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How To Play Dominos

Use these tips to organize a game of draw dominoes, the most popular domino game played today.


  • Step 1: Place all the dominos facedown on the table and shuffle them around. Have each player select their dominos, keeping them hidden. If two people are playing, each person gets seven. If three or four people are playing, each takes five dominos.
  • TIP: There are 28 tiles in a standard set, from blank at both ends to sixes at both ends. Dominos are also known as bones.
  • Step 2: To decide which player starts, each player reveals their highest double – a piece that has the same number of dots on both ends. Whoever has the highest double goes first. If none of the players drew a double, then whoever has the heaviest tile – the domino with most dots on it – goes first.
  • Step 3: The player begins by placing their heaviest domino faceup anywhere on the board. After the first move, players must match the number of dots on one end of one of their dominos with an open end of a domino already on the board. Take turns clockwise around the table, with each player adding a domino to the board.
  • TIP: Any side of the domino is considered an "open end." The game's layout can flow in any direction, turning as necessary.
  • Step 4: When laying a domino down, the numbers of the piece on the board and the one being added to the board must match exactly. For example, if the only open domino end on the board shows five dots, only a domino with one end that also has five dots can be played beside it.
  • Step 5: If you have a double, play it as soon as you can. Doubles create more opportunities for play on the board. These pieces are typically placed so they connect to the middle of a piece on the board, rather than one end, which means future dominos can be added to either end of the double piece.
  • Step 6: When players do not have a domino that matches one of the open dominos on the board, they draw from the pile of extra dominos until they draw a playable piece. If there are no dominos left, players lose their turn.
  • TIP: The pile of leftover dominos is also known as the boneyard.
  • Step 7: The game continues until one player runs out of dominos, becoming the automatic winner, or when all the players have no playable pieces left.
  • Step 8: When a game has ended, the players add up the total number of dots in their hands. That number is how many points the winner has earned. A typical match ends once one player has accumulated 100 points.
  • FACT: Dominos, which originated in China in the 10th century, were designed to represent all possible throws with two dice; sets didn't include blank tiles.

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