# The Basics of Dominos

Dominoes are plastic or wood-based game pieces that feature spots (also known as pips) on either one or both sides. They are typically twice as long as they are wide. Depending on the type of domino, the pips are painted or inlaid. Some sets use a combination of materials, including bone, silver lip oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory or dark hardwoods such as ebony. The pips are often arranged in a circle, but they may be placed in other patterns such as diagonal or zigzag. A domino is normally played on the edge of a table, though sometimes on a flat surface such as a floor or a board.

Dominos are a popular activity for people of all ages and can be used to teach children basic counting skills. Educators and occupational therapists have also found ways to utilize the game in therapeutic settings. One common application involves matching pictures on dominoes with letters or numbers to help students with receptive and expressive language disorders. Another therapeutic use for domino is to have students name the pictures on their dominoes as they play to strengthen memory and recognition.

A domino game is normally won by the player who reaches a point at which he or she can no longer advance the line of play without knocking over other dominoes. Occasionally, a game may end in a draw; in this case, the winner is determined by the number of pips on remaining tiles held by each player.

In many domino games, the rules specify that the first player to make a play must have a double tile in his or her hand. This tile must be a match for the open end of the preceding domino, meaning that it must have a number or the matching letter and color. Other game rules allow a player to play a single tile instead of a double.

The value of a domino is determined by the number of pips it has. The values range from six pips up to none or blank, making the maximum possible number of unique ends in a standard set of double-six dominoes 55. Some larger sets, however, have “extended” ends with more pips.

While the game is traditionally played with a set of 91 tiles, there are many variations that require fewer or more than this number. Increasing the size of a domino set increases the complexity of the games that can be played, and allows for larger, more dramatic displays. Some players even build “domino art,” which can include curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall and 3D structures such as towers and pyramids.

The simplest domino setup requires 28 tiles, which are shuffled and placed in a pile or stack face down on the table to form the stock, or boneyard. Each player then draws seven dominoes from the stock and places them in front of him. The player with the heaviest tile begins play. If a tie exists, the heaviest tile is determined by the number of pips in its matching side.