How to Play Dominos

Often called “the set,” “the down” or the “lead,” the domino is one of the most important tools for any game. It’s also an excellent way to test your patience and skill.

Dominoes are round, flat tiles with identifying marks on one side and blank or identically patterned on the other. They are arranged in sets, and each tile must be placed next to another tile.


In addition to the standard blocking and scoring games, there are a number of other domino variations that involve special rules for playing the pieces. These rules may be based on the number of tiles that can be played to a given point or on the way the pieces are placed. For example, a double can either count as one or two, depending on the game being played.

Once the players have drawn their hands, they begin playing the dominoes in turn. This may be determined by drawing lots or by seating arrangement. The player who draws the heaviest hand plays first.

Each player must place a domino onto the table positioning it so that its open end touches one of the ends of the domino chain being built. This forms a “snake line”. The count of the dominoes in play is recorded as the chain develops. If the chain reaches a point where no player can continue, the game is considered closed and the players count the points on their remaining tiles.


There are many different types of domino games. Most involve scoring and limiting the opponents’ play. Some are positional games, where players in turn place a domino edge to edge against another, so that the adjacent faces are identical or form some specified total. Others require the use of special doubles, which serve as spinners that can be played on all sides and cause the line to branch.

Most domino sets contain one unique piece for each combination of ends with zero to six spots or dots. The most common set is the double-six set, which contains 28 dominoes. There are also larger game sets such as the double-twelve and double-nine sets.

The simplest basic domino game is the block game, in which each player starts with seven tiles from a stock and draws one when it is their turn to play. The goal is to extend the line of play with a matching tile from the hand, or pass if they cannot do so. A running score is kept and points are scored for each time the sum of the open-end pips on the tiles in the line of play is divisible by five or three.


Over the centuries domino pieces have been made from various materials including bone, ivory and wood. Today most dominos are produced from plastic, although there are still some made of other materials. They are small thumbsized rectangular blocks with one end bearing from one to six pips (dots) and the other blank or carrying a number of dots that indicate its rank, or value. The total value of the domino is arrived at by subtracting the smaller from the larger end.

Most domino sets are now made in North America and are generally considered to be of higher quality than those imported from other countries. These dominoes are more consistent and better suited for building all types of lines, fields, and structures. In addition, they are cheaper compared to other alternatives. These factors have contributed to their growing popularity among domino artists. These kits are also a great way to introduce children to dominoes. They are fun and educational and help develop core maths skills.


Dominos feature a line that visually divides each tile into two square ends. Each end is marked with a value from six pips down to none or blank. This value is known as the rank or weight of a domino.

When playing to score, a player aims to build the largest chain possible in order to get the highest total number of points. Players may also play to block the game, attempting to prevent their opponent from scoring. In this case, a winning strategy depends on knowing the distribution of tiles and keeping track of outstanding doubles.

Some players count the spots on all the remaining tiles in their hand at the end of a hand, rounded to the nearest five. This is a simpler system, but it can make the game more difficult for beginning players.

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