Getting Started with Dominoes

Dominoes, a game that has been cherished for generations, offers a perfect blend of strategy and entertainment. If you’re new to the world of dominoes, getting started is a breeze once you understand the essential steps involved in setting up and preparing for play. In this guide, we will detail the initial steps, from shuffling the tiles to dealing them out, to help you embark on your dominoes journey with confidence and enthusiasm.

Gathering Your Dominoes

Before you can dive into the excitement of a domino game, you’ll need a set of dominoes. These sets come in various materials, such as plastic, wood, and bone. You can find them in local toy stores, game shops, or even order them online. A standard set comprises 28 tiles, and this is the most common choice for beginners.

Setting the Stage

Once you have your domino set, it’s time to set the stage for your game. Follow these steps:

  1. Choose a Playing Surface: You’ll need a flat and stable surface to place the domino tiles. A table is ideal, but any surface that allows tiles to be laid out neatly will suffice.
  2. Gather Your Friends: Dominoes are often best enjoyed with friends. You can play with two to four players, and the more, the merrier. If you’re playing with others, make sure everyone is comfortable and ready to engage in some friendly competition.
  3. Shuffle the Tiles: Before you start playing, it’s crucial to shuffle the tiles to ensure that they are thoroughly mixed. This prevents any particular pattern or order in the tile arrangement. Be sure to place all the tiles face down.

Drawing Tiles

The number of tiles each player draws at the beginning of the game depends on how many players are participating. In a standard game with four players, each player should draw seven tiles. For three players, nine tiles are drawn by each player, and for two players, each draws 12 tiles.

Tiles with No Players

After the tiles are drawn, there may be some left over. If you’re playing with fewer than four players, these extra tiles are not used during that round. They remain face down and are not revealed until the next round.

Getting to Know Your Tiles

Before you start playing, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the tiles. In a standard set of dominoes, each tile is rectangular with two squares. Each square can have zero to six dots, or pips, which represent numbers. The goal is to match the pips on your tiles with those on other tiles, creating connections and building chains.

Determining the First Play

Once the tiles are drawn, it’s time to determine who will make the first play. This is usually done by each player selecting a tile from their hand and displaying it to the others. The player with the highest double tile (e.g., the highest number on both ends) typically goes first. If no one has a double tile, then the player with the highest overall tile goes first. For example, a tile with a 6 on one end and a 2 on the other is considered higher than a tile with a 3 on one end and a 1 on the other.

The First Move

The player who goes first now makes their move by playing their chosen tile on the table. This tile serves as the “starting tile” for the game. In some game variations, a specific tile, known as the “spinner,” may be used as the starting tile. The spinner can often be played in multiple directions, creating branching chains of tiles.

Subsequent Turns

After the first play, the game proceeds in a clockwise direction. Each player, in turn, plays a tile that matches one of the open ends of the tiles on the table. For example, if there’s a tile with a 3 on one end and a 5 on the other, the next player can play a tile with a 3 or a 5 on one of its ends to connect it to the previous tile. This process continues, with players taking turns to make their plays.

Drawing Tiles

What if you don’t have a tile that matches the open ends on the table? In this case, you’ll need to draw a tile from the “boneyard.” The boneyard is a pile of unused tiles, typically placed face down. When you draw a tile from the boneyard, you may have a playable tile that you can immediately play. However, if the drawn tile is not playable, your turn is over, and you must wait for your next one.

Ending a Round

The round continues until one player successfully plays all their tiles. This player is the winner of that round. Alternatively, a round can end when no player can make a move because no tiles in their hands match the open ends on the table.


The scoring in dominoes can vary depending on the game variation you are playing. In some games, like “Block,” players count the pips left in their hands when someone goes out, and those pips are added to the scores. In other variations like “Muggins,” opponents can claim points you missed during gameplay if they notice your scoring errors.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

As you embark on your dominoes journey, it’s important to be aware of some common mistakes. One of the most common errors is failing to notice available plays or not recognizing when a player goes out. To avoid these mistakes, it’s crucial to pay attention to the board and your opponents’ moves, and practice will help sharpen your skills.


Starting a game of dominoes is not only simple but also the beginning of an exciting journey. Whether you’re playing with friends, family, or fellow enthusiasts, the setup and preparation are essential steps that lay the foundation for an enjoyable experience. As you continue to play and gain experience, you’ll become more confident in your moves, develop your strategies, and, most importantly, have endless hours of fun. So, gather your friends, shuffle those tiles, and start your domino adventure today. Happy playing!

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