Crazy Rich Asians, Mahjongg, and Madness

“I watched Crazy Rich Asians. There was a scene with this game with tiles. It was beautiful — the colors and the clacking….”

These are the words of a woman who clearly wants me to go out and buy a mahjongg set and a book and go crazy over the whole thing.

Games as story-telling tools are My Thing Lately, so I had to find the scene and obsess over it. Not really knowing the game, we get the point — older woman beats younger woman, but younger woman reveals she could have won and chose not to. But HOW? I MUST KNOW.

Mahjongg is sort of like rummy, if rummy scoring was more complicated and had awesome names for hands like “Catching the Moon from the Bottom of the Sea”. Match sets, knock before your opponents can get a good hand, score what you’ve got. I’ve got a book, so it should be pretty straight-forward, right?

The hands are presented for us to see clearly, which is nice. The elder’s:

And the younger’s:

And right from the get-go, I’ve got trouble. No idea what that bendy cucumber tile is in the elder’s hand (next to the three Nine Circles). But, the game has random unmatched tiles that give you points if you draw them, so maybe it’s just a different printing of one of those. (Cue frantic, useless googling of mahjongg tilesets.) I’ll just see what the book says.

Well, the book has seven different games in it.

If I take the Cantonese game, it looks to me like the elder wins. But that can’t be right. None of the other variations seem to work either.

Well, why not download an app that scores mahjongg hands? Couldn’t be simpler! Except for when the app is for Japanese-style scoring. The elder definitely wins that one.

Fortunately for me, someone who actually knows what they’re talking about posted about this. It doesn’t go into full detail on the scoring, but it does clarify that this is the Singaporean game.

It even explains the cucumber.

The author goes through the trouble of scoring the younger woman’s hand:


If you’re really curious, here’s how Singaporean rules would have scored Rachel’s hand:

Half Flush (hand composed of all one suit plus honors): 2 points

Fully Concealed Hand (no pong or chow sets revealed in front of her): 1 point

Animal tile: 1 point

She scores no points under Singapore rules for the flower, since it’s associated with the 4th seat, which is neither her seat nor the “prevailing” seat (East is dealer in this hand).

That’s 4 points, out of a typical maximum per round of 5. Every player would pay her $16, for a total of $48 for the hand. Singaporeans play a low-stakes version of mahjong!

But what about the elder’s. Well, let’s try it: She has:

3 9 bamboo
3 8 bamboo
3 white dragon
2 red dragon
3 9 circles
The centipede

The three dragons = 1 point.
The centipede = 1 point.
Triplets hand = 2 points.

And I think that’s everything. So… equal hands. But the wikipedia article doesn’t take into account “fans” (doubling opportunities), as noted in the site listed as a reference. So maybe the elder won twice as much?

It’s worth noting that the they both have two red dragons hidden. Thus either could only get what they wanted (a valuable triple) if the other gave up and broke her pair.

Thus ends my adventure in trying to score mahjongg hands from a movie without knowing what I’m doing. I hope in Crazier Richer Asians they play again, but there’s a misunderstanding as to if they’re playing Old Rules or American, and they both have ridiculously good hands for their respective systems. If not I plan on stealing the idea. From myself.

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