How to Play Dominoes

Dominoes are versatile tools for games of chance and skill, from simple blocking to elaborate scoring games. They are cousins to playing cards and were originally developed in China in the 1300s. Unlike playing cards, however, dominoes are marked with an arrangement of dots, or pips, that differ on each face. Some of these pips are blank or identically patterned, while others have numbers showing on both sides. The pips on each domino determine its value.

The earliest dominoes were made of wood, but today sets are available in various materials, including bone, silver lip oyster shell (mother-of-pearl), ivory, and a dark hardwood such as ebony. These sets are typically heavier than polymer dominoes and have a more elegant look. They also cost more than their plastic brethren.

In most domino games, a line of tiles is formed on the table as players take turns placing their dominoes edge to edge against each other so that adjacent pips match. The pips on the open end of the domino determines its value, and some games have specific rules for determining when to place this tile in the line of play.

Regardless of the game being played, it is important that each player takes his turn correctly to avoid disrupting the line of play or making mistakes that may affect the outcome of the game. This is especially true of multiplayer games, as a wrong move by one player can lead to the entire line of play falling over.

To make sure all players have an opportunity to take their turns, it is best to play on a hard surface that will allow the dominoes to stand easily on their edges. It is also helpful to keep a scoreboard handy to keep track of the number of points scored by each player.

Once all of the dominoes have been laid down, a player will draw the amount of tiles allowed by the rules of the game being played. This is often called buying. Depending on the rules of the game, the drawn tiles may be passed or left to be bought by another player later in the game.

When the first player plays a domino, it must be followed by a matching tile on the same side. This is called the “next-to-last domino” rule and ensures that all players will have an opportunity to play a domino on their next turn, unless the next-to-last domino is already in the line of play.

In some games, a special type of domino known as a spinner can be used to advance the game faster. A spinner is a double domino that can be played on both sides. This can be a great way to speed up a game that is becoming bogged down by slow moves by other players. Some domino games have specific rules for what types of tiles can be used as a spinner, while others allow all doubles to be played as a spinner.