Seattle Mahjong

Guide To Yaku

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 yaku 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, click here.

For a guide on counting Fu, see the end of this page. (or click here)

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.

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 “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.


In this example the RED DRAGON triplet is your yaku

Tan-Yao (All Simples) 断么

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

Tan-yao or all simples is a good 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.


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.

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.

In order to have this hand you must meet the following criteria:
1. The hand must consist of only of runs, no sets
2. It the pair must not contain a value pair
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 your winning tile must have two potential winning tiles.

Example: This pinfu hand consists of only runs and has no honor tiles, or winds that would give any fu (more explanation on fu here). 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.


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. It requires payment of 1,000 points at the time of declaration. The pay off for riiiching 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 places 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. Calculator score using all exposed and revealed dora.

Ippatsu (One Shot) 一発

Han Value: 1

Ippatsu occurs when a player has declared Riichi and wins within one rotation.

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 set/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.


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 straight forward hand, you must in you hand have all of the tiles from one suit 1-9 in a series of RUNS. This can be done open or closed. The pair does not matter in this situation.


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 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.


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.

Fu Scoring Guide

This is a quick guide to counting fu

  1. A winning hand is scored with 20 starting fu.
  2. Ten fu are added if the hand is closed and the winning tile comes from a discard.
  3. Add fu of the melds and the pair.
  4. Add fu according to the wait.
  5. Add 2 fu if one wins by self-draw.
  6. Winning with Chitoitsu is an automatic 25 fu.