When playing with three people, the set-up and the deal are the same as 4-person American Mahjong although the dealer will only deal to three players.
Per the NMJL rules, when playing with three players, there is no Charleston. However, many players have a table rule to include the Charleston.
To Charleston with three players, the dealer creates the Charleston tile passes for the missing player, sometimes referred to as “Bob". The dealer creates six rows of three tiles on Bob’s wall using the next tiles from the curtsied wall. These are the tiles Bob passes in the Charleston.
Players pass tiles to Bob during the Charleston and leave the tiles face down in front of Bob’s wall, separate from Bob’s tiles to pass in the Charleston.
When receiving tiles from Bob in the Charleston, players take from the rows of three tiles in front of Bob’s wall.
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When playing with Bob, establish table rules as to whether Bob is allowed to pass Jokers during the Charleston. If your table rule is not to accept Jokers from Bob, the player who received the Joker performs an exchange. The player takes the Joker from Bob and exchanges it with any tile on any wall.
For the optional across after the Charleston, the player across from Bob can exchange tiles by selecting from the tiles passed to Bob during the Charleston. Players can opt to shuffle these tiles before the player selects from the discards.
Bob’s remaining discards are used to build the missing wall.
Game play then continues as in four player Mahjong.
Did you know you can play mahjong with two players?