What is Domino?

A domino is a flat, thumbsized rectangular block bearing from one to six pips or dots. 28 such blocks make up a full set.

In most games, a player will place his or her tile edge to edge against another’s, forming a line of play. This line must match the value of the open ends of the two tiles.


A domino game may be played for a set number of rounds or until one player runs out of pieces. Depending on the game, the winner scores according to the values of their opponents’ remaining dominoes.

The game is begun by drawing a domino from the stock. Generally the highest domino begins play, though this rule can vary in different games. The word “set,” the phrase “the down,” and the term “the lead” are used to describe a domino’s first placement and its effect on other dominoes in a line of play.

The goal of the game is to score by laying dominoes on a line of play so that the open ends of all exposed tiles total a multiple of five. This can be done by placing a double tile onto the line of play so that both matching ends touch (one’s touching two’s, or five’s touching three’s). A spinner, which may be played on all four sides, also counts as an end for scoring purposes.


Dominoes are rectangular blocks with a line or ridge dividing them visually into two square ends. Each end is patterned with dots (also called pips) that indicate value, similar to those on dice. The dominos are normally twice as long as they are wide, making them easier to stack and re-stack.

Modern commercial domino sets are usually made of plastics. They may also be made of other materials such as metals, stone and wood. These materials are often colored to differentiate different types of end values, such as black pips for one-spot ends and green for three-spot ends.

Some older dominoes are made from natural materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or dark hardwoods like ebony. However, the harvesting of ivory for dominoes has led to the near-extinction of elephants and has therefore become illegal.


There are many different ways to play domino. Each variant has its own rules, although most are based on the same basic principles. Some are more complex than others, while some are more casual. Some games may even use different types of tiles or have different scoring methods.

The simplest way to play is by making a chain of dominoes with each player adding their tile when it matches one end of an open tile already laid. This is called a “set,” a “down,” or the lead.

Players then add to the chain by laying new tiles with matching ends. If a double is played, it must be placed perpendicular to the line of opened dominoes so that both sides match. The pips on the exposed ends of each domino count as points. Normally, play stops when one player has no more tiles left. The winner is the player who has the smallest total of uncovered spots on his or her remaining tiles.


Domino is not a single game but a family of games that all use the same basic dynamic and objective. Players score points by forming chains of tiles with the exposed ends touching (one’s touch one’s, two’s touch two’s, and so on). If the number of dots on both exposed sides of a tile is a multiple of five that player scores those points.

In some versions of domino the value of each exposed end may be counted and the number rounded to the nearest multiple of five when scoring. This system does not work so well on a cribbage board or with Holsey and Tidwell’s X’s but it is an elegant method of scoring which gives the winning player an advantage. It also makes for a slower and less exciting game. However, this does give each player the ability to keep their own total in their mind at all times. This can make it easier for beginners to do the math required.