Rules for playing dominoes

Rules for playing dominoes

Posted on Oct 6th, 2022

What is the "Fives" style of dominoes?

The Play Dominoes Like a Champion book is focused on the game of “Fives,” sometimes known as “Big Six” or “Muggins.” Fives is the most common form of dominoes played competitively in the U.S. and has fans around the world. 

Fives is the dominoes style played in major tournaments, such as the World Championship Domino Tournament and the Universal Domino League.

Fives is also the style of dominos played on the most popular apps to play dominoes online, such as Domino! by Flyclops, Dominoes Gold, and GameColony.

Different types of dominoes games

Fives is meaningfully different from Carribbean dominos, Jamaican dominos, Puerto Rican dominos, and other “block” or “draw”-based dominos games played throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

With no shade to those intricate games, "Fives" dominos has the added complexity of both scoring and domino’ing, creating an almost limitless number of things to consider and think about throughout a hand. While many people think of dominoes as a simple or luck-based game, veterans of Fives know how deep it goes – a lot more like chess than Go Fish.

Below are the commonly-accepted rules for the game of Fives. Once you're comfortable with the game, check out the "Play Dominoes Like a Champion" book – the only strategy book about the game of Fives.

How to play "Fives" dominoes

Beginning the game

The game of Fives is played with a set of 28 tiles. 

At the beginning of each hand, players draw seven dominoes apiece. The remaining dominoes are pushed to the side in the “boneyard.”

The player who got rid of all their dominoes in the previous hand plays first. If it is the first hand of the game, or if no one got rid of their dominoes in the previous hand, then the person with the highest double (usually the 6-6) starts.

The player who starts may play any domino they like.

Note: This style is referred to as “Domino Down.” Another common version of the game involves rotating who goes first each hand, which is called the “Rotate the Down” style. In Rotate the Down, you determine who starts the first hand by drawing for the biggest domino. From there, the down rotates each turn.  

Playing Dominoes

Players must match the end of a domino from their hand with an open end of a domino on the board. 

Players alternate laying dominoes. Play rotates clockwise.

How to score in dominoes

To determine if a player has scored, add up the sum total of all the open ends on the domino board. If it adds up to a multiple of 5 (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, or 35), then the player who laid that domino earns that many points. If the total of the ends is not a multiple of five, then no one scores. 

Doubles are laid sideways and count as the total number of spots on the domino. For example, a 4-4 counts as 8 when it is at the end. If there is a 2 on the other open end, then the count is 10 and the player who laid the 4-4 receives 10 points.

How the spinner works in dominoes

The first double played in a given round is called the “Spinner.” Players can play off of all four ends of the spinner. Thus, each round can have a maximum of four ends. Before a spinner is introduced, the hand only has two ends. 

How the boneyard works in dominoes

If a player does not have a domino that can match with an open end of the board, they must draw from the remaining dominoes (the “boneyard”) until they get a domino they can play. If they draw all the remaining dominoes and still cannot play, they pass. A player must play if they are able to.

Domino'ing and locked boards

The player who gets rid of their dominoes first is said to “domino,” and receives the total number of points in their opponents’ hand, rounded to the nearest five. Thus, there are two ways to score in dominoes: by making the score of the board add up to a multiple of five, and by domino-ing. 

In the event that no one can play, the hand is considered “locked” or “blocked” The player with the least number of points in their hand when the board becomes locked receives the total of points in their opponent’s hand, rounded to the nearest five. Because no one domino’d, the next hand begins with the highest double (unless you are playing “rotate the down,” as described above). 

How to score in dominoes

The game continues until a player or team reaches a predetermined number of points, typically 150, 200, or 250. Serious games and serious domino players usually play to 250. Sunday school picnics and family reunions are usually games to 150 points.

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