The Basics of Dominoes


Dominoes are small rectangular game pieces with a variety of numbers of dots on each end. When one domino falls, it can knock down hundreds and even thousands of others. Dominoes can also be stood up to create amazing designs that are sure to impress!

Players win by scoring points according to a set of rules. These typically require that opposing player’s exposed ends match (one’s touching two’s, etc.).


There are many different variations of domino and the rules vary from game to game. However, some of the basic rules are common to all games. Once the shuffled dominoes are dealt, players establish who will make the first play. This is usually done by drawing lots or selecting the heaviest domino in the hand. The player who makes the first play then lays their chosen tile and begins playing dominoes across the line. Doubles can only be joined to their matching ends. Once a player has completed a domino line he or she scores by counting the number of pips remaining in the losing players hands.

Another scoring method is to count the exposed ends of a double. This method allows players to gain a significant advantage over their opponents. This technique is often used in conjunction with the “set,” “down,” or “the lead” method. However, this is a controversial strategy and can be very difficult to implement properly.


Dominoes are small rectangular tiles that feature a line in the middle to visually divide them into two squares. Each square is marked with an arrangement of spots, called pips. The number of pips on each side is a measure of the value of the tile. A domino that has more pips is considered to be heavier than one with fewer pips.

The heaviest or most valuable double is usually played first. The next heaviest domino is then played to it, and so on. The shape of the resulting chain is determined by the choice of players and the limitations of the playing surface.

In most games, the player who has the fewest tiles at the end of a hand or game is the winner. The winning player is awarded points equal to the total number of pips on their remaining dominoes. The score may also be based on the number of matching pairs of dominoes that a player has in their hand.


Today dominoes are made of a wide variety of materials. The most common are inexpensive plastic and wood dominoes. Some are even made of aluminum and thick paper card. Some sets have color dots, making it easier to match up tiles.

The most prized dominoes were once made of ivory inlaid with ebony, but the hunting and trading of elephants brought those sets to near extinction. So-called vegetable ivory, which is derived from the tagua nut, has been used for two hundred years. But because the material is close to mammal ivory, it’s still illegal to produce ivory dominoes in many countries.

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A player scores points if the total number of pips on the exposed ends of the dominos in his hand is a multiple of five. This is the simplest scoring system in domino. In other games, the scorer subtracts each opponent’s domino value rounded up to the nearest multiple of five from his running total and scores that amount.

The game can be played with a single spinner or with two or more. The two-player version is a popular tournament game in North America. A four handed partnership version is also common.

The players start by drawing a domino from the boneyard and placing it perpendicular to a double on one of the sides. Each subsequent tile played to a domino must be placed squarely against the other side of the double. The first player to play his last domino wins the round. Players may choose to use a cribbage board to keep track of the current score and count outstanding tiles as they are being made.