Dominoes are a type of tile with one or more numbers. They are normally twice as long as they are wide. The values on the two ends are called pips.

The game begins by shuffling the tiles. Players then draw hands of dominoes and determine who plays first by the rules of the particular game.


There are many different games that can be played with a domino set. Some of these are characterized by blocking and scoring, while others are more abstract. The most basic game is played with a double-six set of dominoes. The 28 tiles are shuffled face down and formed into a stock or boneyard, from which each player draws seven. The player then plays a domino onto the table positioning it so that one end matches with another. This builds a domino chain which gradually increases in length.

Typically, each tile must be placed perpendicular to the previous domino, except for doubles, which must be positioned cross-ways with the ends touching. Some games also allow a player to place a second tile across the ends of a double if it can be done without interfering with play on either end.

The first player to get rid of all their dominoes wins the hand. When a player cannot make a play, the game is considered blocked and players turn their hands face up to count the number of pips on their opponents’ remaining dominoes.


Dominoes can be made of a wide variety of materials. The most common are plastics. The type of material used influences the feel and sound of the dominoes, as well as their durability.

In the past, European-style dominoes were traditionally made of bone or silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony with contrasting black or white pips (inlaid or painted). Today, many different natural and man-made materials are used for domino sets.

Most sets come with a storage box to keep the tiles together, although players might want additional boxes or other containers for keeping track of tricks and captures. The box should be large enough to hold stacks of dominoes four tiles high or more, and have a space for keeping score.

Most high end wood dominoes are hand carved by true craftsmen and may have a hefty price tag to reflect the time and artistry put into them. These are often used to make domino photo mosaics and other artistic domino creations.


There are many variations of domino games. Most are blocking games where the objective is to empty your hand while blocking your opponent’s. The simplest of these is a Concentration variant using a double-six set where pairs are two tiles whose pips sum to 12. This makes 28 unique pieces (since the 0-4 cannot pair with the 3-5).

Another variation, often called Straight Dominoes, starts similar to Block dominoes with players drawing seven from a boneyard face down, then taking turns placing matching domino halves end to end to form chains. Then players score points any time the exposed ends of the chain add up to a number divisible by five or three. The way that the chains develop, forming snake-lines at random, is a large part of the fun of this game. This variation also works well with the Double Nine domino set. Other types of domino games are more advanced, including solitaire and trick-taking games.


The scoring system used in domino varies depending on the game. In 5s and 3s, the objective is for players to attach a domino from their hand to one end of the ones already played so that the sum of the exposed ends is divisible by either five or three (or both). Each time this happens a player scores one point. This continues until one player is “out” and no longer has any legal play.

Other games of a different nature, such as blocking games, also exist and can be fun to play. These games help develop number recognition and math skills.

Dominoes are sometimes used to play puzzle games based on arithmetic properties of the pips. Earlier, the word “domino” denoted a black hooded cloak worn by priests over their white surplices. This sense may reflect the ebony domino pieces’ contrast with the ivory faces of the matching playing pieces. The modern word has a much wider meaning.

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