For any game of mahjong, the player assigned the East Wind is the dealer. The dealer begins play in each hand and receives more points when winning and often loses more points when losing. While the dealer doesn't deal any tiles, the dealer rolls the dice at the start of each hand to determine the wall break. Also, the dealer keeps track of the honba and carry over riichi bets.
Barring any premature end game scenarios, such as any player falling into the negative score, every player has a chance to be seated as the dealer with the wind rotation. The number of hands by which a player remains a dealer is dependent on the player's gameplay.
Numerous benefits are associated with the dealer, or East Wind, seat. The most indicative benefit relates to scoring:
- Greater points. The dealer receives approximately 50% more points than the other seating with the same fu and han counts, compared to the other seats.
- Renchan, or additional dealer hands. A dealer may retain the dealer seating as long as either a win or tenpai is achieved. Therefore, a dealer may win many consecutive hands as possible. If parenchan is applied, then the dealer may even attain this yakuman.
- Honba. With every additional dealer hands, the honba count increases which increases the hand's point value with every iteration.
- First draw. The dealer is always first when it comes to the dealing of the tiles. After the tiles are dealt, the dealer always starts with 14-tiles. Or to put it another way, the dealer starts with 13-tiles and always gets the first draw.
In a sense, a dealer winning consecutively may actually end up "controlling" the hand and exerting a dominant position. This puts added pressure on the other players to cause the wind seating to rotate, and thus "knock" the player off of the dealer position.
The only event where the dealer seating is disadvantageous involves a tsumo win by any of the non-dealer seats. In relation to the points paid by the non-dealer seats, the dealer seat pays double or almost double the points. This effect could be negligible for small value hands; but for large value hands, it could be devastating.