How to Play Dominoes

Dominoes are an entertaining way to pass the time with friends and family. Whether you enjoy building complex domino chains or simply flicking them over, this popular pastime has become a cultural phenomenon. There are even professional domino builders, who create amazing displays for movies, TV shows and events-such as the recent album launch for Katy Perry.

Each domino is a rectangular tile bearing an arrangement of dots, or “pips,” on one side and blank or identically patterned on the other. The pips are often arranged in rows, but some sets also use more symmetrical patterns such as circles or diamonds. In addition to indicating the number of pips on each end, dominoes are also referred to by their color or other symbol on the face. For example, a domino with a number 2 on one end and a 5 on the other is a “2-5”; a tile with the same numbers on both ends is a double, or “doublet”; and a blank tile is called a “zebra.”

Like playing cards, dominoes are often grouped into suits (e.g., hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds). The number of cards in each suit determines the number of points a player receives in a game. Each domino also has an identity number, which identifies its location in the set. The identity number is determined by counting the pips on each of two adjacent corners of the domino (for example, a 6-6 indicates that it is in the corner marked “6”).

To begin play, the tiles are shuffled and then drawn to determine who plays first. A player who draws a domino with matching ends must then place it onto the board, positioning it so that the open ends are touching other tiles. If a tile is played against a double, it must be placed perpendicular to the double (or diagonally), otherwise the open ends will not match.

After a player places a domino, other players may play against it, building a chain that gradually increases in length. The shape of the chain depends on both the whims of the players and the limitations of the playing surface. The first domino played to a double must be positioned so that it forms a cross, or a full square across the edge of the double, but after this initial placement, the rest of the chain can be laid out in whatever shape is desired.

Dominoes can be positioned in straight or curved lines, stacked walls and even 3D structures such as towers and pyramids. In the latter, the dominoes are often designed to form a specific image when they fall. In some games, the resulting image is scored in points. Dominoes are also used in artistic creations, such as large-scale landscapes and geometric designs. Many of these creations require several dozen or even hundreds of dominoes, each carefully arranged in the proper sequence before being triggered to collapse by the slightest nudge. In domino shows, builders compete to construct the most impressive setups before a live audience of fans.