The Basics of Dominoes

Dominoes are played on a flat surface. Each domino has a specific set of pips that match with each other. Each matched pair forms a ‘cell’ on the playing surface and one point is scored for each cell created.

The player who drew the highest domino goes first by playing it to any open side of his double (if the domino is a spinner). Other players then play on that cell, or ‘the line of play’.


There are many different domino games and the rules of each one vary from place to place. Some go by the same name but have very different rules.

The basic game is to play matching dominos into a line. A tile is scored when it is joined to a touching domino of the same number. For example, a double six can be joined to another 6 or a four but not to a two. The matching ends must be touching and doubles are always placed across each other, not sideways.

A player’s turn begins by drawing a domino from the stock. In some games the winner of the previous hand starts the new hand with the highest forced double in their hands. In other games the player draws a tile that is playable and marks it as their “train”. A train can be either public (all players can add to it) or personal (a marker can be put on it, stopping other players from adding to it). The winner of the game scores the total value of the dominoes left in his opponent’s hands.


There are many different variations of domino games. Some are shedding games in which players try to empty their hands while blocking the opponent’s, while others involve scoring by creating particular configurations of ends in the layout. There are also some variants that use specific numbers of pips as values, such as fives and threes.

In some variations, the line of play branches when a player plays a double tile with matching ends (like 4|8). Other rules vary for forming pairs, and some use curved dominoes.

A simple drawing game involves each player taking a number of dominoes that correspond to their rank – two players start with 7 each, while three players start with 5 each and four players with 4. When a player cannot play their tile, they pass and the turn passes to the next player. If no one is able to make another play, the game ends and the score is calculated as in a block game.


Dominoes are small, flat, rectangular blocks that have been used as gaming pieces for centuries. They are also known as bones, cards, men, pieces or tiles. A domino has a face that is either blank or marked with an arrangement of dots, called pips. A domino is normally twice as long as it is wide and a standard set contains 28 of these pieces.

In addition to the traditional material of bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl) and ivory there are many other materials that have been used for dominoes. Some of these include:

Modern dominoes are made from a variety of materials, the most common being polymer plastic. There are also sets that use natural stones (such as marble, granite and soapstone), woods (like ebony or mahogany) and metals. Some of these have very intricate designs and can be quite expensive. There are even a few companies that make high end wooden dominoes, often layered in various woods and finished with layers of lacquer.


Dominoes have two sides each with a different number of spots or pips. Each domino belongs to one of four suits – the three, five, and seven – and is named for the dominant suit on its face. Each suit has a color, and each domino is usually twice as long as it is wide.

Most domino games are blocking games, and a score is determined by counting the pips in the losing players’ hands. However, there are a few domino games that involve scoring by the sum of all ends played. These include bergen, muggins, and chicken foot.

The player with the lowest total domino value wins each round. The winning player subtracts the value of each opponent’s domino tile from their own, and scores the resulting amount rounded to the nearest multiple of five. The game continues until all rounds have been played, or until a specified point limit is reached. This is typically 150 points or higher.