The Basics of Dominoes


A domino, sometimes called a bone, is a small, flat, rectangular block of rigid material used as a gaming object. A domino features a line in the middle that divides it visually into two parts, each of which bears from one to six dots or pips. A domino is normally white, although colored plastic and ivory sets are available. There are many games that can be played with a domino, and some have different rules depending on the country or region of origin. Some games are blocking, while others are scoring, and some use cards or other objects in addition to the domino pieces.

A number of different methods are used to determine which player will make the first play. In some cases, a domino is drawn from the stock to determine the order of play; in others, the winner of the previous game makes the first play. The order of play may also be determined by seating arrangement. If a tie exists, the tie can be broken by drawing lots or by setting the heaviest domino on the table.

Once the game starts, a domino chain is built by each player in turn playing a tile onto the table positioning it so that it touches one end of the domino chain and that its pips match those on the other end. Each time a domino is played, the ends of the chain get longer. When all of the pips match, the domino is said to have “stitched up” the ends.

Dominoes have a long history as a recreational activity and an educational tool. They are a good way to improve hand-eye coordination, develop strategic thinking, and practice basic math skills. Dominoes can also help build social skills and improve teamwork. They are suitable for all ages and can be used in classrooms and homeschooling settings.

The most popular domino sets are the double-six and double-nine sets, with 28 tiles each. Larger sets exist for players looking for a more challenging game. A common extended set increases the maximum number of pips on an end from five to eight, and a few of these sets contain more than nine tiles. Larger sets are used mainly for long domino games, which usually involve multiple players and can take a great deal of time to complete.

In the United States, a domino is a figurative term for something that causes other things to happen, often in an unpredictable manner. For example, if the government supports a dictator in South Vietnam, other small countries are likely to follow suit and fall under Communist rule. The phrase is often shortened to the domino effect or the Domino Principle, which also refers to a political theory that was popular in the Cold War.

Dominoes can be made from a variety of materials, including wood, stone, and metal. Some sets are designed to look like traditional European-style dominoes, with a background in silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or a dark hardwood such as ebony, and contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on the surface. They can be purchased in many specialty stores and online. Some of these sets are more expensive than those made from polymer materials.