Things to Know When Playing with Sticks


One of the least controversial announcements from the WRC has been that counting sticks (bones or tenbo) will be used. Not everyone will be used to playing with them, and there are some little tricks to know…






The top stick is 100

The next stick is 1000

The stick one from bottom is 5000

The bottom stick is 10,000


What tricks are there to make the game and the payment run smoother?

1) The score should be called out clearly (and not mumbled like what I do).

2) After the score has been called out, the payment is made.

3) Payment is made by placing the sticks on the table in front of the player to be paid.

– Don’t place them in front of you or in the middle of the table. This is just polite and it makes it obvious who the sticks are going to.

– Don’t hand the sticks to the hand of the payer being paid. The reason for this is to avoid sleight of hand, and so that all other players can visually confirm that the correct payment is being made.

4) Profit! (If you’re the one being paid)


A few other tips:

– Sticks should be placed on your right and be in full view of all players.

– When a 100 stick or sticks are out to indicate a continuation and there is a draw but the dealer is not the winner, the sticks should be left out until the new dealer has taken out that number of sticks plus one and placed them on his/her right.

– Try to make the quickest and easiest solution. So if you need to pay 1300, hand over 1000 and 3 100s. Not 2 1000s where possible.

– If possible, try to ensure you always have a 1000 stick in your collection to reach with. I.e. by paying with a 5000 stick to another player who is in a situation to break it when this is appropriate.

– If you run out of 1000s and you need to riichi, ask another player to break a greater value stick for you. Don’t use a stick of any other value. Don’t EVER borrow another player’s 1000 stick to make your riichi.

– When there is a continuation but you don’t get to keep your dealership, leave the continuation sticks out until the player to your right has placed them out. That way, things won’t get forgotten.

– Don’t play with your sticks. This is good life advice in all situations.


If you don’t have any counting sticks in your mahjong toolkit, it might be a good time to add some! offer a set of white counting sticks and we’re looking to add some colored sticks to our inventory.

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