The Basics of Dominoes

Dominoes are a popular game that can be played by one or more players. There are several different games with slightly different rules, but most follow similar basic principles. Some games are single-handed, while others are two-handed.

Whenever a player makes a play, the open ends of the domino must match. In most cases, doubles must be placed crosswise and singles lengthwise.


Domino is a game played with a set of small rectangular blocks, each bearing dots resembling those on dice. The word domino is derived from the Latin, dominus, which means “lord” or “master.”

Dominoes are also known as bones, cards, men, pieces and tiles. They are normally twice as long as they are wide, allowing them to be stacked on top of one another. The value of a domino is determined by its number of spots, called pips.

It is believed that domino originated in China during the 12th or 13th century and then made its way to Europe by the 18th century. It has since become a popular pastime around the world. It is especially popular in Latin America. There are a number of different games that can be played with the standard domino set, which contains 28 tiles.


Players take turns placing dominoes on the table joining them to matching ends of the domino chain. If a double is exposed at both ends it may be joined from either end. Once the chain is closed no more tiles can be played. The winner scores the value of all the remaining dominoes in the players hands rounded to a multiple of five.

The game begins with each player drawing a seven domino from the pool of dominoes (called the boneyard) and placing it on the table. Typically the person with the highest double starts, but this can be decided by other methods such as drawing lots.

The aim of the game is to empty one’s hand while blocking the opponent’s. The winner is the first to score a predetermined amount, usually 150 points.


There are many variations to domino, each with its own rules and scoring methods. The most common games are played with a standard double-six set, but they can also be played using larger sets of tiles or extended sets that include more pips on the ends.

The number of tiles in a player’s hand is important, as it will determine his or her score at the end of the game. Typically, the player with the highest total of points wins.

Depending on the rules of a particular game, the starting tile may be either a double or a spinner. If the first tile is a double, it must be played at a right angle to the adjacent tiles. If it is a spinner, it may be played on any of the open public trains.


Over the centuries, many different materials have been used to make domino pieces. The most common is wood, but other materials are also used. Traditionally, the pieces are twice as long as they are wide and have a pattern of spots (called pips) on one side and blank or matching pips on the other.

Another popular material is vegetable ivory, which is made from the Tagua nut and has a color, grain, and texture similar to mammal ivory. However, the harvesting of these trees has led to a ban on ivory trade under CITES.

Other types of domino sets are available, including sets made from metals, ceramic clay, and frosted glass. Some of these sets have a more modern look and feel, but they can be less durable than the wood-based varieties.


In domino scoring one earns points when the exposed ends of his/her tiles total a multiple of five. This score is then added to a player’s total domino value, which can be compared with the values of opposing players.

A player can also add to other players’ trains, though this is limited to one tile per turn. If a player cannot play against the train showing the first double (known as the spinner), they must draw from the boneyard and continue to do so until they are able to make a play.

The player who scores the most points over a set number of rounds wins. This can be a target score or an absolute amount of points, such as 150. Muggins, or All Fives, is an example of a game that uses this scoring system.

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