How to Play Dominoes


A domino is a flat, thumbsized rectangular block of wood or plastic, each face bearing from one to six dots, or pips, that resemble those on dice. A complete set of dominoes consists of 28 such pieces. In many games, dominoes are joined together into a line of play by matching the pips on their open ends. The line of play may be either lengthwise or crosswise; the rules for joining and playing these lines differ.

Dominoes are not just toys for kids, however; they can also be used as a tool for learning math and science. Stephen Morris, a physicist at the University of Toronto, explains that when you hold a domino upright and it resists the force of gravity, it builds up potential energy. When you let go of the domino, that energy is converted into kinetic energy as it topples forward. This chain reaction can happen over and over again, until the entire line of dominoes is completed.

When you are ready to start playing domino, you will need a set of tiles and a table or other flat surface for putting them down. You can purchase a full set of dominoes from most toy stores, but you can also build your own by separating the tiles into singles and doubles. You will also want a pencil, paper, and a ruler. If you are going to make a large design with 3-D sections, it is a good idea to test the individual parts on their own before placing them all together.

Once you have the pieces, you will need to shuffle them so that each player can draw a hand. Depending on the game being played, there are various ways to determine who makes the first play; for some games, the highest double is drawn, while others require the player to draw the heaviest tile in his hand. If there are any extra tiles after the hands have been drawn, they remain face down in the stock until needed later in the game (see Order of Play).

When the dominoes are arranged in the line of play, players take turns playing them. Most of the time, when a domino is played, it is placed at the end of a line that consists of either all doubles or all singles. However, some dominoes are played in the middle of a line of play and can be added to either side of the existing tile.

Most domino games involve blocking opponents’ plays or scoring points in some way. The most common scoring method involves counting the number of pips in the losing player’s remaining dominoes at the end of a hand or the game, and adding that score to his total. In addition to blocking and scoring games, dominoes can be arranged in many different patterns and used to create works of art such as stacked walls, curved lines, and grids that form pictures when they fall. You can even use dominoes to make 3D structures such as towers and pyramids.