Tenpai is also referred to as the "ready hand". A hand is tenpai or "ready" when only one more tile is needed to complete the hand. The completion may be either done by draw and/or discard, where applicable. Tenpai does not require that the completed hand has a yaku, although both a completed hand and a yaku are necessary to win.
Being one or more tiles away from tenpai is called noten. This word is a contraction of the English no tenpai.
Having achieving tenpai is worth some points when a hand ends in ryuukyoku.
Example tenpai hands
- Closed tenpai
Karaten, or empty tenpai, is an exception to the rules given so far. Specific rules may consider an apparent tenpai hand to be noten under the following circumstances.
- All hand-completing tiles are already used within the player's own hand. Declared kans and open melds belong to the hand. If a player has a 1-2 penchan and a previously declared kan of 3-3-3-3 in the same suit, no more threes are available as winning tiles. Under most rules, this is noten.
- All hand-completing tiles are visible among declared kans, open melds, discards, and dora indicators. Only some rules have such a large scope for karaten.
A player with a dead hand is never considered tenpai.
Tenpai with no yaku
The definition of tenpai does not refer to yaku.
This is a common pitfall for many beginners. Hands are achieved by tenpai. However, due to lack of or limited knowledge of the yaku, players may find themselves building a hand to tenpai but are unable to declare a win. Furiten may be a case here; but often, this is due to the lack of yaku.