Mini Mahjongg

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The game played with tiles known as “Mahjong” is not the ancient Chinese pastime it is often thought to be. In fact, the popular game was invented only about 150 years ago. It started out in Shanghai in 1846 as a set-forming card game called Ma Tiao, which was similar to Gin Rummy. The idea of using ceramic tiles was introduced by a servant of the Imperial court.

When China became a republic in 1912, the game gained its current name, which means “hemp bird” or “sparrow,” allegedly because getting the winning piece is as difficult as catching the Chinese bird of cleverness. Variations soon spread to Japan, Europe and the United States, where new rules were adopted to make the game easier to understand.

The online version of “Mini Mahjongg” played at Internet casinos such as Bet365 is yet another offshoot of the game still played in China. It involves four playing positions like the original, but the player is responsible for just one hand, while the House controls the other three. At the very start of the game, a “How to Play” panel appears, giving a brief summary of the basic rules.

The game goal is to “assemble two sets of three tiles to win.” For Numbers, Bamboos and Circles, a set is comprised of either a run of three consecutive tiles or three of a kind. There are nine such tiles in each group and they are numbered in English for easy identification. For Dragons, Winds and Flowers—so-called “Honor” tiles, which contain just four pieces per group—sets can be formed of three of a kind or three different tiles out of the four possible.

At the outset, the player must decide how much to wager. This is accomplished by clicking on one of the counter sticks seen in the lower right corner of the screen. The sticks come in denominations of €0.01, €0.05, €0.25, €1.00, €5.00 and €10.00. The player’s Stake for the game will be made up of 20 sticks or 20X for any denomination chosen. The Pot will therefore consist of 80 sticks, 20 from each position. These amounts are shown in the “Stake” and “Pot” indicators at the upper right side of the screen.

Clicking on “Play” at the lower right will close the information panel and reveal the actually playing surface, which resembles a highly polished wooden table top. There is a “Golden Dragon” emblem in the centre of the table, surrounded by walls of tiles placed face down. The Dragon will randomly determine the sequence of hands to be played. A total of 12 tiles are then dealt out to each player. Any matching sets are automatically identified and set apart from the hand. Should a hand receive two matching sets on the deal, the game will end immediately and payouts will be made from the pot according to the relative strength of the hands.

If there is no opening winner, the player will have to opportunity to draw a tile, either face up or face down, in order to form a set. If a set is formed off the draw, it will be automatically set apart. Then, the player must discard a tile. Play continues until one hand yields two sets of tiles and wins. Again, payouts are determined by the values of the sets that have been put down, with sets of Honor tiles worth twice as much as other sets.

To aid in play, five additional control buttons can be used at the lower right side of the screen. “Turbo” is used to speed up play, “Sort” is used to put the player’s hand in numeric order, and “Hint” is used to get advice on what plays to make. The “Auto Play” switch can be used to let the computer play the player’s hand, and the “Play Out” switch can be used after a hand has already been started to automatically play the game to its conclusion.

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