# The Basics of Playing Dominoes

A domino is a flat, thumb-sized rectangular block of clay or wood with either blank or marked faces that bear from one to six pips (or dots). 28 such tiles form a complete set of dominoes. Several games may be played with them, using lines and angular patterns of dominoes to form structures such as walls or towers.

The word domino also refers to the act of a player making the first play in a game. Known as the “set,” the “down” or the “lead,” it is this play that starts a chain of plays that ultimately determines the winner of the game.

Various games of domino use different rules for determining who begins the game and how many tiles to draw for a hand. If a player draws more than the number of tiles he is permitted to have for his hand, these extra dominoes are known as overdraws. Overdraws are returned to the stock and reshuffled before players draw their hands again.

Once a player has his dominoes, the next thing to do is decide where to seat himself. The easiest way to do this is by lot. After the stock of dominoes has been shuffled, each player draws a tile and places it in front of him in such a way that the other players cannot see its pips. The player who draws the highest numbered domino seats himself to his left, the next player to his right and so on.

Some games use a special type of double called a spinner. Depending on the rules of the game, a spinner can be played in two ways: with the line of play, lengthwise; or across the line of play, crosswise. If a player makes a play with a spinner, the corresponding end of that domino is added to the end of the line of play and the other side is played as a new start to the next turn.

Most domino games involve a long line of dominoes being joined together and the way that this happens is often a large part of the fun of the game. Each domino is matched to another with its matching ends, and then positioned on the table so that the two dominoes touch completely on each of their four sides. The result is a long chain of dominoes that gradually takes the shape of a snake-line.

While the majority of domino games are blocking or scoring games, there are also a few solitaire and trick-taking games that may be played with a single person. These games were once popular in some parts of the world to circumvent religious prohibitions against playing cards. They use a basic structure of the game, but each player has a very unique strategy for winning.