How to Play Dominoes

Dominoes are flat, thumb-sized rectangular blocks bearing from one to six spots or pips (plus blanks) on each end. Each domino belongs to a suit.

The most common domino set contains 28 tiles; larger sets are available. These larger sets are typically used for games with multiple players or to play long, strategic games.


There are many different types of domino games that can be played. Each has its own rules and dynamics, but they all share some basic principles. The player who successfully places all of their dominoes wins the game. They then earn the sum of all the other players’ points.

The starting player begins by placing a tile in the center of the table. The next player must match one end of their tile to the open end of the first domino. This is called the line of play and there are specific instructions on how to do this for each game. If a double is played, it must be placed perpendicular to the line of play and both ends must touch.

In some games, part of the score is obtained by counting the pips on the ends of the lines of play. For example, if a 5-5 is played and it is not a spinner, the count would be 10. The number of pips on each side of the domino must also be taken into account when making a score.


There are many variations of domino. Students can use a scratch paper domino mat or whiteboard with an expo marker to practice decimal rounding. They may also choose to play a subtraction game. Each player starts with seven dominoes. When they can’t play a domino, they must pass their turn. The next player then picks a domino from the boneyard to add to their own personal train.

When a player begins to string together dominoes on their personal train, they must place a marker on the domino so that other players cannot add to it. This rule makes it more difficult to pass your turn, but is a good way to practice your strategy.

Some games allow players to buy tiles from the boneyard, which means that some of their dominoes remain in the stock after winning a round. These tiles are then added to the winner’s score. In addition, some games have a set number of pips that must be reached to win.


Over the centuries, dominoes have been made of various materials. In addition to plastic, they have been made of bone and ivory, dark hardwoods such as ebony, with contrasting black or white pips; stone (e.g., marble or granite); metals such as brass or pewter; ceramic clay and even frosted glass. Some sets also feature a felt surface to keep the dominoes from scratching the table.

Dominoes are typically twice as long as they are wide, which makes it easy to stack them. The ends of the dominoes are marked with values ranging from six to zero. If a domino has two same values inked on its ends, it is called a double; otherwise, it is a single.

Although most domino games are played with more than one player, some are solitaire. This form of the game is popular with people who are not comfortable playing cards, as it circumvents religious proscriptions. These games tend to be more mathematically challenging than other types of domino, and require a greater degree of concentration.


A player scores points in domino by laying tiles end to end. If the exposed ends of the first double (called a spinner) match (ones touch one’s and two’s touch two’s), each side of that tile counts. If all sides of the tile count, the total is rounded up to the nearest multiple of five.

In games that involve more than one player, the winner is determined when a player has no more dominoes left in his hand. This is sometimes called a block. If the game becomes blocked, the players count up the pips on their remaining tiles and the player with the lowest value wins that round.

Some games are scored in a more complicated manner. For example, in the popular Mexican Train variant, a player scores by completing a chain of three or more matching sets of tiles. In this case, the number of pips in a set is tallied and rounded up to a multiple of five.