Guide to Yaku

How to Complete Your Hand in Mahjong

Posted by Seattle Riichi Mahjong Club on Tuesday, July 24, 2018

In order to help new players this list contains sets of yaku ranked from beginner to advanced. Beginners shouldn’t worry about remembering all of the yaku at once in order to start playing mahjong. Rather, they should start with basic yaku and work on memorizing the rules, then move onto being able to identify more complicated yaku. Hands may have multiple yaku and more expensive hands usually contain mixtures of advanced and basic yaku.

This guide does not have a full list of yaku, it only covers basic yaku. For a complete list of yaku, see the wikipedia article about mahjong yaku.

Basic Yaku

Basic yaku are defined by their simplicity and ability to be played open and closed as opposed to only closed. In general these yaku allow for fast, “cheap” hands. If you get combinations of them, however, they can add up to significant points.

Yaku-Hai (Honor Tiles) 役牌

  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Can Be Completed: Open/Closed
  • Han Value: 1

Yakuhai hands consist of a set of three of the dragons or of the “round/prevailing wind” or the player’s “seat wind.” Yakuhai hands can be completed open or closed meaning you can call at any time from any player and still complete this hand.

yakuhai

In this example the RED DRAGON triplet is the yaku.


Tan-Yao (All Simples) 断么

  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Can Be Completed: Open/Closed
  • Han Value: 1

Tan-yao or all simples is a great beginner hand. Just as it says it contains no terminals (1’s or 9’s) or honor tiles (winds or dragons). It can be played open which makes it ideal for fast hands. It still requires the hand to be composed of 4 triplets (pons or chis) and a pair.

tanyao

There are no terminals (1’s or 9’s) or honor tiles (winds or dragons) in this hand.


Tsumo (Self Draw Win) 門前清自摸和

  • Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Can Be Completed: Closed Only
  • Han Value: 1

This yaku is the first in our series of CLOSED ONLY hands. Tsumo is simple in that all you need to complete this yaku is to draw the winning tile yourself, while closed. While that is simple, it’s also fairly rare.


Pin-Fu (All Runs) 平和

  • Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Can Be Completed: Closed Only
  • Han Value: 1

Pinfu or all runs is considered an intermediate hand only because it can only be completed closed, meaning this hand can’t contain any called tiles. The name “pinfu” means “without fu” or a hand with no fu value.

In order to have this hand you must meet the following criteria:

  1. The hand must consist of only of runs, no sets
  2. The pair must be of tiles that have no fu value: either a numeric suit or the non-round, non-seat wind tiles, only
  3. It must be a “two sided wait” (described below)

In order to build this hand you must have all runs, no sets, and a pair as well as finish your hand with a TWO SIDED WAIT meaning that when you are one tile away from completing the hand there must be two or more different potential winning tiles.

Example: This pinfu hand consists of only runs and has no honor tiles, or winds that would give any fu value (see the Guide to Counting Fu). The tiles that are the wait are the six and five of characters, shown in blue. The winning tile is a two sided wait, meaning it can win on either the 4 of characters, shown in red, or the 7 of characters, not shown.

pinfu

This pinfu hand has a two sided wait shown in blue, with a winning tile being a 4 of characters, shown in red, OR a 7 of characters (not shown).


Riichi (Ready) 立直

  • Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Can Be Completed: Closed Only
  • Han Value: 1

Riichi is a special hand that is unique to Japanese mahjong. Declaring riichi is a bet that you will win before any other player completes their hand. It requires payment of 1,000 points at the time of declaration. The pay off for declaring riichi is the addition of BONUS tiles if the players wins, its han value, and the possibliity of ippatsu. There is a process you must follow when declaring riichi.

  1. You must be one tile away from winning on your turn.
  2. Discard a tile and place it sideways in the discard pile.
  3. Audibly declare “Riichi!” to other players.
  4. Place a 1,000 point stick above your discard pile.
  5. Upon winning declare Tsumo, or Ron.
  6. Remove the Dora bonus tile indicator and reveal as many Ura-Dora indicators as there are dora indicators.
  7. Calculate score using all exposed and revealed dora.

Ippatsu (One Shot) 一発

  • Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Can Be Completed: Closed Only
  • Han Value: 1

Ippatsu occurs when a player has declared riichi and wins on or before drawing the next tile from the wall after the declaration. Ippatsu is not allowed if another player has called a tile or made a kan between the riichi declaration and completing the hand.


Intermediate Yaku

These yaku are more difficult to obtain due to the fact that they consist of more stringent win conditions that have more specific tile arrangements. Despite being more difficult to complete they are worth more points, generally. It is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the basic yaku first!

Chiitoitsu (7 Pairs) 七対

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Can Be Completed: Closed
  • Han Value: 2

Chiitoitsu is one of the few exceptions for hands needing 4 sets/runs and a pair. It is worth 2 han and must be completed closed. All pairs must be unique, e.g. you cannot have a hand that has two sets of the same tile, a total of four of the same tile. It has it’s own unique fu calculation at 25 fu (see the Guide to Counting Fu).

chiitoi

Chiitotsu has 7 pairs and special conditions


Itsu (Straight) 一通

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Can Be Completed: Open/Closed
  • Han Value: 1 Open / 2 Closed

Itsu or straight is a fairly straightforward hand (pun intended). Your hand must have three RUNS comprising all of the tiles from one suit, 1-9. This can be done open or closed. The pair does not matter in this situation.

itsu

The Itsu yaku is the 1-9 of bamboo shown in red


Honitsu (Half Flush) 混一色

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Can Be Completed: Open/Closed
  • Han Value: 2 Open / 3 Closed

Honitsu or half flush is a difficult hand to build but it is simple to understand. A half flush is a hand that only contains tiles from one suit with the addition of honor tiles (winds and dragons). It is worth more closed than open.

honitsu

Honitsu hands can only contain one suit and honor tiles


Chinitsu (Flush) 混一色

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Can Be Completed: Open/Closed
  • Han Value: 5 Open / 6 Closed

Chinitsu is similar to honitsu in that it can only contain tiles from one suit, but differs in that you cannot use any honor tiles.

chinitsu

This chinitsu hand consists of only one suit, no honor tiles allowed


Toitoi (All Sets) 対々

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Can Be Completed: Open
  • Han Value: 2

Toitoi or all sets is a hand that is composed of all sets, NO RUNS, and one pair. This hand is open only because if you had a closed hand of all sets, it would be San-ankou. This hand consists of all triplets and a pair and can be done open as TOI TOI (or closed for a yakuman!).


Other Yaku

This is not a full list of yaku, advanced yaku and yakuman (Special yaku) are not included in this list. For a full list of yaku follow this link.