How to Play Dominoes


Dominoes, also known as bones, cards, men, or tiles, are used to play a variety of games. They have a line down the middle dividing them visually into two square halves, each of which bears an arrangement of spots (called pips) or is blank.

The word domino probably derived from a hooded cloak worn by a priest over his surplice. It was made of ebony blacks and ivory whites and contrasted with the color of the priest’s clothing.


There are many different games that can be played with domino. Most of them fall into one of four categories: bidding games, blocking games, scoring games, and round games. Regardless of the game, there are some basic rules that apply to all of them.

The first player draws a domino from the stock and places it face up on the table. This player is then referred to as the setter, downer or leader. Each subsequent player must draw a domino from the boneyard, if they do not have a playable tile in their hand. They must also remember to put any non-playable domino back into the boneyard.

Dominoes are joined to the line of play as they are played, usually by matching the pips on their open ends. Depending on the rules of the game, doubles may be joined to either end of the line. Some games use spinners, where a single domino can be played on all four sides.


As with playing cards, dominoes can be made of different materials. Some sets are plastic, which makes them lightweight and inexpensive. However, this can make them susceptible to minor disturbances such as a sudden breeze.

Other, more expensive, materials include natural stone (e.g., marble, granite, or soapstone); other woods such as ash, oak, redwood, or cedar; metals; ceramic clay; and frosted glass or crystal. These have a more novel look, and their heavier weight usually makes them feel more substantial.

High-end wood dominoes are often layered in multiple woods, finely finished with layers of lacquer, and considered works of art. They can have hefty price tags to reflect this work and artistry. Ivory dominoes were once common, but the harvesting of ivory has led to the near-extinction of elephants. As a result, it is now illegal to produce dominoes from elephant tusks. Ivory dominoes, therefore, are now rare and sought-after.


Dominoes (also known as bones, cards, men or pieces) are normally twice as long as they are wide and usually feature a line in the middle to divide them visually into two squares called ends. Each end has a value, from six pips to blank or none. The sum of these values is referred to as the rank or weight of a domino, and a tile with more pips may be described as “heavier” than a lighter one.

Most domino games are positional and rely on matching a domino to an open end of another domino already laid. Generally, players continue to add dominos that match an open end until the whole layout is covered. This is referred to as the “line of play”.

However, there are many variations to this basic game, such as Matador, which uses unusual rules for matching and Bendomino, which uses curved tiles. There are also games that use a different scoring method, such as muggins, in which the aim is to make the sum of all open-end pips on the layout a multiple of five.


The scoring system for domino varies widely depending on the type of game. Some games use a set number of points for certain ends, while others simply accumulate scores over time. Players can also accrue points for emptying their hand, moving, or scoring certain combinations of ends.

For example, in Mexican Train, each player starts with a domino that they add to their train on each turn. The player with the lowest total count wins the hand. In other variations, such as 5s and 3s, a domino that is exposed with both ends containing multiples of three or five scores an additional amount of points.

The Domino Theory is a political strategy that advocates the United States form a series of tight bilateral alliances with Asian countries in order to control their ability to deploy military forces and foster material and political dependency. Supporters argue that the policy would prevent a Soviet-style empire from emerging in Asia.

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