Domino is the name of a game and also of the small rectangular blocks used in its playing. The blocks are marked with an arrangement of spots or pips like those on dice, but blank on the other side. The game’s basic rules vary widely, and there are many variants of the game. In addition to blocking and scoring games, domino also lends itself to solitaire and trick-taking games. Some of these were once popular in places where religious proscriptions prohibited the use of cards.
The pips on a domino are normally separated by a line, to make them visually easier to separate and stack. The number of pips on one end of a domino is called its value, and the total number of pips on both ends is called its rank. The rank or weight of a domino is an important factor in the scoring of some games. A domino with more pips is usually considered “heavier” than one with fewer pips.
A domino is typically twice as long as it is wide, which makes it easy to re-stack after each play. Each domino has a value printed on it, in most cases, from six to zero pips; this value is used to distinguish one side of the domino from the other. The pips on each side are normally arranged in two rows, and a domino’s value is determined by the number of pips on its exposed end. Some games allow players to “buy” dominoes from the stock of tiles at the start of their turn; the value of a bought tile is added to the winner’s score at the end of the hand or game.
Some games require that the first player to make a play place his domino in front of him so it is clearly visible to the other players. This position is referred to as the lead or the setter. The first player may be given a nickname by the other players, such as the “heavy”, “big boy,” or the “pizza man”.
Once play begins, the order in which a player sits at the table is determined by the rules of the particular game being played. In most games the person with the highest double plays first. Then, if the first double is a spinner (one that can be played on all four sides), that domino is played before any other doubles. If the first double is not a spinner, other rules will determine who plays it second.
As each player matches and plays his domino, a line of dominoes is formed across the table. This line of dominoes is often referred to as the string, layout or line of play. There are basic instructions for line of play on this website specifically written for the various games that are played using a line of dominoes.
When a player cannot play any more of his dominoes, he knocks or raps the table. This rapping or knocking lets the other players know that he has no more tiles to play, and the turn passes to them.