How Dominoes Are Used

A domino is a flat, thumb-sized rectangular block that bears an arrangement of spots or “pips” (in the most common variant, from one to six) on its two opposite faces. Each side may also be blank or identically patterned. Dominoes are typically twice as long as they are wide, and 28 such pieces, or “doublets,” make up a complete set. Dominoes are used to play various games, in which dominoes are arranged in straight and curved lines or angular patterns. They can then be “dropped”—or flipped over, as the term is often applied—to cause them to fall in sequence.

Some of the games played with dominoes involve blocking or scoring. In these, each player in turn places a domino edge to edge against another so that the adjacent sides match—for example, 5-5—or form some specified total. The resulting line of play is then counted, and the winner is the player whose total number of pips is lowest at the end of the line.

Other domino games require players to make a move before their opponent, and are thus more strategic. In a game of skill, the first player to play all their dominoes wins. The order of play is determined by the rules of the game being played, and the person who makes the first move is known as the “leader.”

Regardless of the type of game being played, there are certain basic rules that must be followed to ensure that all tiles are drawn. For example, each player is allowed a maximum of four dominoes in his or her hand at any given time. If a player cannot play any of the four dominoes in his or her hands, they must be passed to the leader, who then takes them and places them face down on the table.

If more than four people are playing, there may be a surplus of dominoes left in the stock. This surplus is called the boneyard and is available for the players to purchase (“bye” or “pass”) later in the game, according to the rules of the game being played.

The dominoes that are not purchased are referred to as sleeping tiles. Depending on the rules of the game, they may be purchased at any time during the game, or they might only be available if the leader has taken them before.

Some games allow players to buy tiles from their opponents, and the more dominoes a player purchases during a turn, the more power he or she has at the end of the turn. The ability to buy tiles is often the difference between winning and losing a game. A savvy player will often take advantage of this by purchasing tiles at the beginning of the game that can be used to build very powerful plays in subsequent turns. This is also called “smart buying.” A player who smartly buys the most powerful dominoes will often win. This strategy is especially important in games of skill, such as poker, where each player has a limited amount of time to make his or her play.