The Basics of Domino


Domino is the name of a game that involves arranging flat thumb-sized rectangular blocks called tiles or dominoes to form chains in lines and angular patterns. There are usually 28 of these blocks in a complete set. They may be made of bone, ivory, wood, metal, or plastic. A domino has either a blank face or one to six dots, resembling those on dice, inlaid in the center. A player builds a chain by matching the ends of a domino with those of another, forming a line that gradually increases in length. A person who plays a domino that results in the chain touching itself or another domino at both ends is said to have “stitched up the ends.”

Each player draws a domino from the stock before making a play, as explained above in Order of Play. Depending on the rules of a particular game, a player may also draw additional tiles from the stock to be bought (see Buying) later in the game. The player who makes the first play is referred to as the setter, downer, or leader.

Once the players have drawn their hands, the dominoes are arranged on a flat playing surface. Before each game, the players may take turns shuffling the tiles, thoroughly mixing them by moving them with their hands. Alternatively, the winner of the previous game may do the shuffling. Depending on the rules of a game, the players may also decide that the player to his right or left does the shuffling for each game.

When the shuffle is finished, each player places his hand of dominoes on the table. The player who draws the heaviest domino from the stock then makes the first play. If a player does not have the heaviest tile, or is unable to make a play, he must recall his tile and draw new ones from the stock.

A player who is unable to make a play is out of the game; however, some games allow him to “chip out” by placing his last domino in the center of the table (see Chipping Out). In these cases, the remaining players determine the winners, normally those who have the combined sum of the number of pips on their remaining tiles.

Some domino artists create intricate displays of the pieces, which can take several nail-biting minutes to fall due to the laws of physics. The most well known of these artists is Hevesh, who holds the Guinness World Record for a circular display using 300,000 dominoes. Hevesh says the main factor that allows her to create her works is gravity, which pulls each domino toward the Earth and sets off a chain reaction.