Dominoes are small rectangular blocks used in a game of skill and chance called domino. They are normally used in sets of 28. People play many different games with them, from simple drawing to elaborate layouts. They are also used as decorations or as a way to teach children counting. Dominoes can be made of wood, ivory, clay or plastic. They are sometimes painted or stained in bright colors. They are often arranged to form interesting shapes, such as hearts or horses. They may be stacked or lined up in long rows. In some cases, they are glued together.
The word domino is often used in a colloquial sense to mean any action that results in something else, especially something undesirable or unexpected. For example, a political situation that causes an important country to lose confidence in another, thereby leading to that country withdrawing its support of the other is sometimes described as “a domino effect.” The term has also been used to describe the effect that one country has on a region or a particular group within it.
A more common use of the term is in reference to a particular set of dominoes that have been arranged or glued in a certain way to form an interesting pattern. A large set can be referred to as a domino table or a domino display.
In the past, a domino was also used as a tool for learning to count by laying down one piece at a time and then adding up the total number of spots. This method was popular in the classroom as a way to reinforce addition and subtraction. Today, dominoes are more commonly used for recreational purposes. They are often set up in large rows to create beautiful designs or played for points in a game of skill and chance.
Most commercial domino sets consist of 28 tiles, although larger sets exist and are popular with players who like to play longer domino games. Each domino features an identifying pattern of spots, or pips, on one side and is blank or identically patterned on the other. The pips give each domino its unique value, and the number of pips on a tile usually corresponds to a suit; for example, a domino with six pips belongs to the suit of sixes, while a domino with no pips belongs to the suit of blanks or zeros.
A domino that has more pips is generally considered to be “heavier” than one with fewer pips, because it can carry more of a load. A domino is usually divided visually into two squares, or ends, by a line or ridge. The value of each end is indicated by the arrangement of pips or numbers that are printed on the face.
If a domino is not being played, it is called a sleeping domino. If a player cannot place a domino during his turn, he must pass. In some games, the remaining dominoes are picked up and placed on top of the sleeping ones so that the next player has more options for his turn.