A mahjong table is indispensable to play the game no matter what rules you’re adopting. You may be using a mat, rug or even a desk as your usual playing surface. However, did you know about the different types of mahjong tables available and how each of them can adapt to your needs? Their size, weight, pros and cons?
I’ll show you all the different types of tables and what needs they are supposed to fulfill, and things you should consider before buying an electric mahjong table.
1. DIY Mahjong Tables (Dimensions, Size)
Did you know it is possible to build your own mahjong table?
Homemade mahjong tables are a great way to save money on a mahjong table. However, there are some things you need to keep in mind before you get to building.
If you're playing Japanese Riichi Mahjong, I'd recommend that you adopt a surface of 90×90 cm at most and include borders (margins) with no more than 1 or 2 cms of height.
This border will allow you to sort and arranger your tiles easily.
Mahjong Table Ideal Dimensions
I recommend a size of 90 cm2 for your self made mahjong tables.
First of all, because the table surface needs to be square. Rectangular shapes just won't do for a smooth game.
Secondly, because this size will guarantee that you'll be able to play both, Chinese and Japanese mahjong without neither fighting for space nor going too wide.
However, if your tiles are small and your group's arms are short, or your chairs are really low and you can't extend your arms really far, you can go for 85cm or even all the way down to 80cm. Likewise, if the tiles are huge, you can try going up to 1m square.
Mahjong Table Materials
I recommend you simply stick to the basics: wood and felt.
Don't fall into the trap of not using some sort of soft cloth on the playing area. If you skip on that part, the sound of tile slamming on top of the wood will be so loud that the game will be basically unplayable. You will also run the risk of ruining the table.
Placing felt on top of a glass table is also not recommended!
Wood and felt are your best friends.
You don't need to spend a fortune on the soft cloth felt either, consider that you will have to change it every now and then. These things wear down.
Check out how Jackie Chin engineered and built this home made mahjong table, full with drawers for point sticks.
2. Mahjong Mats and Mahjong Rugs
The next best thing to a mahjong table is a mat.
You can unfold it on top of any desk or flat surface and soon you will be playing the game.
However, if you don't have a table to begin with, then a mat or rug won't get you very far.
There's plenty of square furniture out there that you can purchase in combination with your mat, but make sure they're at least 90 cm2, or you risk your mat not fitting on top of it.
Do note that if you play Chinese Mahjong with Chinese tiles, there's a good chance your tiles are going to be too big for the mat, so if that's what you use to play, you may as well skip this one.
Otherwise, mahjong mats like these are a great worth for their buck as they are both, portable and cheap.
I recommend sticking to only one of the two following mats:
The cheaper option:
The safe option:
Mahjong Club Chuuren Potos in France played their finals on a Junk Mat like the above!
3. Folding Mahjong Tables (With Drawers)
These tables are made specifically for playing mahjong.
There’s a way for you to get cheap folding mahjong tables, and that is getting the ones that are made mostly of plastic (and of course, cloth felt). This way, they are also lighter so the shipping will be cheaper too!
Folding mahjong table with drawers
You can find plenty of these online with cheap shipping, as they are pretty light.
However, I like the following table because while it is light, inexpensive and portable, it is also surprisingly durable (check the hinges on the folding part). You can see at all times the points other players are holding as well, and play other games besides mahjong with it.
4. Semi-Automatic Mahjong Tables
Also called partially automatic mahjong table.
These tables will flip (mostly) all your tiles face down, and shuffle a little bit. Of course, for this reason it is necessary that you get magnetic tiles with the table.
It is only a small aid, as you still will have to build the wall by hand.
Nevertheless, it still acts as a mahjong table and is nice to have. Check it in action!
Scary isn't it?
Automatic Mahjong Tables – Which is the best?
They are also called self-sorting mahjong tables or “electric mahjong tables.”
If you ever wondered how does an automatic mahjong table work...
As you can see in the video, automatic mahjong tables use two mahjong tile sets at once so that they can shuffle a second set while you play.
The backs of both tilesets are painted in different colors to prevent both, mistakes and cheating.
After you finish a hand, you can push all the tiles into the central hole, and a newly built set of walls will rise up ready to play!
The technology employed by these tables will make it one of the most expensive choices out there, and sometimes they can be very noisy. However, they do save a lot of time building the wall.
These tiles as well are magnetic, and on top of that, you need to purchase tiles that are compatible with the table. Of course, these tables will include tiles when you purchase them, but this is no minor detail in case you lose or break some of the tiles.
Let’s go over first what types of tables there are, then see the merits and demerits.
Home Automatic Tables
These are automatic tables meant to be used at home.
Their light weight, cheaper entry price and ease of installation makes them the perfect choice for your house games.
Some of them are even designed to be as silent as possible.
If you happen to be in Japan, AMOS JP II is an excellent model to order as well, as it can be lowered to the ground and is super silent.
Amos JP II
However, these are only made available in Japan.
If you are in the US and you'd like a decent table that's easy to assemble, and you prefer tiles that include an index, and you prefer variations other than riichi (like, American mahjong, Chinese or Philippine styles) the following table could be a good choice for you:
Profesional Mahjong Tables
They’re different from your usual self-sorting mahjong tables because they can also keep scores.
They usually rely either on IC technology or magnetism to count players' points.
On top of that, most can even tell you the score differences between players.
The score function is indispensable for professional matches, and a lot of professional mahjong players will feel uncomfortable playing in a table with no score display at all.
By professional organization standards, it is nevertheless required to count your point sticks and state your actual points in the final hand, just to prevent mistakes and miscounts.
Professional mahjong table scoring
Commercial Mahjong Tables
They’re a lot like professional mahjong tables except that they have some extra neat functions that are ideal for mahjong parlors.
They can calculate money payments, deal initial hands, and even reveal Dora tiles for Japanese mahjong.
Any big mahjong parlor chain will surely use these tables.
Should I get an automatic mahjong table? Which one should I get?
Automatic Mahjong Tables are fantastic as you save a lot of time when it comes to wall building, and you get to play a lot more games.
They also save you a lot of wall building fatigue, shoulder and finger strain, and they are a huge headache-saver when you want to teach someone new to the game.
Before you rush and order a table or two, keep the following in mind:
- Mahjong auto-dealers are noisy. If you have delicate neighbors, get a folding table instead.
- Automatic tables require daily maintenance. If you will use them once a month and they will gather dust in a corner, choose a semi-auto table instead.
- If they malfunction, it can be difficult to fix them. If you buy online from a local importer, they probably can help you out. However, if you decide to import the table on your own, you will be on your own if the table breaks down or you need replacement parts.
- If you decide to import, customs regulations and shipping fees (especially by courier services) are likely to take a big hit on your pocket.
If you still think you can manage and you prefer Riichi Mahjong Tiles, you can grab the following mahjong table from a USA importer in Amazon (saving you the pain of having to import by yourself!).
Novelty LCD Mahjong Table
Now, this is an absolute novelty, as it replaces ordinary tiles with LCD screens. It’s gone viral on social media because of its elegance though it’s probably impractical.
The biggest Table Dealers in Japan
Matsuoka (CEO) is famous in West Japan as the owner of the nifty URL mahjong.co.jp
He is the owner of “MATSUOKA”, a company dedicated at distributing mahjong goods for mahjong parlors and classrooms in Japan. If you get a table from them, you can be sure the guarantee will hold.
Similarly, in East Japan, SASAKI is also very well known brand, as they have been around for practically forever, and may be found at sasaki-mj.co.jp/
If your mind is set on getting a table in Japan, contact me and I could hook you up with them!
There are many different types of mahjong tables, for all sorts of purposes and tastes.
It would be impossible to list them or rank them all, so if you want a personal recommendation from a professional player in Japan, drop me a message with your current situation and I will think which one is the best fit for your needs.
What table do you like the best? Please let me know!