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There are two types of controls for video mahjong: keyboard and joystick.

KEYBOARD
Due to the number of buttons embedded on a typical mahjong control panel, the vast majority of mahjong games in MAME can only be played with the keyboard. Thankfully the controls are universal from game to game. The only differences may be the addition of other buttons like the bet button for instance. The default control setup in MAME is virtually perfect. There should be no need to change the controls. Leave it as is.

CONTROL LAYOUT:

KEYBOARD
COMMAND
DESCRIPTION
P Pause Pause the game. This is the most important button for beginners. Use it.
A-M Tiles A-M Select/Discard tiles
N Tile N Draw/Discard new tile
Left Shift Reach Declare Reach
Z Ron Declare Mahjong (Tsumo or Ron)
Left Control Kong Declare Kong
Left Alt Pon Declare Pon using opponent's discard
Space Bar Chi Declare Chi using opponent's discard

KEYBOARD [BET]
The following additional keyboard controls are applicable to [BET] games only. They are available in some games by default, in others through toggling dip switches and not even available in some games at all!!!

CONTROL LAYOUT:

KEYBOARD
COMMAND
DESCRIPTION
Y Flip Flop Swaps your hand with that of your opponent: usually when your opponent has declared Reach. This will cost you 1 credit or a deduction in your item points, depending on the game.
3 Bet Places and increases your stake in betting games. 1 point = 1 credit.
Right Control Take Score When you've won a hand, bank your winnings and end the game.
Right Shift WUP When you've won a hand, Double or quits!
Enter Big When you've won a hand, Quadruple or quits!
BackSpace Small When you've won a hand, bank half of your stake and gamble the remainder!
Right Alt Last Chance If you lose and are only one tile from going out (Tenpai) you can use Last Chance to randomly select a tile. If you draw a tile with which you could have won the hand; you snatch victory from the jaws of defeat!

JOYSTICK
This control scheme, while having much lesser buttons, can be more confusing to navigate if you don't know how to read a word of Japanese. Fortunately, very few mahjong games in MAME have this type of control. Commands are listed in command boxes that pop up on screen. Sometimes only commands that can be done for that given instant is listed while other games list all of them. Avoid these games if you are a beginner. There's no need to confuse yourself even more when you're just learning the game.

CONTROL LAYOUT:

JOYSTICK
COMMAND
DESCRIPTION
D-Pad D-Pad Move left and right to select tiles or up and down to select command
Button 1 Select Select a tile or command
Button 2 Cancel Open/Close command box

Only 6 different commands are available to choose from. When your turn begins after the opponent's turn ends, you may have the option to declare Ron, Chi, Pon, or Kong. After you have picked a tile, either by drawing a new tile, taking the opponent's latest discard, or drawing a loose tile after declaring a Kong, you may have the option to declare Reach, Tsumo, or Kong. Depending on your hand and situation in the game, some commands will work while others may not as in the case of trying to declare Reach with a revealed hand.

Drawing, discarding, and selecting tiles are usually done outside of the command box. Sometimes another option might be available as well, a Cancel command. Choosing it will close the command box.

Note that some games do not display all options at a time, usually only the ones that can be made during that turn are displayed. Also note that the order they are listed may be different as well. Here's an example of how the command box may look like for both situations:

* Images were taken from Super Real Mahjong Premium Collection for the NGPC.

Here's another example. Note the difference in the command listing from the example above:

* Images were taken from Mahjong Hyper Reaction 2.