How Dominoes Works

Dominoes Rules

dominoes in iraq
U.S. soldiers stationed in Mosul, Iraq in 2005 draw tiles for their hands from the boneyard.
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/Getty Images

The traditional version of dominoes calls for the tiles to be arranged only end to end in a straight line or perpendicular to one another, forming L shapes. Only the open ends -- those with pips that aren't connected to another tile's pips -- are available for play. Once one tile end is connected to another, it's closed off for play.

All games of dominoes have one common rule -- you can only connect sides that have the same number of pips. So if an open tile has six pips on it, then only another tile with six pips on one side can be laid against it. If the other end of that tile has three pips, then only a three-pipped end tile can be laid against it.


The rules governing how the game ends depend on whether you're playing a block, draw or points game. In a block game, the game ends when the first person runs out of his or her original set of tiles, called a hand, as in poker. Again, the number of tiles in a starting hand depends on the game, but in a four-player game using a standard 28-piece set, each player usually has five or six tiles per hand.

In a block game, the remaining tiles after the players draw their initial hand remain in the boneyard -- the pile from which the players draw the tiles for their hands. In a draw game, the game ends similarly to a block game, with the first person playing their last tile proclaimed the winner. But in a draw game, the tiles in the boneyard become part of the game. The player whose turn it is can draw tiles from the boneyard until he or she comes up with a tile that has a playable number of pips.

In a points game, the first person to reach an agreed-upon winning score -- usually 100 to 150 points -- wins. Scoring is calculated after each tile is played by adding up the number of pips found on the open ends of all the tiles on the playing surface. This is called the board count.

Now that you know the rules, how do you actually play the game? Head to the next page and find out.