Step 8: What Am I Looking For?
You are looking for tiles discarded by other players which will allow you to make a Pung, Kong or Chow (that is, three identical tiles, four identical tiles and a sequence of three tiles of the same suit, respectively) or a Mah Jongg (four combinations which can be Pungs and/or Kongs and/or Chows plus a pair of identical tiles).
When you want to pick a tile up you must be able to use it for one of the following purposes, as follows:
To go Mah Jongg with the tile, by making a Chow, Pung or Pair with the tile.
To make a Kong; for this you need three identical tiles on your stake and the tile you want to pick up to make the fourth.
To make a Pung; for this you need two identical tiles on your stake and the tile you want to pick up to make the third.
To make a Chow; which is a consecutive sequence of tiles of the same suit, for example, 3 - 4 - 5 Bamboo. You can only make a Chow by picking up a tile that has been discarded by the player to your left.
If you can't use a discarded tile for one of these purposes then you won't be allowed to pick the tile up.
See also: Rules and Tactics.