The Basics of Domino


Domino is a game of skill and chance. A player scores points by constructing or destroying a line of dominoes with the aim of achieving a predetermined goal, such as a full row of matching tiles, before his opponents do so. The first person to reach the goal wins the game.

Although domino can be played by more than one person, the basic rules for the most popular games are designed for two players. Several different kinds of dominoes are available, including the classic 28-tile set, which is a good starter for beginners. More complex sets can be built by combining the individual pieces in many ways. These can create curved lines, zigzags, and mazes, or they can be used to make patterns or other figures. A set of dominoes is sometimes referred to as a deck, though this word is more often associated with playing cards.

When a domino is flipped over, the pattern on its face is revealed. It may have a pattern of spots or pips, like the number six on a standard dice, or it may be blank, as is sometimes the case with double-six dominoes. The value of the pattern on a domino is its suit, and every tile that features a specific suit belongs to that suite. A domino that has no suit belongs to the 0 suite, and is therefore a “blank” tile.

The word domino derives from a Latin verb meaning “fall together,” and the earliest use of the term in English may have been for a long hooded cloak worn together with a mask at carnival or masquerade events. Later, it was used to describe a dark ebony domino contrasted with a white surplice worn by priests. The game itself became popular during the 18th century in France.

In the simplest domino games, each player starts by placing a domino on the table so that it touches only one end of a line of play. This first domino is called the lead, and its placement begins a chain of dominoes that can be either crosswise or lengthwise. If a domino has a particular value on both ends, it is called a double and is played with the opposite effect, creating a chain that extends the line of play in the other direction.

After the initial domino has been placed, the players take turns adding tiles to the chain in the order they wish to play them. Some games require that the heaviest domino must be played first, and the player who makes this play is called the lead. A lead can be made by placing a single domino over a double, or by playing a double onto a single.

Most domino games have a scoring method which involves counting the pips on the dominoes left in the losing players’ hands at the end of a hand or game. This can be done in a variety of ways, and some have a rule that certain types of doubles count as only one end of the domino (i.e., a domino with 4-4 counts as only four points).