The Basics of Domino

Domino is a tile game of skill and strategy, usually played with one or more players. Each domino has a square, flat surface that is marked with an arrangement of dots or other symbols, called “pips,” which identify it as unique among other dominoes. The other side of a domino is blank or identically patterned. When a domino is placed on the table, it begins a chain of actions that progresses until the last domino has fallen, or the game ends.

When a player places a domino on the table, it becomes part of the line of play and may be joined to other dominoes by touching both ends or by crossing a matching number. Some games require that the line of play be lengthwise; others, crosswise. When a domino is played in the correct way, it is said to be “set” or to have been “downed.”

The most basic game of domino requires only a double-six set of 28 tiles. These are shuffled and form a pool of tiles, called the stock or boneyard. Each player draws seven tiles from the stock, which is then positioned on-edge so that each player can see his own, but not the value of opponents’ hands. Some games also allow a player to “buy” additional tiles from the stock if permitted by the rules.

When playing a game of domino, the first player to play a domino is known as the setter. He is responsible for drawing new hands and beginning the game, although this may be changed in some games by a rule that specifies that whoever holds the highest double must begin the game. Other games, however, do not permit a player to buy extra tiles and instead must be won by the partner whose combined total of spots on his remaining dominoes is the lowest.

In the case of a tie, the winner may open the next game by choosing to start with either the heaviest double or the highest single. If neither of these options is available, the game ends in a draw.

The most common domino sets include double-nine (91 tiles), double-12 (136 tiles), and double-18 (253 tiles). There are many variants of these and other types of domino, including some that were used in some countries to circumvent religious prohibitions against the use of cards. There are also some games that use the same rules but are of a very different character, such as solitaire and trick-taking games. These are often played by two partners who play alternately. The basic instructions for these games are given on this site under Line of Play.

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