How to Play Dominoes


A domino is a small rectangular wood or plastic block, usually twice as long as it is wide, with one side marked by dots resembling those on dice. Dominoes are often stacked on top of each other to form larger structures like towers and pyramids. They may also be set up in lines or curved shapes, with some being 3-D structures. Dominoes are used in games of chance, strategy, skill, and luck. The word “domino” is also used to describe a series of events or actions that are supposed to follow another, as in “The domino effect.”

Many domino games are played with more than two players. When more than two people play a game, it is common to have rules for the order in which a player may make his or her plays. These rules are called the line of play. The basic instructions listed here under Line of Play apply to most games that have more than one player, but some games require hands to be drawn and others only use the tiles in your hand.

The first domino in a line of dominoes is called the set, down, or lead. The first domino that the leader makes a play on is usually a double, which can be played either lengthwise or crosswise. The next domino played on a double, after the leader, is often called a follower, or more generally a tile. Following a double played by the leader, the next tile must match the number of spots on that end of the double. After all players have made their plays, the line of play must be completed before a new player can begin playing.

In some games, the winner is determined by counting the pips on the losers’ tiles left in their hands at the end of the game. The number of points scored is then added to the winner’s total score for the game. In other games, the losing players’ pips are subtracted from the winning players’ score.

When a player draws his or her hand of dominoes, it is called “buying” if the tiles are not all allowed in the player’s hand according to the rules of the game. Some games allow a player to draw a number of tiles from the stock that matches the number of his or her hand, and these are known as “byes.” Byes may be bought only once during a turn. If a player does not buy byes, they must remain face down on the table. The unused byes must be returned to the stock before the player to his or her right draws.