Online Dominoes - The Complete Guide
Dominos, or "Dominoes", as it is sometimes spelled is a skill based game that has been around since as early as the 12th century. When a game has this sort of longevity and is still popular today, you know it's a great game. Dominoes is traditionally played live in person in gaming halls, parks, or people's homes between friends or competitors. Recently, technological advancements have helped to move this popular game from random tables and floors to the high-tech stage of internet gaming. This has allowed the game to experience a boom in popularity thanks to the newly found benefits that come with online play.
The Basics - Tiles and Sets
Dominoes is played with a group of rectangular pieces known as tiles. The collection of these tiles is known as a set. A common analogy of this would be a deck of playing cards. Each individual playing card is like a tile, and the entire deck of playing cards would be like the set. The tiles were originally created in 12th century China to represent the different combinations that could be rolled in a dice roll of two six-sided dice. Each tile would have two numbers on it to represent the 21 different possible combinations. For example, a tile would have two sixes on it to represent rolling two sixes.
Today, the most common dominoes set used is a 28 tile, double six set. These rectangular shaped tiles are split with a line "hamburger style" with pips (black dots) on each side representing a number. For example, here is the double six tile we are referencing.
These tiles are made out of all different types of materials including bone, ivory, woods, stones, and ceramic clays just to name a few. Online domino tiles are made out of data. Larger sets do exist to accommodate games with more players, but the 28 tile set is by far the most common you will see and is what is used in most game variations.
There are a few basic terms you should know when referring to a specific tile.
If a tile has two different numbers on it, it is referred to by both numbers in either direction. For example, this tile would be referred to as a 2-6 or a 6-2.
Tiles with the same values are referred to as doubles. For example, this tile would be referred to as a double 2.
Playing Dominoes Online
There are two main options when it comes to playing dominoes online that will give you a significantly different experience. The first is the "games" sites where it is always for play money. The second option is the gambling sites where you can play for play money or for real money. Both serve their own purpose but are completely different even though they are the exact same game. Let's talk about both briefly and the pros and cons of each.
The games sites are games that are for all ages. There is never any gambling of any sorts, but strictly games for fun. These might be like the apps you'd download on your phone or just a website that you might use to pass a few minutes of time. These sites are easily recognizable because they usually don't require you to create an account or the other games on the site are silly fun games like online putt-putt golf or something like that. The obvious benefit of sites like this is they are great if you're just looking for a little fun or to dabble in the world of dominoes. They don't cost any money (usually), and they don't take any real commitment to.
The downside to these types of sites is the same as the benefits; they don't require any real commitment to play. Most of the players you'll play against might quit in the middle of the game or might not take the game serious at all. If you're looking to have a real playing experience or to get better at the game, it's going to be tough on the internet on games sites. We will talk about this more shortly as it's the biggest benefit of the second type of online dominoes sites to play on.
Online gambling sites are the second option for playing dominoes online and are only for players 18 and older. These sites have the option to play for play money or to play for real money from small stakes to large stakes. The experience playing dominoes on online gambling sites is significantly different than with the games sites. The biggest benefit of playing on these sites is you will typically get a much more authentic playing experience. The play money players are typically practicing to be able to move up to real money games, so they take it more seriously. The real-money players are obviously going to be giving you a much more authentic opponent to play against as there is money on the line. This benefit doesn't just come with the higher buy-in games, but even the games that are $1 or $2 to play get people to play for real.
This authentic experience allows you to practice actual strategy and actually improve your game. To be honest, this is really the only fun way to play the game. Even if you aren't actually playing to make money, playing for a couple of bucks makes it where you can actually become a better dominoes player with authentic practice.
A great example of this outside of dominoes is the game of poker. If you've ever played with people in person or online for no money, they'll usually do things they wouldn't normally do in a real game. They might bluff way more or just go all-in every hand and make it where you can't really get any better or enjoy the game. But when you put even a few dollars on the line, people all of a sudden take it very seriously and play the way they normally would. Don't worry; just because we say they're playing "serious" doesn't mean the game stops being fun.
The bottom line is that you want to play a real game of dominoes. If you play on the games sites, you'll have to wade through people not taking it seriously, leaving mid game, or doing outlandish things that a real player would never do. The real money gaming fixes this, even at the lowest of stakes. And an added bonus, if you are good at the game or get good, you can move up in the buy-in stakes and actually make some money!
Finding the right site to play on can be a bigger challenge than you might think when it comes to trying to play dominoes online. There are few quality sites that offer the game, and among those, there are a lot of big differences that make some much more appealing than others. To help you out, we've gone ahead and done the research and found the best online sites for playing dominoes. We are only listing online gambling style sites because we honestly think those are the only type you should be playing on. It's the only way you will get a true gaming experience and actually be able to improve your game. These sites are the most secure, the best for the gaming experience, and have the largest player pools for you to play with. They also have some seriously nice bonuses and other perks if you decide to play for real money.
Variations of Dominoes Games
Dominoes has an endless list of ways that the game can be played. While many variations exist, most online sites offer the two most popular versions. These versions are called Block and Draw. Both variations use the modern 28 tiles double six set of dominoes that you're probably used to if you've ever played before. We aren't going to go into all of the intricacies of each game, but we will provide you the general rules to get you started with each game. If you've played before and already know the rules, you can skip this section or get right to playing!
This is the most basic form of dominoes and subsequently is also the most popular. Block games are usually played with two players but can be adapted to accommodate more players. The game starts with all 28 tiles face down, and each player selects seven tiles at random. The remaining 21 tiles are put to the side and not used for the remainder of the game.
Play begins with the first player placing any tile of their choosing face up in the middle of the playing area. The second player must then select and place one of their tiles face up and adjacent to the first player's tile. As you might have expected, you can't just put down any tile you want; that would be a pointless game. The half of your tile that is touching the half of their tile must have the same amount of pips on it. For example, if they play a 6-4, you can play any tile with 6 or 4 pips on it. You must put the 6 next to the 6 or the 4 next to the 4. The round continues this way with players alternating turns back and forth building off of the tiles that are on the playing surface.
If a player is unable to play a tile, they are forced to pass their turn to the other player. If all players are unable to play a tile, the game ends in what is called a block. Play continues until one player gets rid of all their tiles and announces "Dominoe!" At this point, the player without any tiles left scores 1 point for each pip left in their opponent's hand. For example, if I were to get rid of my last tile and you still had a 6-4 and a 2-2, I would score 6+4+2+2, or 14 points for that round. If the game ends in a Block, meaning both players still have tiles, the players both add up their score, and the player with the least amount of pips left gets the difference between both totals in points.
For example, if the game ends because neither of us can play a tile and I have a 6-6,6-2, and a 3-3 left, and you have a 5-4 and a 1-1 left, we would both total up the pips we have. I would have 6+6+6+2+3+3, or 26 pips and you would have 5+4+1+1, or 11 pips left. Because you have less, you would win and would be awarded the difference between the two totals, or 26-11, or 15 points.
A full game of Block Dominoes is either a fixed number of rounds or is played until one player reaches a certain designated score. If the game is a fixed number of rounds, after completion of the final round the player with the highest total points from all rounds added up is the winner. If the game is being played to a certain point threshold, the first player to reach that point level wins the game.
There are only a few differences if more players are playing the game. The first is that players will draw fewer tiles at the beginning of the game so as to make sure everyone is able to get the same amount of tiles. The second thing to point out is that scoring is calculated the same, except the winning player, gets points from every other player in the game. You probably assumed this already, but we wanted to point it out just to make sure.
The set up of Draw Dominoes is the same as Block with each player selecting seven tiles if there are two opponents. If there are more opponents, the number of tiles drawn is lowered as well to accommodate. In Draw Dominoes, the remaining tiles are not put away but are pushed to the side face down in what is called the Bone Yard.
Scoring and gameplay are almost identical to Block Dominoes except for one major difference. Instead of passing when you can't play a tile, you are required to draw another tile from the Bone Yard. If you still cannot play a tile, you must continue to draw. If all tiles are gone and you still cannot make a play, then you pass to the next player.
As you can imagine with a game that has been around since the 12th century, there are a lot of different ways to play. The two versions we pointed out are the most common and probably are what you will see most of the time you play anywhere. If you are interested in learning about other variations and rules twists to mix it up, here is and how they are played.
One of the greatest things about the game of dominoes is that there is quite a bit of skill involved. While we aren't going to go into every caveat of strategy, we would like to give you some strong tips to get you started in the right direction. These tips are specific to Block and Draw Dominoes. Some of the strategy tips will be very specific, and some will be general game theory but are of just as much importance. Ultimately, it will come down to good practice against opponents that are really trying to play for you to sharpen your skills and become a strong dominoes player.
Doubles are much harder to play as you can only play them on one number. A 6-6 can only be played on a 6 while another tile like a 6-4 can be played on a 6 or a 4. For this reason, you should look to get rid of these weaker tiles as quickly as possible when you have the opportunity.
Paying attention to how the game works and how it is scored should make this one pretty easy to see why it's so important. If you happen to lose the round, you are forced to add up the pips in your hand. The higher total of pips you have left, the more points your opponent will receive. Because of this, you should always look to get rid of your higher value tiles whenever you have the chance to.
What do you know when your opponent is forced to draw or pass? You know that they don't have any of the numbers showing in their hand. This can help you to start to put together what tiles you think they are holding. When you are able to figure out what they are holding, you can start playing your tiles strategically to force them to have to draw or pass their turn. For example, if your opponent passes when there are plays available on a 4,6, and a 1, you know that all of their tiles are a combination of 3s and 5s only, otherwise, they would have played. If it comes back to you and the same 4,6, and 1 are available, and you have to decide between playing a 6-1 or a 6-3, you should definitely play the 6-1 because you know your opponent isn't able to play off of that and will have to pass or draw. If you play the 6-3, they very well may have a 3 in their hand and be able to get rid of a tile. Doing this is commonly known as blocking your opponent; hence, the name of the game.
This one can be a little tougher and is a slightly lower priority than the above tips, but is important to a good, well-rounded strategy. Try and keep as many different pip numbers in your hand as possible. Don't adopt a strategy of "I'll get rid of all my 6's first." The more variety you have in your hand, the less likely you are to have to pass or draw. Try and get rid of your tiles as evenly as possible to preserve your variety. Don't do this at the sacrifice of the strategies above, but definitely do it when it is possible.