Special hands

OVERVIEW:  Using the intrinsic value of your tilesDoubling three times ⇒ Purity  Scoring 500 pointsAll pair honoursKnittingTriple knitting Scoring 1,000 points ⇒ Buried treasureImperial jadeHeads and tailsThree great scholarsAll Winds and DragonsFour blessings hovering over the doorFourfold plentyThe gates of heavenThe wriggling snakeThe thirteen unique wondersHeaven’s blessingEarth’s blessingGathering the plum blossom from the roofPlucking the moon from the bottom of the seaTwofold fortune

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Special hands are unusual combinations of tiles which also allow the player to declare Mah-Jong. Some need to remain concealed until fully formed. Others, which incorporate pungs and kongs, need not.
By their nature, they are difficult to get and the beginner is perhaps wise to ignore them at first. What constitutes a special hand has been a particular source of controversy within the game.

The ones described below are those recognised by the BMJA.

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Using the intrinsic value of your tiles

Occasionally, using the intrinsic value of your tiles (i.e the score that the hand would get using basic scoring and doubling), will give you a higher score than the special hand that you were attempting. This applies particularly when you are fishing and someone else goes Mah-Jong.

Only for one special hand, namely “Purity”, could a Mah-Jong hand give you a higher instrinsic value than the special hand itself – and then only in somewhat unusual circumstances.

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Doubling three times

Purity

Pungs / Kongs of any one suit and a pair (in that suit). No Winds, Dragons or chows.
The basic score is doubled 3 times. This does not include any points for Flowers and Seasons, which are counted and doubled separately. See Doubling and special hands.

Score when fishing:  Double three times or intrinsic value, if greater

  • No Winds, Dragons or chows are allowed
  • The basic score includes the 20 points for going Mah-Jong (but, obviously, not if you are fishing)
  • You get an extra 2 points if the winning tile is drawn from the wall (the live wall or the kong box)
  • Having a concealed hand makes no difference to the number of doubles – it’s always 3
  • If you can obtain a higher score using the intrinsic value of your hand (where you have sufficient bonus tiles) then you may score this way if you wish. In this case the doubling would apply to the basic score obtained by the whole hand.

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Scoring 500 points

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All pair honours

Seven pairs of 1s / 9s / Winds / Dragons.

Score when fishing:  200 points

  • 1s and 9s are allowed, even though they are not honour tiles
    “All pair honours” is the traditional name given to this hand
  • You can have two pairs of the same tile  (e.g. 2 pairs of Green Dragons)
    You need to keep them in your hand, and not declare them as a kong
    They would count as a kong, should someone else go Mah-Jong before you are fishing
  • Any combination of Major tile pairs is allowed

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Knitting

Seven pairs of tiles, with the same numbers in any two of the suits. No Winds or Dragons are allowed.

Score when fishing:  200 points

  • Duplicate pairs are allowed

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Triple knitting

Four sets of three tiles, with the same numbers in the three different suits, plus a pair of same numbers (again in different suits). No Winds or Dragons are allowed.

Score when fishing:  200 points

  • Duplicate triplets are allowed

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Scoring 1,000 points

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Buried treasure

Concealed pungs and a pair using one suit and (optionally) Winds and/or Dragons.

Score when fishing:  400 points

  • No kongs or chows are allowed 400 points.
  • The honour tiles can be in the pair
  • You can pung the last set, or claim a discard to form a pair, so as to go Mah-Jong
  • A concealed kong must stay in your hand until you are able to discard the fourth tile
  • The pair must be in the same suit or of a Wind / Dragon
  • A hand with pungs of Winds and/or Dragons and a suit pair would also be Buried Treasure

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Imperial jade

Pungs / Kongs of the green tiles and a (green tile) pair.

Score when fishing:  400 points

  • Green tiles are defined as:
    Green Dragons
    2s, 3s, 4s, 6s and 8s of Bamboo
    (You will need to use this definition when your tiles don’t have the usual colorations)

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Heads and tails

Pungs / Kongs of 1s and 9s.

Score when fishing:  400 points

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Three great scholars

Pungs / Kongs of all three Dragons, another pung / kong and a any pair.

Score when fishing:  400 points or intrinsic value, if greater

  • How the instrinsic value can be greater than 400 points:
    “Three great scholars” can contain kongs as well as pungs.
    So a calling hand could have concealed kongs of all three Dragons and (say) a concealed pung of 8 Circles.
    This would score as follows:
          Basic score: 32 + 32 + 32 + 4 = 100
         Doubling 3 times (one for each kong of Dragons) gives a final score of 800
    If, in addition to this, you had 2 bonus tiles (one your own) then you would score an additional [ (4 + 4) x 2 = ] 16, which would give a final score of 816.

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All Winds and Dragons

Pungs / Kongs of Winds / Dragons and a pair of Winds / Dragons. No Suit tiles are allowed.

Score when fishing:  400 points or intrinsic value, if greater

  • The pair must be of Winds or Dragons

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Four blessings hovering over the door

Pungs / Kongs of each of the four Winds with any pair.

Score when fishing:  400 points or intrinsic value, if greater

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Fourfold plenty

Four kongs and a pair.

Score when fishing:  400 points

  • The suits can be mixed

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The Gates of heaven

A concealed pung of 1s, a concealed pung of 9s, a run from 2 to 8 with one pair, all in the same suit.

Score when fishing:  400 points

  • You can pung the last set to go Mah-Jong

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The wriggling snake

A pair of 1s and a run from 2 to 9 in the same suit, with each of the Winds.

Score when fishing:  400 points

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The thirteen unique wonders

One of each Dragon, one of each Wind, one of each One and one of each Nine. Any one paired.

Score when fishing:  400 points

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Heaven’s blessing

Mah-Jong immediately made by East with the original fourteen tiles dealt to that player.

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Earth’s blessing

Mah-Jong immediately made by West, North or South using the first discard made by East.

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Gathering the plum blossom from the oof

The “plum blossom” is the 5 Circles.
This is made by a player who draws a loose (roof) tile as a replacement for a kong, a Flower or a Season and that tile is the “plum blossom” which allows the player to go Mah-Jong.

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Plucking the moon from the bottom of the Sea

The “moon” is the 1 Circles.
This is made by a player who upon drawing the last tile from the wall finds that it is the “moon” which allows the player to go Mah-Jong.

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Twofold fortune

Made by a player who declares a kong, draws a tile which allows the declaration of another kong and then draws a tile which allows the declaration of Mah-Jong.

Also see questions on Playing the game – Special hands and Scoring – Special hands

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© Gwyn Headley & Yvonne Seeley / KTG Mah-Jong