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Old 08-10-2019, 11:32 PM
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Is this Mahjong?


Watching the Chinese movie “The Wandering Earth” and the series “White Dragon” which takes place in Hong Kong.

In both there are scenes where men sitting around a table together shuffle small brick shaped tiles with Asian calligraphy on them and during game play stack them up. Betting seems to be involved.

Is this Mahjong? Or could it represent many types of games? What am I watching in these scenes?


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  #2  
Old 08-11-2019, 12:19 AM
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You are watching pai gow.
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Old 08-11-2019, 12:21 AM
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No. They might be using mahjong tiles to play a game I do not know (mahjong tiles in Asia are like playing cards in Europe : you can play many different games using the same set), but you don't stack up anything in actual mahjong. Well, you do but only at the start of a game.

Regular mahjong is sort of like ginrummy : each of the 4 players start play with a "hand" of 14 random tiles (which are really put on a ruler kind of like Scrabble tiles) and the rest of the tiles are arranged face down into a sort of big square in the middle. Then each turn a player will pick up a tile from the big square (the other players don't get to see what tile it is) and chuck away a tile face up. It can be one they already had, it can be the one they just picked up. Then it's the next guy's turn and so on. If a player discards a tile you can use in your hand, there are circumstances in which you can halt play immediately, pick up their tile and the game restarts as if you'd played a regular turn.
Finally, the object of the game is to be the first to have a Mahjong hand, which is 4 separate sets of 3 tiles (either in a 111 or 123 pattern) and a final pair of matching tiles. You get more points for getting even fancier, for example having 123456 of a suit and so on - scoring in Mahjong is insanely complicated and I can't process it for shit, there's a million special cases and bonuses for this and that... The gist of it is : each player begins play with 50.000 points, and when you win you score up how big you've won, each other player "pays" your score from their point total. Then you start the game again, and again, until you've played a pre-determined amount of games (I think 8 is typical ?). The winner of the game is whoever has accrued the most points at the end of the series.

Betting can be involved, in which case the money bet effectively is exchanged for the 50.000 points, and at the end of the session each player receives (or pays) according to their final tally.

TL;DR in Mahjong (the game) you don't stack anything, you're constantly picking up tiles from an already stacked up orderly wall of tiles then chuck tiles back into a non-orderly pile until someone shouts "Mahjong" and everyone else groans because they were like ONE tile away from scoring all of the points. But Mahjong tiles can be used to play other games.
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Old 08-11-2019, 05:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Atamasama View Post
You are watching pai gow.

The only tiles I know of that are used for Pai Gow are Chinese dominoes. Every set I've ever seen has completely blank backs. The faces have numbers from 1 to 6 (no blanks), with the one pips and four pips red, the others white, except for the sixes which have one line of 3 red pips next to a line of 3 white pips.

There is a variation of Pai Gow using western cards, called Pai Gow Poker.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
No. They might be using mahjong tiles to play a game I do not know (mahjong tiles in Asia are like playing cards in Europe : you can play many different games using the same set), but you don't stack up anything in actual mahjong. Well, you do but only at the start of a game.

Regular mahjong is sort of like ginrummy : each of the 4 players start play with a "hand" of 14 random tiles (which are really put on a ruler kind of like Scrabble tiles) and the rest of the tiles are arranged face down into a sort of big square in the middle. Then each turn a player will pick up a tile from the big square (the other players don't get to see what tile it is) and chuck away a tile face up. It can be one they already had, it can be the one they just picked up. Then it's the next guy's turn and so on. If a player discards a tile you can use in your hand, there are circumstances in which you can halt play immediately, pick up their tile and the game restarts as if you'd played a regular turn.
Finally, the object of the game is to be the first to have a Mahjong hand, which is 4 separate sets of 3 tiles (either in a 111 or 123 pattern) and a final pair of matching tiles. You get more points for getting even fancier, for example having 123456 of a suit and so on - scoring in Mahjong is insanely complicated and I can't process it for shit, there's a million special cases and bonuses for this and that... The gist of it is : each player begins play with 50.000 points, and when you win you score up how big you've won, each other player "pays" your score from their point total. Then you start the game again, and again, until you've played a pre-determined amount of games (I think 8 is typical ?). The winner of the game is whoever has accrued the most points at the end of the series.

Betting can be involved, in which case the money bet effectively is exchanged for the 50.000 points, and at the end of the session each player receives (or pays) according to their final tally.

TL;DR in Mahjong (the game) you don't stack anything, you're constantly picking up tiles from an already stacked up orderly wall of tiles then chuck tiles back into a non-orderly pile until someone shouts "Mahjong" and everyone else groans because they were like ONE tile away from scoring all of the points. But Mahjong tiles can be used to play other games.

The only two games I know of using Mahjong tiles are Mahjong (the real game from China) and that tile matching game that so many people seem to think is Mahjong. What other games do you know that use Mahjong tiles?*

According to this Wiki page, Mahjong and Rummy have a common ancestor.

*Checking online, I just discovered a game called Sap Tim Pun (Ten and a Half). Some say it's like Blackjack, but I think it's more like Baccarat.

By the way, the tables in the Mahjong parlors here are cool. At the end of the round, you press a button and four trapezoidal flaps on the top of the table fold down so the tiles fall into the table's interior, so the table can shuffle the tiles. The flaps close and the tiles are raised up on a narrow ractangular part of the table-top, already stacked in two layers. The really expensive tables are equipped with two sets of tiles so they can deal one set while shuffling the other at the same time.
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Old 08-11-2019, 10:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monty View Post
The only two games I know of using Mahjong tiles are Mahjong (the real game from China) and that tile matching game that so many people seem to think is Mahjong. What other games do you know that use Mahjong tiles?*
Ten & a half is the big one yeah, but there are tons of individual tile matching variants with different rules for which tiles you get to match or how to set up the tiles, some of which can be played with multiple players (although admittedly they're mostly solitaire games)

Quote:
By the way, the tables in the Mahjong parlors here are cool. [...]
Cool indeed, but where's here ?
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Old 08-11-2019, 10:32 AM
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Durrr, nevermind. I could have sworn your location thingy wasn't there when I read your post.
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Old 08-11-2019, 07:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
Durrr, nevermind. I could have sworn your location thingy wasn't there when I read your post.

I discovered something odd about viewing the SDMB on my cellphone. When I hold the phone vertically, the join date/location/post count block in the upper rigt of the post does not appear if you're using the Sultan theme; that block does appear when holding the phone horizontally. Using the Straight Dope theme, the block appears in both orientations.

I've seen those nifty Mahjong tables in Japan and South Korea also. I don't gamble, so I've only gotten to use them a grand total of twice at school staff parties. I forgot to mention the tables also have a little bubble in themm with dice, along the lines of the Trouble game. To roll the dice in that boardgame, you push on the bubble; to roll the dice ind the Mahjong table's bubbl, there's a little button next to the bubble.

Last edited by Monty; 08-11-2019 at 07:11 PM.
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Old 08-11-2019, 08:37 PM
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I'm only on the SDMB on my home computer - I must have just had a proto-senior moment .

@OP : don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, another PSM no doubt but -- this is Mahjong. And while you don't have to know the game to follow this great scene along, it's even more nifty when you do because then you realize that Rachel (the young one) did precisely what Eleanor (the lemon-sucker) said only a fool would do : fold on a winning hand, to make someone else happy. She "knew" Eleanor was also looking for that tile from watching what she'd discarded earlier.
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Old 08-11-2019, 08:53 PM
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(other cutesy symbolic stuff about that scene : Rachel sits in the West chair, while Eleanor confidently claims the East one, the dominant one who plays first.
Eleanor punctuates her tirade about Rachel being "not one of us" by completing a pung, that's taking a discarded tile to form 3 identical tiles you have to show (here, 3 and a flower, a "joker" tile, counting as the fourth for even more points). Because pungs make it easier to win, they give you a point penality which good players tend to offset by only using them in a winmore hand, the easiest of which is "all pungs" ; a hand that is made of 4 sets of identical tiles - or a family all "one of us" - which is punctuated by "(this is how) my mother taught me to play".
Finally, the crucial play of the round surrounds the discarding/taking an 8 of bamboo. In Cantonese slang, "bamboo" is the same as "coconut" for Latino/as - you know, yellow on the outside, white on the inside. And 8 is good luck, fortune, wealth in Chinese symbolism (because the characters for 8 and good fortune are very similar).
It's a really clever scene )

Last edited by Kobal2; 08-11-2019 at 08:56 PM.
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Old 08-11-2019, 09:25 PM
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Kobal2: Now that you've brought up video links for Mahjong, I have to mention that I thoroughly enjoyed [i]The Joy Luck Club[/b]. There's plenty of Mahjong action and commentary from the characters in that flick!
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