The Basics of Domino
The domino, or set of 28 pieces, is a flat thumbsized rectangular block with either a blank or a value side that may be marked with one to six pips (or dots). It is used in a variety of games played by matching the ends of adjacent pieces. It is also used as a form of table-top entertainment, especially for children. It is known by many nicknames, including bones, cards, stones, tickets, spinners and more.
The most common type of domino is a double-six, with each end of the tile having six pips or dots. Other variants, such as double-nine, have different numbers of pips on the two sides. Generally, the more pips on each end of a domino, the higher its value.
In addition to the most common types of domino, there are a wide variety of other shapes and sizes as well as other materials from which they can be made. Some are made of plastic or other polymer, while others are more traditional in appearance and feel; these include bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl, MOP), ivory, and dark hardwoods such as ebony. Some are even made of ceramic clay or frosted glass, although such sets tend to be much more expensive than their polymer-based counterparts.
Most dominoes are arranged in a rectangular pile called the stock, from which each player draws tiles for their hands, as prescribed by the rules of the particular game being played. The number of tiles that a player draws for his hand is the sum of the number of tiles in his dominoes and the number of tiles in the stock that he can buy (see “Bying” below).
Once the players draw their hands, they begin constructing chains by playing their dominoes, starting with a single tile. The first player to play a tile, referred to as the setter, downer or lead, puts it down face up in the middle of the table. The other players then draw and place their tiles on top of it.
As the chains grow, a player may be able to add more tiles by placing them next to other dominoes. These are often referred to as a double or a spinner, and they are sometimes arranged with their pips pointing in the same direction, creating a chain of “snake lines”.
At times a player is not able to make another play because all of the other dominoes have been played, which is called blocking the game. In these instances, the pips on the remaining dominoes in a player’s hands are counted at the end of the hand or the game and added to the winner’s score. This scoring method is also sometimes employed in a tiebreaker situation.