A Beginner’s Guide to Dominoes

When Lily Hevesh was 9 years old, her grandparents gave her a classic 28-pack of dominoes. She loved setting them up in a line and flicking one end to set them falling, one after another. She’s now a professional domino artist, creating spectacular setups for movies, TV shows, and events.

Dominoes are a group of rectangular pieces with matching sides that are either printed with numbers or blank. The value of a domino is determined by the number of spots, or pips, on its two adjacent ends. These pips are arranged in rows of five, and the value of a domino is added up from its two adjacent sides. A double has two equal values of six and eight pips, for example, while a single has one value of four.

Each player is given a hand of dominoes, and the first tile played in a game is known as the set or down. The player making the first play may also be referred to as the setter, the downer, or the lead, depending on the rules of the particular game being played. The lead must place his or her tile face up on the table. The next domino played must match the number of the previous tile and must be a double or a spinner, depending on the rules of the game being played.

Typically, each domino is twice as long as it is wide, making it easier to re-stack the pieces after playing. In addition, the pips on each side of a domino are designed to match in a particular pattern, which helps make sure that all the tiles fit together neatly.

A player’s dominoes are often kept in a boneyard or other container, where they remain until the player wishes to use them. Many players keep a collection of dominoes on hand so that they can play with friends or family members who are unfamiliar with the rules of different games.

Once the dominoes have been shuffled, each player draws a tile from the stock. The player who draws the heaviest domino makes the first play. If there is a tie, the tie is broken by drawing more tiles from the stock.

Some domino sets have been made from natural materials such as silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or a dark hardwood such as ebony, with pips inlaid or painted on. These sets have a rich look, feel, and weight that is different from the more common polymer-based sets.

Once the first player has laid down a tile, other players may buy it by placing their tiles in front of that tile or on its side. The purchase price is usually calculated based on the total number of pips on the bought dominoes. Depending on the rules of the game being played, the number of pips on the tiles that are left in the stock at the end of the game is part of the winner’s score.