How Do Dominoes Work?

Dominoes are small, thumbsized blocks of wood or other material that have from one to six pips, or dots, on each end. A complete set of dominoes consists of 28 such tiles. The word “domino” can also refer to any of several games played with them, especially those in which players take turns laying down dominoes in lines or angular patterns on the table. These games often involve matching the ends of the dominoes, either by number or by color.

There are many types of domino games, and the rules for playing them vary widely. The most common domino games fall into two categories, blocking games and scoring games. In blockage games, each player takes a turn placing a domino on the table so that it touches only one of the ends of the already-established chains of dominoes. The player then declares a winning total for the entire chain, usually by counting the number of pips showing on the losing players’ hands at the end of the game.

Most of the games on this website are based on blocking or scoring, and they require the use of a domino set with 28 tiles. Larger sets are available for longer domino games and are popular among players who enjoy arranging the dominoes into complex designs. There are even domino sets made of other materials for a unique look, such as stone (e.g., marble or granite); other kinds of wood; metals such as brass and pewter; and ceramic clay.

A physicist at the University of Toronto agrees that gravity plays a key role in the domino effect: Each time you stand a domino upright, it stores energy in the form of potential energy. When you then pull the tile down, much of that energy is converted to kinetic energy, which propels the domino down the line. The result is a sequence of dominoes that continues to topple, just like the pulse of nerve impulses that travels from the brain to the body and back again.

Some people choose to play with dominoes that have blank sides, a method called “wild” play. This allows them to ascribe values to the dominoes as they see fit, but requires that each player be careful about placing the tiles in a way that won’t upset the balance of the line.

When a player draws more tiles for his hand than the rules specify, he has what is called an overdraw. The player then returns the extras to the stock and the dominoes are reshuffled before that player draws his hand again. He then begins play with the heaviest double. If no player has a highest double, the winner of the last game plays first. If there was a tie for first place, the player with the highest single is awarded that spot instead. In most cases, a tied player will draw a new hand after the first one is drawn. Then the second player draws his hand and so on.