally win a hand. Each yaku has a specific han value. Yaku conditions may be combined to produce hands of greater value. The game also features dora, that allow a hand to add han value, but that cannot count as yaku. Altogether, a hand's points value increases exponentially with every han a hand contains.


Yaku are somewhat similar to poker hands. They fit certain patterns based on the numbers or types of tiles included, as well as the relative value of the tiles. Unlike poker, however, multiple hand types may be combined to produce hands of greater value.

There are three basic classes of yaku:

  • Closed hand only (menzen-nomi, 門前のみ)
  • "Eat and decrease" (a literal translation of kuisagari, 喰い下がり), where the han value decreases by one if the hand is open
  • Yaku where the han value is the same regardless of whether the hand is closed or open.

Calling for another player's discard to make a meld makes the meld and the hand open. When a winning tile of a closed hand is a discard, the meld including that discard is considered open, while the hand is still regarded as closed. If a hand is closed, the situation is called "menzenchin (門前清)" or "menzen (門前)" in Japanese.

The basic concept of a yaku is that it fits into one of three basic criteria:

  • It contains a pattern of some kind
  • It has a great deal of consistency
  • It is circumstantial based on specific game situations

Finally, when it comes to points scoring, the total number of han in the hand is counted. When the han value is four or less, fu is also counted. The combination of the han value and fu value corresponds to a points table.

List of yaku

The following is a list of all the yaku, their names in English and Japanese, their han values, and any special conditions related to them. They are listed here in groups according to the underlying patterns that define the yaku. Example hands are given, but they are often not the only possible hands with that yaku. All yaku can be divided into seven basic categories, depending on the dominant feature. The features are as follows: patterns based on sequences, patterns based on triplets and/or quads, consistency of the type and numbers of the tiles, lucky circumstances, and special criteria.

Special criteria

Name Japanese Han value Closed/Open
Ready hand riichi – 立直, リーチ 1 Closed only
This yaku is often called reach because its Japanese name is phonetically similar to the English word. When a player's hand needs only one tile to win (tenpai) and the player has not claimed another players' discards to make open melds, then the player has the option to declare riichi. Otherwise, the player may continue to play with a ready hand without making a declaration.
Conditions after declaration

To make a declaration, the player calls out “riichi”, discards their tile sideways, and places a 1,000-point stick on the table as a deposit. From this point onward, the player must discard any drawn tile that does not allow them to win. Also, they may not change the content of their hand under any circumstances, with the exception of declaring certain closed quads.

In some rules, a player can declare ready only when there are four or more tiles remaining in the wall, which means the player needs to be able to draw another tile. The player owes no penalty if other players make open melds or closed quads after the declaration that prevents the player from drawing another tile.[1]

When all four players successfully declare ready, a hand ends as an abortive draw. Players show their hands to confirm they are tenpai or suffer a chombo penalty.[2]

Underneath dora

When players declare ready and win, they can have access to underneath dora indicator tiles. This may include tiles underneath the dora indicators revealed by kan calls.

riichi deposits

The winner of the hand receives any 1,000-point riichi sticks. In the case of multiple winners, they split the deposits amongst themselves. When draws occur after ready hand declarations, any riichi deposits carry-over and are placed near the counters, with the next winner receiving those riichi deposits.

Claiming a riichi discard

If another player claims a riichi discard to make open melds, the player who declared ready discards the next tile sideways. If a riichi discard is called to win at the time, the declaration is considered incomplete and therefore the riichi deposit is not forfeited.[1]

Declaring closed quads

A closed quad can be declared after a declaration of ready when the fourth tile of a triplet is drawn. However, the quad must not otherwise change the composition of the hand or its would no longer be winning tiles.

Seven pairs chiitoitsu – 七対子, or chiitoi – 七対 2 Closed only
A hand composed of seven pairs is considered a valid hand in Japanese mahjong. The hand is one of the two exceptions to the rule requiring winning hands to have four melds and a pair, the other being thirteen orphans. The hand also has its own special rules for scoring, in which the hand has a fixed fu value of 25. The format of this yaku does not count iipeikou when three pairs are in sequence. The hand of ryanpeikou does not count as including seven pairs.

In general Japanese rules, all seven pairs must be unique, that is, the same four tiles may not be split into two pairs. Some rules accept the four same tiles, for instance in Kansai region.[3]

Nagashi mangan nagashi mangan – 流し満貫 mangan Closed/Open
This yaku is applied to discards, as opposed to the hand value itself. A player's discards are all terminals and honors. A hand must be a draw (abortive draws not applied). The hand is often recognized only if no other player called any discard from the player's discard pile. The player can make open melds depending on the rules.[4] In most cases the value is considered a mangan. As for the payment, the hand is regarded as winning by self-draw. The rule of nou-ten bappu is usually not applied to this case as it is no longer regarded as a draw. In addition, this hand cannot be combined with the other yaku.

Yaku based on luck

These hands are all worth one han.

Name Japanese Han value Closed/Open
Self-pick menzenchin tsumohou – 門前清自摸和, or shortly tsumo – 自摸, ツモ 1 Closed only
When a player has a closed hand and draws a winning tile from the wall or the dead wall, one han is added including when the hand previously had no yaku. Open hands are not applicable.
One-shot ippatsu – 一発 1 Closed only, riichi only
If a player declares ready and then completes their hand within one go-around of play, it adds one han to the hand’s value. The winning tile can be either a discard or a self-drawn tile. One-shot no longer applies when another player makes an open meld.
Last tile from the wall haitei raoyue – 海底撈月, or haitei – 海底 1 Closed/Open
If the last self-drawn tile that the last player draws before reaching the dead wall completes that player's hand, the hand’s value increases by one han. Haitei raoyue means "to scoop up the reflected moon from the seabed."[5]
Last discard houtei raoyui – 河底撈魚, or houtei – 河底 1 Closed/Open
One han is added if a player wins on the last discard, that is, the tile discarded by the last player that drew the last tile from the wall. This hand is sometimes also referred to as haitei. Houtei raoyui means "to scoop up a swimming fish from the riverbed."[5]
Dead wall draw rinshan kaihou – 嶺上開花, or rinshan – 嶺上 1 Closed/Open
When a player declares a quad, they must draw a supplemental tile from the dead wall to keep the number of tiles in the hand consistent. If that tile completes the hand, it adds one han to the hand’s value. Rinshan kaihou means "a flower blooms on a ridge".

Sometimes the pao (包) rule is applied to this yaku, that is, if a player claims a discard to make an open quad and then completes their hand with a tile drawn from the dead wall, the player who discarded the tile is responsible for paying the entire amount for the hand.

Robbing a quad chankan – 搶槓, 槍槓 1 Closed/Open
If a player has an open triplet and draws the fourth tile, they can add it to the triplet to make a quad. At the time, another player can win on the tile, namely, they can "rob" that tile. Doing so increases the hand’s value by one han.

Example: Player A has three 6’s of dots in an open triplet and draws the fourth 6, and added it to the triplet for a quad. If player B waits to win by having a 4-5 of dots left, they can win on that 6. Player A then has to pay the full value of the hand.

Robbing a closed quad for thirteen orphans

Sometimes, a "closed" quad can be robbed to complete the yakuman hand of thirteen orphans. For example, if player A makes a closed quad out of four west tiles, and player B is only waiting for a west to complete their thirteen orphans, player B can win on the west tile. The yaku is not counted in the case since the hand has a yakuman value.

Double-ready daburu riichi – ダブルリーチ, or daburii – ダブリー 2 Closed only
If a player can declare ready within the first go-around of a hand, they can call "daburu riichi" to declare a double ready for two han instead of one. All other conditions are the same as declaring a normal ready.

Yaku based on sequences

Name Japanese Han value Closed/Open
No-points hand pinfu – 平和 1 Closed only
This is a very common yaku, since it is rather easy to get. A no-points hand is just that—a hand that is worth no additional fu-points whatsoever. Specifically, the hand must have no triplets or quads, and must not contain any pair of dragons, player’s own wind, or wind of the round which is worth points, meaning the pair can be other winds.

Furthermore, the hand must be waiting for multiple winning tiles that can make a sequence,[6] such as having number 2 and 3 and waiting for 1 or 4; if the hand is in a closed, edge, or pair wait, it is worth two points, thus violating the no-points condition.

When the hand is won by drawing from the wall, as an exception, in most rules the two fu for the self-drawing are not awarded.

Combination of no-points hand and self-pick

In some rules, when a hand has the two yaku of no-points hand and self-pick (menzenchin tsumohou), the no-points hand is not counted and instead two fu of self-drawing are awarded. The value of the hand becomes one han with 22 fu (rounded up to 30 fu), with some other yaku available. The rule is called "pinfu–tsumo nashi" (平和自摸無し or 平和ツモなし, pinfu–tsumo invalid), sometimes contracted to "pinzumo nashi" (ピンヅモなし). If they can be combined, the rule is called "pinfu–tsumo ari" (平和自摸有り or 平和ツモあり, pinfu–tsumo valid).[7]

One set of identical sequences iipeikou – 一盃口 1 Closed only
One set of two sequences of the same numbers in the same suit.
Three colour straight sanshoku doujun – 三色同順, or sanshoku – 三色 2 Closed, 1 Open Closed/Open
Three sequences of the same numbers in all three suits.
Straight ikkitsuukan – 一気通貫, or ittsuu – 一通 2 Closed, 1 Open Closed/Open
A straight from number 1 through 9 of one suit, namely, three sequences of 1-2-3, 4-5-6 and 7-8-9.
Two sets of identical sequences ryanpeikou – 二盃口 3 Closed only
One set of identical sequences, and another set that can match the first. Some rules may not allow the two sets to be the same using four identical sequences. The seven pairs yaku is not counted in this case, because this yaku is actually composed of sequential melds, rather than pairs.

Yaku based on triplets and/or quads

When the following hands involve triplets, quads are also acceptable, while if they require quads, triplets do not count. Each yaku is worth two han, regardless of whether the hand is closed or open.

Name Japanese Han value Closed/Open
All triplet hand toitoihou – 対々和, or toitoi – 対々 2 Open
The hand consists of all triplets or quads; no sequences. if closed, this hand will become suu ankou ( four closed triplets ) worth yakuman.
Three closed triplets san ankou – 三暗刻 2 Closed/Open
Three sets of triplets or quads formed without calling on any tiles. The fourth set can be an open triplet or quad, or a sequence.
Three colour triplets sanshoku doukou – 三色同刻 2 Closed/Open
Three triplets consisting of the same numbers in all three suits.
Three kans san kantsu – 三槓子 2 Closed/Open
Three quads in one hand, which can be open or closed.

Yaku based on terminal or honor tiles

These hands involve terminals and/or honors, or lack there of. The first two, tan'yao and yakuhai are very commonly used yaku, due to their ease.

Name Japanese Han value Closed/Open
All simples tan'yaochuu – 断么九, or tan'yao – 断么 1 Closed/Open
Tan'yaochuu literally means "no 1's or 9's". Only numbered tiles from 2 through 8 are used eliminating terminals or honors. If the hand is open, it is called "kuitan" (喰い断), which means tan'yao made by "eating" discards. As there are varieties of rules, this hand can be closed only. The rule that does not allow kuitan is called "kuitan nashi" (喰い断無し; no kuitan, or kuitan invalid).
Honor tiles yakuhai – 役牌, or huanpai/fanpai – 飜牌 1 han per honor triplet/quad Closed/Open
Any triplets or quads of dragons, the player’s wind and the prevailing wind. If a wind is both the player’s wind and the prevailing wind, it is worth two han per group.
Terminal or honor in each set chantaiyao – 全帯么, or chanta – チャンタ 2 Closed, 1 Open Closed/Open
The sequences in the hand must be 1-2-3 and 7-8-9, and triplets and the pair must be 1’s, 9’s and honor tiles. The hand contains at least one sequence.
Terminal in each set jun chantaiyao – 純全帯么, or junchan – 純チャン 3 Closed, 2 Open Closed/Open
The jun in junchan literally means "pure." As such, no honor tiles are included. The sequences must be 1-2-3 and 7-8-9, and triplets and the pair must be 1’s and 9’s. The hand has at least one sequence.
All terminals and honors honroutou – 混老頭, or honrou – 混老 2 (4 †) Closed/Open
(all triplets)

(seven pairs)

The hand consists of all terminals and honors. The yaku separately counts the two han of an all triplet hand or seven pairs and therefore always has four han. †
Little three dragons shousangen – 小三元 2 (4 †) Closed/Open
Two triplets or quads of dragons, plus a pair of the third. The hand consequently has four han since the two han for honor tiles yaku from the two sets of dragons are added separately. †

Yaku based on suits

The following two yaku are related to a single suit. They both lose one han when they are open.

Name Japanese Han value Closed/Open
Half-flush hon'iisou – 混一色, or hon'itsu – 混一 3 Closed, 2 Open Closed/Open
The hand contains tiles from one suit and honors. The honors can be two or more sets. The hand can be seven pairs.
Flush chin'iisou – 清一色, or chin'itsu – 清一 6 Closed, 5 Open Closed/Open
All tiles in the hand are exclusively of one suit with no honor tiles.

Yakuman hands

There is a special set of hands so difficult to attain that they are worth the limit of points just for having them. The limit value, along with the hands themselves, are called yakuman (役満, or yaku-mangan 役満貫).[8] Counts of han no longer apply to them. Some yakuman hands can themselves be combined to form multiple yakuman. Some conditions on the limit hands can render themselves double the value.

On the other hand, the han-limit is established at 13, which is counted as a yakuman value. Some yaku can be combined for it, using dora tiles if a hand has them. The value is called kazoe-yakuman (数え役満), or counted yakuman.

The thirteen orphans, four closed triplets and big three dragons are considered relatively easy to complete among yakuman hands and are collectively called "the three big families of yakuman" (Japanese: 役満御三家).[8]

Some of yakuman hands may have respective names in some regions. The names used here mostly come from American publications, which are based on Chinese translations.

Name Japanese Value Closed/Open
Thirteen orphans kokushi musou – 国士無双 / 国士無双13面待ち (13 wait) Limit / Double limit (13 wait) Closed only
The Japanese name of the yaku, kokushi musou, means "a peerless distinguished person in a country."[9] Along with seven pairs, this is the only hand that contradicts the requirement for a hand to have four melds and a pair. In a thirteen orphans hand, the player has one of each dragon tile, one of each wind tile, a 1 and a 9 (terminal) from each suit, plus any tile that matches anything else in the hand. If a player wins in a 13-way wait for the pair, the hand is worth two yakuman, which is called daburu (double) yakuman.

Other names for this yaku are shiisan yaochuu (十三么九) which means "thirteen of smallest numbers and 9's [and honors]," or its abbreviation shiisan yao (十三么).

Four concealed triplets suu ankou – 四暗刻 / suu ankou tanki - 四暗刻単騎 (single wait) Limit / Double limit (single wait) Closed only
A hand that has four closed triplets/quads. If the hand has two pairs left when it is one tile away from winning, it can only qualify with a tile drawn off the wall as a yakuman hand. In the case of a single-tile wait for the pair, the tile can either be self-drawn or won from another player's discard, and it is worth two yakuman.
Big three dragons daisangen – 大三元 Limit Closed/Open
A triplet or quad of each type of dragon tile.
Little four winds shousuushii – 小四喜 Limit Closed/Open
A hand consisting of three triplets/quads of winds and a pair of the fourth wind.
Big four winds daisuushii – 大四喜 Double limit Closed/Open
A hand consisting of four triplets/quads of winds. It can be worth one or two yakuman in some rules. Little four winds (shousuushii) and this yaku are kinds of suushiihou (四喜和).[10]
All honors tsuuiisou – 字一色 Limit Closed/Open
A hand composed exclusively of wind and dragon tiles.
Big seven stars daichisei – 大七星 Double limit Closed only
This is the seven pair variation to all honors. This hand adds one more yakuman towards all honors.
All terminals chinroutou – 清老頭 Limit Closed/Open
A hand containing only 1’s and 9’s (terminals).
All green ryuuiisou – 緑一色 Limit Closed/Open

A hand containing only green tiles. Green tiles are: 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 of bamboo, and green dragons. Many of the Japanese sets exclusively color those tiles as green only. The other bamboo tiles of 1, 5, 7, and 9 have red paint on them, thereby not making them all green. Although the hand can include green dragons, it does not have to.
Nine gates chuuren poutou – 九蓮宝燈 / junsei chuuren poutou - 純正九蓮宝燈 (9 wait) Limit / Double limit (9 wait) Closed only
A hand composed of 1-1-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-9-9 of one suit, plus any other tile of the same suit.

Regardless of the value of the extra tile, this is always a standard mahjong hand of four melds and a pair, as shown in the animation below. Worth two yakuman if the hand was waiting on nine different tiles (or otherwise called junsei chuuren poutou [純正九蓮宝燈]), and the only possibility of that is if it had 1-1-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-9-9 and was waiting on 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9.


Four kans suu kantsu – 四槓子 Limit Closed/Open
Four quads in one hand, which can be open or closed. Normally, a hand is a draw when four quads are made by two or more players. However, when the four quads are drawn by one player, the play continues until the player claims a win (and yakuman) or a fifth kan is made by another player.

Yakuman on opening hands

The following are yakuman hands completed on the first go-around.

Name Japanese Value Closed/Open
Heavenly hand tenhou – 天和 Limit Closed only, dealer only
If the 14 tiles that the dealer draws complete a hand, yakuman is awarded regardless of its contents. The “one-yaku minimum requirement” is satisfied with the self-pick yaku because the hand is closed and the fourteenth tile is considered a drawn tile.
Hand of earth chiihou – 地和 Limit Closed only, non-dealer only
If a non-dealer is dealt 13 tiles that are one tile away from completing a hand, and then draws the fourteenth tile from the wall to complete it on the first draw when no open-meld declaration has been made, the hand is given yakuman points.[11] It meets the minimum yaku requirement since it is a self-pick from a closed hand.
Hand of man renhou – 人和 Limit Closed only, non-dealer only
In general rules, the yaku is achieved if a non-dealer completes a hand with a discard before the first self-drawing when no one has declared open melds. Depending on rules, the hand needs or does not need other yaku. Its value can be yakuman, baiman, mangan and so on. A rule says that players can win on other players' first discard and thus some players can go out after the first draw, and another says that players must win on the dealer's first discard. The hand is sometimes optional.[12]

Unofficial yaku

The following table details yaku and yakuman hands that are not recognised in standard official play but may appear in house rules.

Name Japanese Value Closed/Open
Three chained triplets sanrenkou – 三連刻 2 Closed/Open
A hand with three number triplets or quads in one suit with successive numbers. This hand is a local rule and not an officially recognized rule for Japanese mahjong.[13]
Four chained triplets suurenkou – 四連刻 Limit Closed/Open
A hand with four number triplets or quads in one suit with successive numbers. This hand is a local rule and not an officially recognized rule for Japanese mahjong.[14]
Chariot dai sharin – 大車輪 Limit Closed only
A hand composed of 2-2-3-3-4-4-5-5-6-6-7-7-8-8 of one suit. This hand is a local rule and not an officially recognized rule for Japanese mahjong.[15]

Each of the numbered suits may also use special names for this hand:

Pinzu (circles), dai sharin – 大車輪 or big wheels
Souzu (bamboo), dai chikurin – 大竹林 or bamboo forest
Manzu (characters), dai suurin – 大数隣 or numerous neighbours
Thirteen unconnected tiles shiisanpuutā / shiisanbudou - 十三不塔 Limit Closed only
The hand contains thirteen tiles such that there are no pairs and no number tiles closer than 3 apart from one another, plus an additional one of any of the tiles in the hand. Can only be claimed by a player on their first draw.
Fourteen unconnected tiles shiisuupuutā - 十四不塔 Limit Closed only
The hand contains fourteen tiles so that there are no pairs and no number tiles closer than 3 apart from one another. Can only be claimed by a player on their first draw.
Eight consecutive wins pārenchan – 八連荘 Limit Dealer only
A player wins eight times consecutively. The conditions of the hand depend on rules. The ninth and following winnings are often yakuman again, while some rules say the sixteenth is the next yakuman. It has nothing to do with the number of counters because the number increases when a hand is a draw. In some rules, no other yaku is necessary in the eighth winning. Some say the player must be a dealer from the first time. The player is always a dealer when the hand is accomplished. The hand is often optional.[16]


External links

  • European Mahjong Association's Riichi Ruleset
  • Japanese rules

See also

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