How Dominoes Are Played

Like playing cards, of which they are a variant, dominoes bear identifying marks on one side and are blank or identically patterned on the other. These markings, called pips, form an arrangement like that of a die.

When a domino is played, its matching ends touch fully. This creates a chain that may snake around the table.


A basic set of rules is common to most domino games. Each player must take turns playing a domino onto the table positioning it so that one of its matching ends touches another domino or the end of the line of play (called a “chicken foot”). The chain then develops into a snake-line pattern. If a tile is played to a double, the other side must also be touching to form the full chain.

Players draw the number of tiles permitted according to the rules for the particular game being played. Any extra tiles that are not used are discarded.

Scoring in most domino games involves counting the open ends of the dominos that have been laid. A player then scores by adding the total of those open ends to his or her score. The player with the least amount of combined pips on his or her tiles is declared the winner. The losing players’ scores are then subtracted from their own scores.


Dominoes are made from a variety of materials. They can be made from wood, bone, plastic, or metal. The material used determines the color of the dots. Modern dominoes are usually made from colored plastic. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The size of the dots also determines the value of a domino.

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In addition to the basic blocking and scoring games, many other variations of domino are played. Some involve more complex rules and others use different ways of keeping score. Some of these variations use different sets, such as double-nine or double-twelve domino sets. Others are played using curved dominoes, such as those in Matador or Bendomino.

The first domino to be played in a game is often called a “spinner,” a double that can be played on all four sides, creating a branch for future plays. Some rules require all sides of a spinner to be occupied before new tiles can be added.

Some domino players prefer to count points based on the total number of spots on a tile. This method allows for greater accuracy and makes it easy to determine which player has the most points at any given time. Other methods of scoring are based on the number of pips in a domino, which can be determined by counting the dots on each side.


A domino game can be played between two or more players. Often the games are played counterclockwise, but there are several ways to decide who will make the first play. One way is to draw lots. Another is to begin the game by setting the heaviest domino.

Some games score when the sum of the ends of the dominos in a line of play is divisible by five or three. One point is scored for each time that occurs.

In some games a player is allowed to bye tiles from the stock if it will help him win. This is called “breaking a tie”. In other games, the winning player counts the number of dots in his opponents’ unplayed dominos. This number is added to the winner’s own total. Then the player discards his remaining dominoes. This process is repeated until a player’s total count passes 101. The game then ends and the winner is declared.

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