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The Basics of Domino

Domino is a family of games played with domino tiles. Each tile features a square of dots, called pips, that identify its value. The numbers on one side of the domino can range from six pips up to none or blank. The total value of the domino is determined by adding the values of each of its two sides. A domino with the most pips is called a heavy or a rank; a domino with the fewest pips is considered light or a point.

A domino is normally twice as long as it is wide, so that it can easily be stacked on top of other pieces to create a longer chain or pile. When a domino is slid down onto another piece, the domino’s pips strike against the other piece’s pips and push it to the ground, knocking it over. This process can be repeated over and over until all the dominoes have fallen.

When a player can no longer add more tiles to his or her hand, the game ends and the players count up the points on their remaining dominoes. The winning players are the ones with the highest combined sum of points on their remaining dominoes. This scoring method can be modified by rule variations such as counting only one end of a double (i.e., a 4-4 counts as only four points).

The rules for domino vary widely between different games and even among individual players of the same game. The following are a few of the more common rules:

Some sets have dominoes made from a variety of materials, including marble, granite or soapstone; other woods such as ebony; metals; and ceramic clay. These natural materials have a more luxurious look and feel, but they are typically more expensive than polymer dominoes.

Before playing, the tiles are shuffled and each player draws the number of new dominoes permitted under the game’s rules. The player who draws the highest double or single, as applicable to the game, makes the first play. The words set, down, or lead are also used to describe this first play.

After each play, a domino may be “knocked” over by the next player by hitting it with a fist or other object. This knocks the domino onto the table and creates a domino effect, as additional pieces fall over in response to the impact. A player who knocks over the entire line of dominoes is out of the game.

The winner of the last game played begins play in the next game, or, if there is a tie, the player who holds the heaviest domino, whether a double or a single, takes the first turn. If a game ends in a draw, the players draw again until one player has the heaviest tile. In some games, the heaviest tile is not the highest double but the heaviest single. In other games, the heaviest tile is the second-heaviest double or the lowest single.