# The Basics of Dominoes

Dominoes are a popular game that can be played in many different ways. Players can earn points both during and at the end of a round of play. The person with the lowest score wins.

The first player to make a move is called the setter, downer, or lead. He draws a domino from the stock and begins the game.

## Origin

A domino is a small, rectangular block with a face divided into half. Each half is blank or bears from one to six pips resembling those on dice. A complete set of dominoes consists of 28 such blocks. The word is also used to describe games played with them.

The first known mention of the game dates back to the early 18th century. By then it had moved from Italy and France, through war, into England.

It is possible that the game originated in China. However, it is more likely that it was introduced to the United States by Chinese workers in Cuban sugar fields, and later learned by Mexican railroad workers who worked alongside them. Its closest Western adaptation is Longana. The name of the game varies by country.

## Rules

There are a number of rules governing the different games played with domino. Generally, the first player to lay a tile begins play and the players continue to play in turn until one player has all their tiles played. The winner is determined by whichever player has the lowest total of points in their opponents’ hands.

When a player cannot continue to play, they must pass or “bye.” Then the player draws another domino from the stock (see below) and may make a new hand if desired.

Each domino is marked with an arrangement of spots from zero to six. This pattern is repeated on each end of the domino, forming a chain that gradually increases in length. When a domino is played to an existing chain, it is called a “match” or a “spinner.” If a match is made, the player places a marker on that train and stops other players from adding to it.

## Variations

There are many variations of domino. Some are simple, while others involve strategic moves and mathematical reasoning. All variants have a unique element of entertainment, but the basic game remains the same. Each player draws seven tiles from a stock or boneyard to create their hand. The players then place their tiles, forming a line of play. The touching ends of each tile must match, except doubles, which are played at a right angle to the other end.

The most common games are the Draw and Block game. They can be played with a standard double-six set, and most characteristic domino games are elaborations of these two. A standard game involves a total of 28 dominoes, but larger sets can be used. These larger sets are called extended and are most commonly used with double-nine and double-12 domino sets.

## Materials

Dominoes are small, rectangular-shaped gaming blocks. They are usually twice as long as they are wide. Each piece has a line in the center separating it into two square halves, each with a number of dots, called pips, that represent values from one to eight. A domino with no pips represents zero.

Traditionally, sets were made from materials such as silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, and dark hardwoods like ebony, with contrasting white or black pips inlaid or painted. Craftsmen also experimented with “vegetable ivory” – the Tagua nut (also known as ivory nut), which is hard and close-grained.

Today, mass-produced dominoes are mostly made of plastics and metals. Specialty materials are used for some, such as foam for giant yard dominoes.

## Scoring

The scoring system in domino is dependent on the game variant. Some games count only the spots left in the losing players’ hands at the end of a hand or the game, while others add up all the tiles played to the winning player. The way a tile is placed also provides part of the entertainment, as it must be positioned so that its matching ends are adjacent and touching each other fully.

In games where players are paired, the tiles are shuffled and then drawn to determine who plays first. The player who draws the highest double goes first, and then the partners draw their hands of dominoes in turn. The players can also build their own trains by adding a tile to the train on each turn.