Techniques on How to Play Dominoes

By Bill Varoskovic ; Updated April 12, 2017
The player with the highest double plays first.

While dominoes may be more closely associated in current American culture for being knocked over in long chains, dominoes have their dots so that people can use them to play games. There are many variations on how to play, but you can employ some basic strategies to help you win.

Basic Rules

Each player starts with seven or ten dominoes randomly drawn from the pile, hidden from the view of others. The player with the highest double, a domino with the same number on both sides, starts the game by laying down that tile. On each player's turn they can lay one tile down and connect it to a tile that has the same number. If a player does not have any tiles that match he can pass his turn. The winner is the first person to get rid of all of their tiles.

Spinners

While regular tiles can only be played off of their ends, tiles that are doubles can be played in four directions (on each side as well as off the ends). Doubles used in this way are called spinners. If you have a double, use it to give yourself several options in future turns. However, realize that other players can play off of your spinner as well.

Play High Tiles

Once a player has gotten rid of all of her dominoes, the remaining players add up the numbers that are left on the tiles in their hand and count it as their score. The player with the lowest score when you are done playing is the overall winner. When keeping score, play as many of your high-point tiles as you can early on. If you are not the first person to get rid of your tiles, you at least will not get stuck with a lot of points.

Utilize Blank Tiles

Blank tiles can be treated three different ways, depending on the rules your group agrees to before playing: as a regular number (zero), as a dead-end tile or as a wildcard. Knowing how your group decides to play blank tiles can influence your strategy. If blank tiles are just treated as zeros, then it is a good idea to hold onto them until last because they will not count against your score. Dead-end blank tiles are good for defense, but playing too many of them can limit your own options. If blank tiles are used as wildcards, hold on to them until you find yourself in a pinch and have nothing else to play.

About the Author

Bill Varoskovic has been writing professionally since 2010. His areas of academic expertise include world religions, American Sign Language, psychology, personality and community building. Other areas of experience include sports, travel and lifestyle. Varoskovic received his Bachelor of Science in psychology from Central Michigan University in 2010.