How to Play Basic Dominoes

Do you need an assistance in playing the game of dominoes? Well, for this post, I am going to include a basic rule set where you can get an idea of how to play this game. It won’t however make you a professional overnight. But, it can give you knowledge of how to play right of the bat. Who knows? With the right understanding, you might just get “beginner’s luck” when you’re playing with friends and family.

I am going to tie in this post with a review of my previous post about a dominoes game set that you can apply this tutorial on when playing the game.

The basics of dominoes

A domino is a small tile that represents the roll of two dice. The tile, that’s commonly called a bone, is rectangular-shaped with a line down the center. Each end of the tile contains a number. In the most common domino set, the double-six, the numbers vary from 0 (or blank) to 6. This produces 28 unique tiles.

A common domino size is about 3/8 inch thick, 1 inch wide, and 2 inches long. This is small enough to be held comfortably in both the left and the right hand It is also large enough to easily be manipulated, and it is thick enough to be able to stand on its edge.

Dominoes are referred to by the number of dots (also called pips) on each end. The lower number is usually listed first. Thus, a tile with a 2 (dots/pips) on one end and a 5 on the other is referred to as a “2-5”. A tile showing the same number on both ends is called a “double” (or doublet), so a “6-6” is referred to as “double-six”. A double-six is the highest and the “heaviest” domino; a double-blank is the lowest or “lightest” domino value.

Tiles that have ends with the same number of dots are members of the same “suit”. In a double-six set, there are seven suits (blank, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), each with seven members (0-5, 1-5, 2-5, 3-5, 4-5, 5-5, & 5-6) make up the “fives” suit, for instance. Each tile belongs to two suits except for the doubles.

There are larger-sized sets are also available in addition to the standard double-six domino set. Popular sizes include the double-nine (55 tiles), double-twelve (91 tiles), double-fifteen (136 tiles), and double-eighteen (190 tiles). The larger sets are used in some of the more complicated games. They can also be used to add variety to the simpler games, or to allow more people to play them.

General Rules

  1. Shuffling: Before a game or hand begins, the dominoes must be shuffled, so that no one knows the location of any given tile. Usually, the tiles are shuffled by turning them all face-down on the table, then moving them around in a random motion, the shuffler would be careful not to flip over any of the pieces. The collection of shuffled tiles is called the boneyard.

    Shuffling dominoes in “the boneyard”

  2. Beginning Game Play: Before the start of the game, players would have to determine who has the first move. This happens in one of two ways: either each of the players choose a domino at random, with first move going to the player holding the “heavier” domino (these dominoes are returned to the boneyard and reshuffled), or the players draw their allotted number of tiles (which varies according to the game being played), and the holder of the “heaviest” domino starts the game first.

  3. Drawing Tiles: Once the players begin drawing tiles, they are typically placed on-edge before the players, so that each player can see his own tiles. No one is allowed to view other players’ tiles. Every player can thus see how many tiles remain in the other players hands at all times during game play.

  4. Placing the First Tile: In most domino games, only the “open” ends of a layout are open for play where an end is open when it has no other tile connected to it. Often, a double is placed cross-ways in the layout, straddling the end of the tile that it is connected to. Usually, additional tiles can only be placed against the long side of a double. However, the rules of some games consider all four sides of a double to be open. This allows dominoes to be connected in all four directions.
    For example, in the picture above, the first tile played would be the 6-6. At this point, a domino can either be played to the right or left of the 6-6. The second tile placed was a 6-5, to the left of the 6-6. The third tile placed was 5-5 placed vertically. At this point, the open ends are 5 and 6. The fourth tile played was a 1-6, fifth: 0-1, sixth: 0-2, seventh: 2-5 all the way to the eighteenth tile: 2-4 which is to the right of the initial tile. From this point, the open ends are 4 and 5.At any time, due to mere whim or space constraints, a tile may be connected to crete an “L-shape” formation in the layout.

  5. Drawing Tiles: As the turn passes from player to another player, if someone cannot make a move, one of two things must happen, based on the game being played. In “block” games (or if there are no tiles left in the boneyard), a player must “pass” if he cannot make a move. In a “draw” game, a player can draw a tile from the boneyard. Depending on the game, he can then either pass (if he cannot play the drawn tile), play it (if it fits, and if the rules allow), or continue drawing until he can make a move if the boneyard is not empty. Otherwise, he can pass.
    Currently, most rules allow the boneyard to be emptied completely. However, some rules do not allow the last tow tiles in the boneyard to be removed, and at the end of a game, the winner receives the total value of the tiles in the boneyard.

  6. Game over: A game ends when a player plays all his tiles, or when a game is blocked. When a player plays his last time, he/she would call out to say “domino!” When this happens, the other players are said to have been dominoed. A game is blocked when no player is able to add another tile to the layout.When playing a multi-round game, domino games are typically scored by awarding the number of pips on opposing player’s tiles to the winner. Doubles may be counted as one or two. If one, a 6-6 counts as 6; if two, a 6-6 counts as 12, and double-blank may either count as 0 or 14. These rule variations must be agreed upon before the game begins. The player who reaches the target score: 100, 200, or whatever is agreed on among the players, or the player who amasses the most points is a given number of rounds wins the game.

In conclusion

I hope that this review has educated you in how to play the basics of dominoes. If so, please share on social media, and if you have any questions, comments, or feedback, feel free to add them in the comments section below. I’ll do my best to answer them as promptly as possible. Thanks for reading, and before I end this article I would also like to share a video below of how to play the basics of dominoes so you can get a better understanding of how to play.


  1. // Reply


    I’m a beginner to the game of dominoes (played around with them a few times as a child but was never serious about learning the game) so this article is perfect for me. Reading through this it doesn’t seem like the concept is difficult to grasp. I appreciate the video. I know we have an old set of dominoes lying around the house somewhere — I’m going to see if I can find it! Thanks for this.

    1. // Reply

      Your welcome, Paul. I hope this tutorial can help you win many games when playing dominoes. If you have any more questions feel free to ask as I will try to help as much as I can. Have fun with playing dominoes!


  2. // Reply

    Dominoes sound like a very interesting game. The video made it easier to follow. I was wondering, what is the maximum number of players that can play at a time? Doesn’t it get confusing with all these different sets having different numbers of tiles?

    It must be harder to play than cards which has a standard number of cards in a deck. I am intrigue by this game and will love to try it at home. I need to watch that video multiple times to really get it.

    1. // Reply

      Hello Denise

      Thanks for the comment.To answer your question, the most that can play the game of dominoes is 4. It can be confusing having to learn the different numbers of tiles and the different sets at first. But, I look at dominoes like dice. the corresponding numbers look exactly alike. Once you play the game enough times, all the confusion will eventually go away, and you’ll be having so much fun playing it, especially when you win. I don’t think it’s that much harder than cards, I just feel that it takes some getting used to familiarity to enjoy the game.

      I have done a review of the dominoes game sets. I that I hope might interest you. If you have any more questions, please go ahead and ask in the comments section or send a reply to this message, and I’ll get in contact with you soon.


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