Domino Basics

A game in which players draw a hand of dominoes and take turns playing them. The winner is the player who draws a tile with an end that matches one of the exposed ends of a double played perpendicular to it.

To score points in this game, keep a eye on your opponents’ doubles to try to block their scoring moves. This will prevent them from burying your own scoring opportunities.


Domino rules are designed to ensure that the game runs smoothly and prevent possible cheating occurrences. They vary among the many different domino variants, although the basics are similar for most games. The first player begins by laying one domino. Each subsequent player must match one end of their own domino to part of the previous domino. If they cannot do so, they pass their turn and draw another tile from the boneyard until a play can be made.

The winner of a hand scores by subtracting the value of his or her remaining domino tiles from that of each opponent. The first player to an agreed number of points wins the game.

The winning player may open the next game by drawing a domino from the stock and placing it on the line of play so that other players can’t see its pips. This process is called byeing. The heaviest domino in the player’s hand is used to begin the game.


Dominoes are small rectangular blocks of rigid material. Each domino has a face and a back, with a series of dots on one side called pips. The number of pips on a domino determines its suit, and each suit has different games.

Traditionally, dominoes were made from ivory or bone and dark hardwoods like ebony. They were sometimes inlaid with contrasting dots. Modern commercial sets are usually made from synthetic materials such as ABS or polystyrene plastics, Bakelite and other phenolic resins, or a combination of these. Some of these modern sets use colored pips to distinguish each different end value-ones might have black pips, twos might be green and threes red.

Other natural materials can be used to create variations on the classic set. For example, sandstone, marble, granite and soapstone are all common in domino sets; these tend to have a heavier weight than polymer materials and often a more natural look. Some sets are even made from frosted glass or crystal.


A number of different games can be played with dominoes. The simplest is the Block game, which uses only a double-six set. In this game, players place their tiles side-by-side to create a line of play. Each player then adds a tile to the line that matches an open end of the tile already played. One point is scored for each time the sum of the pips on the open ends of the two played tiles is exactly divisible by either five or three.

Players may also use a marker to mark their train, stopping other players from adding to it. If a player has no legal plays, the player must remove his or her marker and wait until another player can make a play. If all players are blocked, the game is over. Players who cannot make any more plays are “locked out” and the winner is the player with the lowest total domino count (pip count). The word “domino” is sometimes misspelled as dominono.


The scoring system of domino can have a significant effect on how the game is played. One of the more common systems of scoring involves a division by five or three. Each time a number divisible by either of these numbers is found in the sum of the end dominoes a point is scored.

Another way to score is by counting the open ends of the dominoes. Each standard, non-double domino has two unmatched ends with the bigger end being a particular value. Thus the 3-6 Domino has a difference of six minus three, while the 2-4 Domino has a difference of two.

The opening of these ends can change the board count and make it harder for an opponent to score. It also makes it easier for a player to keep the initiative. The ability to keep the initiative is a key factor in winning a game of domino. This can be accomplished by making sure to connect to open scoring ends when playing a tile.