When automatic tables are used, the setup procedure can be amended to match automatic tables' features, when relevant.
Each player starts the hanchan with 30,000 points.
The game continues when a player's score goes below zero.
Mahjong is played by four players. Each one is associated with a wind, denoted the player’s seat wind. East is the starting player. South is sitting at East’s right, West is sitting across from East, and North is sitting at East’s left. Note that the counter-clockwise order East-South-West-North is not as could be expected from the compass directions. Between hands the seat winds will change, see the "dealer rotation
" section. During a full game, each player is East at least twice.
When the game begins, the prevailing wind is East. When the player who started the game at the East seat becomes East again, after all other players have played at least one hand as East, the South round begins, and South becomes the prevailing wind.
A wind marker should be placed permanently by the player who begins as East, and when this player becomes East again after the first (East) round of the game, the marker is flipped to indicate the new prevailing wind: South.
4.4Seating at the table
The players’ positions at the table are either determined by drawing lots, or predefined by a tournament schedule.
For drawing lots, one of each wind tile is used. The four tiles are shuffled face down and each player picks one of the tiles; the player who shuffled the tiles is the last to pick a tile. The player who picked the East tile will begin the game at the East seat. The player who picked the South tile will begin the game as South. The player who picked the West tile will begin the game as West. The player who picked the North tile will begin the game as North.
4.5Building the wall
The tiles are thoroughly mixed. Each player builds in front of himself a wall of face-down tiles, seventeen tiles long and two tiles high. The four walls are pushed together to form a square.
4.6Breaking the wall
The East player rolls two dice and counts that number of players counter-clockwise, starting with himself. The player thus determined breaks the wall in front of him, by counting from the right the same number of stacks as indicated by the dice. After the last counted stack the wall is broken by pushing the two wall sections a bit apart.
For example, if East’s dice roll was 12, North breaks the wall as shown:
4.7The dead wall
The seven stacks (14 tiles) to the right of the break make up the dead wall. The dead wall continues around the corner to the next wall, if the end of the wall is reached. The tiles in the dead wall are not used in the play, except for the providing of replacement tiles for kongs.
It is recommended for the player who has the dead wall in front of him to place the first replacement tile to the immediate left of the dead wall, so that it has first two single tiles and then six tile stacks. This is in order to decrease the risk of knocking down and revealing the first replacement tile.
4.8The dora indicator
Count three tile stacks into the dead wall from the original break in the wall, and turn the top tile face up to determine the dora indicator. This tile indicates which tile is dora.
If the dora indicator is a suit tile, the dora is the next tile in the same suit, e.g. if six bamboo is the dora indicator, then the dora is seven bamboo. If the indicator is a nine, the dora is the one in the same suit. If the indicator is a dragon, the dora is also a dragon, and the following order applies: Red points to White, White points to Green and Green points to Red. For winds, likewise, the following order applies: East-South-West-North-East.
The East player takes the first four tiles in the wall after the original break in the wall. Tiles are taken clockwise from the wall, while the players’ turns proceed counter-clockwise, South takes the next four tiles, West the next four, North the next four and so on until all players have twelve tiles. East continues by taking two tiles: the top tiles in the first and third stacks in the wall. South, West and North take one tile each, in order. (This corresponds to East taking one tile, waiting for the other players to take one tile each, and then East taking his fourteenth tile). East now has a starting hand of fourteen tiles, whereas the other players have thirteen tiles each. Each player arranges his tiles upright in front of himself, so only he can see their faces. The dice are placed at East’s right; in this way it's always clear to all players which player is East.