What is Dominoes?


Dominoes are small, flat blocks that have a line in the middle and are marked with an arrangement of spots. They are sometimes called bones, cards, men, or pieces. They are used as gaming pieces in various games.

To start a game, players draw dominoes from the pool and establish who starts. The player holding the heaviest double usually begins.


Dominoes originated in China during the 12th century and were originally made from bone or wood. They didn’t make it to Europe until the 18th century, although Marco Polo spent a long time in China and may have brought the game back to Europe. The traditional Chinese domino sets, called ‘pupai’, were designed to represent all the possible results of two dice and therefore didn’t contain any blank faces. This differed from the 28-piece Western set which was developed in the mid-18th century.

Various stories are given as to the origin of the domino game, but these are probably more myth than fact. One account states that the game was invented by an heroic soldier to keep his troops awake during night watches while another says that a 12th-century nobleman, Keung T’ai Kung, created the game.


After the dominoes are shuffled players establish who will make the first play. Depending on the game rules, this may be determined by drawing lots or by choosing the person who has a double that can be joined to another tile (called a spinner).

Each player then plays a domino onto the table positioning it so that one end touches an existing domino chain which gradually increases in length. Occasionally a player will be able to add a new end to the chain by playing a domino that matches one of the existing ends.

If a player can’t go, they draw from the stock until they have one that can be played. Depending on the game, these tiles are then added to the player’s hand.


There are many different domino games. Each variant has its own rules and uses. Mexican Train, for instance, requires a double-twelve set and requires players to put their tiles on the table in the shape of a train. Players can mark their trains public or private. If they can’t play a tile on their turn they draw a tile from the boneyard.

The winner is the player who has the most points after a certain number of rounds. Points are awarded for each open ended domino whose total is divisible by five or three. The score is calculated by counting the pips on opponents’ dominoes. Players may also win by blocking the opponent’s hand. Blocking works by removing a domino from the other player’s hand.


Dominoes are rectangular blocks that are marked with a pattern of spots or dots, known as pips. Each domino is numbered on one side and has blank or identically patterned squares on the other. The numbering on each side identifies which suit the tile belongs to. The most popular domino sets are the double-six and double-nine. Larger sets are also available and used in more complicated games.

Early domino sets were made of bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), or ebony with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted. After the 19th century, domino manufacture began to use tinplate and later Bakelite, an industrial plastic invented by Leo Baekeland. In modern times, most dominoes are mass-produced and made of common plastics or inexpensive wood. However, high-end domino sets made of quality materials and by skilled craftsmen command hefty price tags.


Many domino games involve scoring by counting the pips (or dots) on opposing players’ tiles. A double counts as one or two, and a double-blank counts as zero or 14. The player who “dominoes” receives the total number of points in their opponents’ hands, rounded to the nearest five.

The player who wins the most rounds of a given game earns a prize, usually money or merchandise. The game also teaches basic math and number recognition skills.

The game 5s-and-3s is a popular tournament game in the United States, and can be played by one or more players in pairs or four handed partnerships. The game can be played with or without a spinner, and the score is typically kept on a cribbage board.