The Basics of Dominoes


Dominoes are a game of chance and strategy. Each domino has a numbered or blank side and an identity-bearing side. The number on the identity-bearing side is represented by a set of spots or pips, like those on a die.

As a player draws dominoes for their hand, they must ensure that the total of the pips in their hand is less than the number on a previous domino played. This is called the “domino effect”.


In domino, there are countless games with many different rules. Some are very similar but differ in details. For example, some games with identical names have very different blocking and scoring strategies. In addition, the rules for the same game may be slightly different in different parts of the world.

Most domino games involve forming chains or trains of tiles by matching their ends, normally end to end, or side to side. This genus of domino games is sometimes called connecting games. It is this type of domino that most people think of when they think of domino.

When a player draws a tile that is playable, he or she must play it. It is not allowed to hold back a playable domino for strategic reasons. The player may draw a maximum of two tiles for his or her hand, but only one can be played at a time. If the player draws more than his or her allowance, he must take the extras without looking at them and return them to the stock before the next player takes his or her turn.


Dominoes are small, rectangular blocks made of wood or plastic. They are usually twice as long as they are wide, and the edges of each domino have dots resembling those on dice.

A typical European-style set of dominoes is crafted from bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or dark hardwoods like ebony. These are often emblazoned with the name of the maker.

Other materials used to make dominoes include stone (such as marble, granite, and soapstone), metals, or ceramic clay. Some sets are made from unusual materials such as frosted glass or crystal.

Children enjoy playing with dominoes, which help them develop their core maths skills as they build and play games that involve adding or counting the number of dots on each end of a domino. They also learn the importance of pattern recognition and precise hand movements. Dominoes can be stored in a storage box that fits them or in a tin case that can be carried from place to place.


The rules of domino are highly flexible, and the game can be played in many ways. These variations are often based on the number of tiles used in the set, and they can be combined to form different types of domino. For example, in the game Mexican train, players can play off the ends of doubles, while in other games such as Bergen, the only way to make a play is by matching the open end to an existing tile.

In some versions of the game, the first tile to be played must be a double that can be played on all four sides, a tile called a spinner. This causes the line of play to branch out, and allows players to build long chains. Other rule variants include counting the pips on the losers’ remaining tiles and subtracting them from the winner’s score. These examples have been programmatically compiled from various online sources and may not reflect the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors.


When players play a domino game that requires a certain amount of strategy, scoring is an important aspect. Usually, a round ends when no player has a legal play or when one of the players has played out all of their tiles. When this happens, the winner is determined and a score for that player is calculated. A few variations on this system exist, however. For example, in the Mexican Train variant, a domino can be added to another player’s train only if it has two matching sides.

In other games, such as Fives and Threes, the heaviest double starts play. This rule may also apply to other two-player cross domino games, such as Muggins or Five Up. Another common scoring method involves counting the pips on the ends of a line of play as the game progresses. Depending on the rules of the game, this may or not include a spinner. The count is then added to the winning player’s total score.