How to Play Dominoes


Dominoes are small, rectangular blocks that can be stacked on end to form long lines. When one domino is tipped over, it causes the rest to tip over in sequence. This can lead to complicated and spectacular designs. It’s also the inspiration for a term known as “the domino effect,” which refers to an event that triggers a chain reaction with much greater–and often catastrophic–consequences.

Domino is a game played by two or more players on a large table. Each player has a hand of dominoes, and it is his or her responsibility to play them so that one end touches the other. If a player can’t lay down a domino, that player “knocks” or raps the table with his or her hand and play passes to the next player. The winner is the player who has the fewest total points of all of the dominoes in his or her hand when play ends.

Each domino has an identity-bearing side and a blank or identically patterned side. The number of spots on the domino’s identity-bearing side determines its value, and these are referred to as pips. The most common set of dominoes has 28 tiles, but larger sets are available for games requiring more than two players or for those who want to play longer chains. A domino that has more pips is considered “heavier” than one that has fewer or none, and it may be matched with another domino of the same value to form a line that increases in length.

The way a domino is played depends on the rules of the game being played, and each person’s style of play will develop over time. However, there are a few basic guidelines that are usually followed. For example, each domino must be placed so that its matching ends are touching fully, and a double must be played perpendicular to the other end of the chain rather than parallel to it. The resulting shape is called a snake-line.

The first player to play a domino is the leader, and the rest of the players follow his or her example. Normally, the players continue to take turns placing dominoes, until the entire chain is complete and play ends. However, this is not always the case; a player can win if his or her opponent fails to play the last tile in his or her hand. Generally, the winning partner is the player whose combined total of all of his or her dominoes has the fewest points.