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Beginner's Lesson 24


In this lesson, we will cover basic manners in riichi mahjong.


In riichi mahjong, there are specific etiquette rules which all players should follow to ensure a smooth and fair game. Some of these may seem arbitrary, but most of them came about out of necessity and to reduce potential for players to spoil the game for everyone else.


First of all, all players should treat the tiles and point sticks with respect. Odds are the mahjong set you play with belongs to someone else, so it should be expected that you treat their property with respect. However, even if you are using your own set, you should still follow these basic guidelines.


When discarding tiles, do not slam them down onto the table. It can create unnecessary noise and intimidate other players. The same goes for when you declare a tsumo. Mahjong anime often show players forcefully slamming the winning tile down next to their hand or pulling the tile against the edge of the table (“hikizumo”). These are both instances of bad manners and should not be emulated. Always make an effort to place the tiles down gently. Of course, in the heat of battle, you may discard a little more forcefully than you mean to; just do not make a habit out of it.


When handling point sticks, do not throw them. For a riichi bet, place 1000-point stick in its designated spot (usually in the middle of the table in front of your first row of discards). Some high-end mahjong tables will have a niche in the middle of the table for riichi sticks. When handing point sticks to another player, place them down on the table near the other player. This way, everyone at the table can confirm that the payment is correct. It is absolutely unacceptable to place point sticks into the other player’s hand.


Also, use the least amount of point sticks necessary for the transaction. If you have to pay another player 3900 points, rather than using 3 1000-point sticks, 1 500-point stick, and 4 100-point sticks, pay with a 5000-point stick. You can get 1100 points in change. In this example, only 3 sticks would change hands, rather than 8.


At the beginning of each hand, before the dora indicator is flipped face-up, the player in front of the dead wall should “drop” the first rinshan tile. This means they should take it and place it down on the table so that it does not fall. Also, the player who is east for that hand should not discard their first tile until the player who is north has drawn their last tile and the dora indicator is flipped face-up.


During your turn, you should discard a tile before placing the tile you drew into your hand. This means that the tile you draw should remain on one side of your hand (the side that matches your dominant hand) until you have discarded a tile. It is not just an etiquette rule to help the pace of the game, but you can be penalized if you place drawn tiles into your hand prematurely in certain instances.


During the game, there are 2 specific instances in which you should handle your tiles with both hands: 1) at the beginning of a hand when you are sorting your tiles and 2) at the end of a hand when revealing your hand (whether you won the hand or are showing that you were tenpai at an exhaustive draw) or placing it face-down (if you were noten at an exhaustive draw). In all other cases, you should only have your dominant hand on the table.


It is very easy to pick up bad habits that involve using both hands. Some players will draw a tile with 1 hand and discard with another. Some players will reveal the 2 tiles used for a chi or pon with 1 hand and pick up the called tile with another. These are all manner violations. Please be careful to only use both hands when it is specifically allowed.


When an exhaustive draw occurs, each player must either open their hand to show their tenpai or set their hand face-down if they are noten (or choose not to show their tenpai). Simply leaving your hand closed for noten is not enough; you must set it face-down. Also, verbally declaring “tenpai” or “noten” is not necessary; the action of opening or setting down your hand is enough. As such, you should not open your hand if you are noten.


If you win a hand, you are responsible for the point declaration. If you are not comfortable with scoring, other players may help you, but you must be the one to declare the score in the end. Additionally, whether or not you should declare the yaku of your hand depends on the environment in which you are playing. In competitive games, it is normal to only declare scores and not yaku in order to save time, on the assumption that everyone at the table can easily determine the yaku in another player’s hand just by seeing it. In more casual games, it is usually best to declare yaku so that everyone is on the same page.


Lastly, in competitive games, you should not say anything outside of the bounds of the game. That means that while playing, you can only say, “chi”, “pon”, “kan”, “riichi”, “tsumo”, “ron”, and the score of your winning hands. It is considered bad manners to say anything else, especially if you use your words to deceive the other players. If you wish to bluff, do so with the tiles and not your mouth.


Here is a video explaining some of these manners by Light Grunty:




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