How to Play Jokers and Blanks in the Game of Mahjong - Oh My Mahjong

How to Play Jokers and Blanks in the Game of Mahjong

Jokers & Blanks - The James Bond of Mahjong

Mahjong was already a popular game in China during the Qing Dynasty, but it wasn't until the early 20th century that the Americans got their hands on it. They decided to add a little twist to the game. Enter the joker tile, stage left.

Now, the exact year of the introduction of jokers to Mahjong is a bit murky, but it's generally believed to have happened sometime between the 1910s and 1920s. Some payer thought to themselves, "You know what this game needs? More unpredictability!" And thus, the joker tile was born.

At first, the joker tile was just a blank tile with a picture of a jester or clown on it. But as Mahjong's popularity spread across the US, the design of the joker tile evolved to include different patterns, animals, and landscapes. By the mid-20th century, the joker tile had become an essential part of Mahjong, giving players an extra element of surprise and chance.

One may ask, are jokers used in other variations of Mahjong besides American?

Sure, some do, but it's not necessarily the norm.

You see, the use of jokers in Mahjong varies depending on the region and style of play. In some parts of the world, like Japan and Taiwan, jokers are rarely used in Mahjong games. Meanwhile, in other regions, like the United States and Australia, jokers are often included as part of the standard Mahjong set.

Alright, alright, alright - before we get too carried away with all the joker shenanigans, let's cover the basics first.

So, here's the deal: it's pretty standard to play with 8 jokers per Mahjong set. Now, some sets may have more jokers, but when in doubt, just assume you're playing with 8. That's the norm, the status quo, the way things are done.

Now that we've covered the history and basics of jokers in Mahjong, let's get into the juicy stuff - how they're used in the actual play of the game.

First off, let's get one thing straight. Jokers are like the unicorn of Mahjong tiles - rare, magical, and always a cause for celebration. But that doesn't mean they can be used willy-nilly. Oh no, there are some rules to follow.

Rule number one: no jokers in single or pairs. I mean, come on, that's just cheating. Even in the 2022/2023, each character in the set is different, so no using a joker to cheat your way out of a tricky situation.

Rule number two: once a joker is discarded, it's dead, dead, dead. Don't you hate when a player does that? It's like they're sending your hopes and dreams to the Mahjong graveyard. But hey, that's the game we play.

Rule number three: jokers cannot be passed in Charleston. Clueless as to why someone would even think of doing this, but you cannot.

But now, for the good stuff.
Rule number five: when a joker is exposed to complete a grouping, if you have the tile that the joker is replacing, you can switch it out for the joker. That's right, you get to claim that elusive, magical tile as your own. And this rule even applies if it's an exposure on your own hand. Talk about a cheeky little loophole.

A burning question on every Mahjong player's mind - can you use jokers for your entire grouping? The answer is a resounding YES, my friend!

Let's say you need 3-4 dots to complete your grouping. Well, guess what? You can use jokers to stand in for those tiles. You heard me right, they can represent all the tiles in the grouping.

Oh, here's a fun fact about jokers that might make you extra cash money if you're playing Mahjong for some dough (and by dough, I mean moolah, cha-ching, cashola).

So, that little number to the right of the hand on the card? That represents how much you'll get paid if you win with that hand. But get this - if you win a hand with no jokers, you get paid DOUBLE by everyone. That's right, double the amount, baby! So, if you were set to win $0.25 with that hand, now you're looking at a cool $0.50. Whoop whoop! So, keep that in mind next time you're playing Mahjong for some serious cash money. Jokers can be great and all, but sometimes it pays to go without 'em.
So go ahead, embrace your cheeky side and use those jokers to your advantage. After all, in Mahjong, it's all about strategy and taking risks. And with jokers on your side, the possibilities are endless.

There you have it, the rules regarding jokers in American Mahjong. Just remember, jokers are like the spice of life - use them wisely, and they'll add a little extra flavor to your game.

Ok, now that we have covered blanks lets move on to the other Mahjong super tile, BLANKS.

Blanks can stir up some serious debate among players. Some say, "Blanks? No thanks!" while others embrace them with open arms.
Let's get one thing straight: if you're trying to make it in the Mahjong world, blanks may not be your best friend. Many players refuse to play with them, so be prepared for some major side-eye if you try to bust them out at a tournament.

Well, well, well, if you're a blank lover, you might be wondering how many of these bad boys you need to add to your Mahjong set. The answer, my friend, is either two or four.

That's right, if you're going to play with blanks, you can't just throw one in there and call it a day. You need to commit and add either two or four to your set. And if you're worried about keeping track of them, don't fret - they look just like any other tile in your set, except with a big ol' blank space on them.
If you do decide to play with blanks, you'll find that they can be quite useful. They can't replace a missing tile like a joker, but they do have a special power - the ability to switch out for any discarded tile that's out of the game. That's right, they can swoop in and save the day when you're in a bind and need to complete a single or pair.

Oh, the magic of blanks! These sneaky tiles can be swapped out at any time, even when it's not your turn. That's right, you can be like a ninja, swapping tiles behind your opponents' backs. Just wait for the right moment, and then BAM! Swap out that blank for the dead tile you need, and watch as your opponents scramble to figure out what just happened. And remember, the key to success is secrecy. Don't let anyone know what you're up to, or what tiles you're after. Be like James Bond, and keep your strategies close to your chest.

Ah, the strategy of blanks. It's like playing a game of chess, but with tiles. And the key is not to reveal your hand too soon. Don't waste your blanks on tiles that you may not need. To avoid wasting your precious blanks, it's important to use them wisely. One strategy is to hold onto them until the very end, so you don't switch them out for a tile that you might draw later. It's like keeping your trump card hidden until the perfect moment to strike. So, be patient and wait until the opportune moment to switch out your blank for that dead tile. That way, you can maximize your chances of completing your grouping and declaring mahjong like a true champion.Keep them close to your chest until the perfect opportunity presents itself. And once you're close to declaring mahjong, then you can switch them out for dead tiles like a boss. But remember, use them wisely, or risk the wrath of your fellow players who may not be so forgiving of your blank-wasting ways.

Oh, the age-old question: Jokers or Blanks? It's like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. But fear not, my fellow mahjong enthusiasts, for I am here to break it down for you in my signature cheeky tone.

Let's start with jokers, shall we? Jokers are like the Swiss Army knife of mahjong. They can be used in any combination to complete a set, except for pairs. Need a third dragon tile? Joker's got your back. Want to complete a run 3 or 4 in bams? Joker's got your back. But be warned, not all hands are created equal. If you're going for a hand full of pairs, then jokers are as useless as a chocolate teapot. So, it all depends on the kind of hand you're trying to build.

Now, let's talk blanks. Blanks are like the secret weapon of mahjong. They're not as commonly used as jokers, but they can be just as powerful in the right hands. Unlike jokers, you can't use a blank to complete a set, but you can use it to replace a discarded tile. And the best part? You can do it at any time, even when it's not your turn. That's right, you can be like James Bond, sneaking around and swapping tiles like it's nobody's business. And since blanks are so rare, when you use one, your opponents won't know what hit them.

So, which is better, jokers or blanks? It all depends on your strategy. If you're going for a hand full of pairs or singles, then blanks are the way to go. But if you're going for a hand full of pungs  (3 of a kind) or kongs (4 of a kind), then jokers are your best bet. And if you're feeling really daring, you can always mix and match, using both jokers and blanks to create the ultimate mahjong hand.
But wait, there's more! There are some hands, like 2023 or NEWS, where jokers are forbidden. These hands are considered singles since each tile is different. In these cases, drawing the tile or switching a blank is  the only way to complete the hand. So, if you want to be a mahjong master, you'll need to know when to use jokers and when to use blanks.

In the end, it's all about the hand you're dealt and the strategy you employ. Both jokers and blanks have their strengths and weaknesses, and it's up to you to decide which one to use. So, my fellow mahjong enthusiasts, the next time you're faced with the question of jokers or blanks, remember that the answer depends! But no matter which one you choose, always remember to play with style.