How to Play Dominoes


While many more elaborate games exist, the most basic game involving dominoes is a simple game of elimination; play all of your dominoes first to win a round. This version of the game, known as Draw, requires no additional equipment and can be played by two to four players.

Setting Up

  • To begin, all of the dominoes should be laid out face-down on the table and mixed up to shuffle them. Then, each player takes one domino, with the highest domino determining who goes first. After a re-shuffle, each player draws seven dominoes in two-player games and five dominoes in three- to four-player games. The rest of the dominoes are left face-down in a central draw pile known as "the boneyard." The first player places a single domino in the center of the table, called "the set."

Playing a Domino

  • To play a domino during your turn, you must possess a domino that matches the end of the set. For example, if the end is a six, you must have a domino with a six on one side to play it. Matching ends are lined up in a straight line, unless table space becomes an issue. In these cases, you can match the ends but have the played domino change direction at a right-angle. Double-sided dominoes should be played vertically across the current line of play, but otherwise function in the same way as regular dominoes.

Drawing Dominoes

  • Players can draw from the boneyard whenever they don't possess a playable domino. If the drawn domino also can't be played, they must continue drawing until a playable domino is drawn. As the object is to play all of your dominoes before the other players, this can be very detrimental.

Winning the Game

  • The game ends when a player has played all dominoes in their hand. Alternately, the game also ends if the boneyard is empty and no one has a playable domino left in their hand. In these instances, the dots on each player's unplayed dominoes are counted, with the lowest number of dots being the winning hand. In multi-round games, the winner of the majority of rounds wins the overall game; for example, winning two out of three rounds.

Scoring Points

  • While not all versions of dominoes make use of scores, there are a number of scoring systems in place. Some have a "least points wins" system, wherein losing players of a round count the dots on their unplayed dominoes as a score and the player with the least points at the end of the overall game wins. Some systems use the opposite, with the most points winning and players who win a hand counting the dots on their opponent's unplayed dominoes to tally a score. In some variations on this second system, a set point value is determined beforehand as a winning score, with the first player to reach it being declared the overall victor.


  • Photo Credit Jose Luis Pelaez Inc../Blend Images/Getty Images
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