This book states that "If a claimed tile is not taken within the next two opponents’ turns, i.e. before another two discards has been made, the player has a dead hand."

What is a dead hand, and how does it affect the game?

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    It would help provide some context if you specify what 'This book' is. – DaveParillo Oct 27 '10 at 23:26

"Dead hand" has a few different meanings. It's hard to tell just from that one sentence, but it sounds like the one you're describing is the case where somebody forgets to take a tile, so their hand ends up short tiles (it's also a dead hand if the player forgets to discard and thus has too many tiles). A dead hand cannot be used to win the round, but the player still takes their turns as normal until the round ends.

"Dead hand" also sometimes refers to a declared mahjong that turns out to be invalid (like above, that player cannot win anymore, and play continues), or a round where all tiles are drawn from the wall and nobody makes mahjong, but neither seems to be what you're referring to in this case

  • I think the statement in the question refers to the first situation in your answer. The player claims the tile, but doesn't pick it up to put in their hand, and the next two turns have gone by, so the player can no longer pick up the tile he/she claimed, therefore having a dead hand. I think that statement is allowing the player a window in which to grab his/her tile. – kchau Oct 27 '10 at 19:29
  • Yes, by now I understand it just like @kchau does. – mafu Nov 15 '10 at 11:47
  • Agreed -- player error has made it impossible for the player to win that round, but they must play out the round nonetheless. What's never been clear to me is if that player still has an obligation to play as if they were trying to win, or if they're allowed to play in a simply obstructive manner to minimize their losses... – Viktor Haag Nov 18 '11 at 17:37

The term "dead hand" is maybe ambiguous. The certainly most common use is for hands that may no further participate in the game due to a critical, usually accidental, mistake. This is related, but not identical to chombo (a usually intentional mistake by a player that ends the round and forces the offender to pay mangan).

The OP was referring to MCR rules. I am not very familiar with MCR, but to gain a basic understanding of the term, let me refer you to these (simplified) rules for dead hands in riichi mahjong:

  1. The following actions result in a dead hand:
    • Looking at the tiles in an opponents hand or the dead wall.
    • Drawing a tile before the opponent before you has discarded, or drawing in any inappropriate way.
    • Making an invalid CHI, PON or KAN or declaring one invalidly. This includes KUIGAE.
  2. A hand is dead immediately after any of the above conditions are noticed.
  3. A player with a dead hand may not declare CHI PON KAN or a win.
  4. A player with a dead hand is considered NOTEN, even if his hand is TENPAI.

I have found one other use of the term "dead hand", but I have never seen this elsewhere:

A hand in which no one completes a winning hand before all tiles except the Dead Wall have been drawn. The round ends then with no winner.


What I call a dead hand is one where there is no possibility of winning. The case I’m thinking of is a hand that was complete except it was missing one pair. All four of the needed tiles were out. Because it was for a pair and I didn’t have even one of the two, my hand was “dead”. If I had one, I could claim a discarded one even though it was for a pair because you can call for the second tile in a pair if it’s for mah jong but I didn’t have any and the game was nearly over. I was taught that you can declare a dead hand and let the game continue three handed, without you. Is there a rule about this ?

  • Regarding your question, I think you should post it as a new question post. Asking a question in an answer doesn't really work well with a Q&A site. – DJ Pirtu Jan 7 '19 at 20:51

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