How to Play Dominoes

how to play dominoesDominoes is a very popular game not only in Puerto Rico, but in all Latin cultures and in the Carebbien Islands. It’s a true pastime and it is enjoyed and played by people of all ages.

I learned how to play dominoes at a very early age. As far as I can remember, I’d watch my parents, family and friends play the game of domino. Every family get together (there were tons of them, lol), there was someone who always brought their domino table. Now as an Adult, I get to teach and enjoy playing dominoes with my kids.

In this page you’ll find the rules for dominoes and learn how to play domino the way we play it. The way I was taught by my parents. The way Puerto Ricans play the game. I will have other post on how to play dominoes with different rules and ways to play domino.

Ok so lets begin shall we?


Some Basics

domino setYou’re going to need a double six domino set. The standard set is the double 6 domino set with 28 bones.

To play the game you’ll need a minimum of two players and a maximum of four players. With 2 to 3 players, each player plays individually. When there are four players, you play as partners. The player to the front of you is your partner. The players to your left and right of you are your opponent.


How to Play Dominoes

playing dominoesAll dominoes are shuffled face down. In a four player game, each player draws 7 dominoes. In 2 or 3 player games the remaining bones are stocked together on the side, also know as the boneyard. Each player keeps their dominoes secret to themselves. You want to keep your dominoes secret. You can let anyone else see your dominoes.

This can be accomplished by holding 3 bones in a hand and 4 in the other, or by placing them on a special domino rack that holds them. You can also just place them on the table in such a way that only you can see them.

In the first game of a match, the player who holds the double 6 starts the game. In 2 or 3 player games if the double 6 wasn’t drawn, then the highest double starts the game. This is only done on the first hand. The winning player of the first hand and each winner afterwards can start the hand with any domino they want. It can be a double or any other bone.

Once the first domino is played, the next player to the opener’s RIGHT plays. The next player can either draw or pass if they don’t have a matching domino. The game continues counter-clockwise.


The Layout

domino layoutThe domino layout always has two open ends, from one of the long side of the starting double. All dominoes played must be played to a free end and must match numbers. i.e. a 3 must be played to a 3, a 5 to a 5, and so on.

If a player does not have a matching number to play, they must take a pass to the next player. In 2 or 3 player games, you must draw from the boneyard until you find a matching number to play. If the boneyard is exhausted, then you must pass.

If a player has a bone on hand that can be played, they can’t draw from the boneyard, and must play from their hand. Drawing from the boneyard in the hope of finding a more strategically sound play is illegal and considered cheating.

When a player passes, it is customary to knock one of the dominoe on the table as a signal that they are passing. Alternately he can signal the pass by saying the word “Paso” (Pass).


Ending the Domino Game

dominoes winnerThe game ends when the last domino is played, or when the game is locked (the game can no longer continue). When the game is locked, the player or team (if combining points) with the least amount of points in their hand wins.

The Object of the game.

Before the game or match begins, all players MUST agree to the terms and rules of the match. Quickly state what those rules are. If whether you’re going to play as teams or singles, count points as single or teams when game is locked, and whether to play 200, 500, points prizes, play by hand, etc.

Usually a domino match is made of several individual games, and the first player or team to reach the agreed score wins the match. The most popular is 200 points (“Doscientos”).

Another way to play, which is also increasing in popularity, is to play by hand. Which means you play a best out of 3, 5, or 7 games. Sort of like in a sports playoff series, (baseball, basketball, hockey, etc.). We like to play this way when we have big family get togethers. This speeds up the game and more people can play. This is good especially if you only have one or two sets of dominoes.

In a locked game the winner of the game will be the player or team with the fewest combined number of points. If combining points then both partners’ points are added together and compared to the combined points of the other team.

Another rule that can be applied to a locked game is that the player who locked the game compares his points with the oponent to their right. Whichever one of the two players who has the lowest count wins the game, and their team adds the points left on all four hands.


Other Optional Rules

As I said earlier, the rules should be talked about and agreed before starting the match. This will keep any confusion or misunderstandings away during game play. The worst thing that can happen is for the game to end because of a simple misunderstanding. So here are a few more rules you can implement to your domino game.

5 Doubles & 7 Doubles Rule:

This is an optional rule. Since playing with 5 or more doubles is a disadvantage. If after the initial draw any player has 5 or more doubles, they can choose to show them and immediately cancel that hand, the dominoes are then reshuffled, and a new hand is played. Nobody scores any points for a cancelled game due to this rule.

If the 5-Doubles rule is not used, then the 7 Doubles rule is used. This means that you have to have 7 doubles (which is imposible) to cancel the game and have the dominioes reshuffled.

However you can all agree to play with any amount of doubles in your hand. My dad hates to cancel a hand due to having to many doubles. He always plays the hand no matter how many doubles he has.

Playing out of turn

When a player plays out of turn, or when they plays a bone by mistake (a domino that does not match), that domino must be left face up in front of the player that made the illegal play, and must be played as soon as it is legal to do so. (i.e. if the player can play it on his next turn, he must play the face up domino regardless of what other dominoes they have in their hand that can also be played. If he can’t play the face up domino, they are free to play any other domino in their hand, but they must leave the face up domino in front, faced up until they can play it.)

That’s pretty much it here on how to play domino. This is how we play domino. It’s how my parents taught me and how I’m teaching my kids. It’s our favorite pastime, other than baseball, lol.

There are a ton of ways and rules on how to play dominoes. You don’t have to apply them all. Set a few rules in place to make the game competitive, but always remember that this is a fun game and that always comes first.

I wrote a post about Puerto Rican Domino terms. I thought it be cool to show you how some terms are used during game play and what they mean. You can read it here <==

Thanks and have a great day,

Tips and Tricks on How to Play Dominoes

If you have any tips, tricks, or advice on how to play domino, feel free to post them in the comments section down below. We would greatly appreciate any comments and feedback.