DOMINOES, a game unknown until the 18th century, and probably invented in Italy, played with twenty-eight oblong pieces, or dominoes, known also as cards or stones, having ivory faces backed with ebony; from this ebony backing, as resembling the cloak (usually black) called a domino (see Mask), the name is said to be derived. Cardboard dominoes to be held in the hand are also in use. The face of each card is divided into two squares by a black line, and in each square half the value of the card is indicated by its being either a blank or marked with one or more black pips, generally up to six, but some sets run as high as double-nine. There are various ways of playing dominoes described below.
The Block and Draw Games. - The dominoes are shuffled face downwards on the table. The lead is usually decided by drawing for the highest card, but it is sometimes held that any doublet takes precedence. The cards are then reshuffled, and each player draws at random the number of cards required for the particular form of the game, usually seven. The cards left behind are called the stock. To play a card is known technically as to pose. The leader poses first, generally playing his highest domino, since at the end the player loses according to the number of pips in the cards he has left in his hand. By some rules, a player after playing a double may play another card which matches it: e.g. if he plays double-six he may play another card which has a six at one end. The second player has to match the leader's pose by putting one of his cards in juxtaposition at one end, i.e. if the leader plays four-five, the second player has to play a card which contains either a four or a five, the five being applied to the five, or the four to the four. Doublets are placed à cheval (crosswise). If a player cannot match, he says "go," and his opponent plays, unless the Draw game - the usual game - is being played, in which case the player who cannot match draws from the stock (two cards must always be left in the stock) till he takes a card that matches. If a player succeeds in posing all his cards, he calls "Domino!" and wins the hand, scoring as many points as there are pips on the cards still held by his opponent. If neither player can match, that player wins who has the fewest pips left in his hand, and he scores as many points as are left in the two hands combined (sometimes only the excess held by his opponent); but when a player has called "Go!" his adversary must match if he can, in which case the other player may be able to match in turn. A game is generally 100 points.
All Fives (or Muggins). - Each player takes five cards. If the leader poses either double-five, six-four, five-blank, or three-two, he scores the number of pips that are on the card. If in the course of play a player can play such a card as makes the sum of the end pips, 5, 10, 15 or 20, he scores that number; e.g. if to two-four he can play double-four (à cheval) he scores 10; if to six-one he plays six-four he scores 5. He must pose if he can match; if he cannot, he draws till he can. Scores are called and taken immediately. At the point of domino, the winner scores in points the multiple of five which is nearest to the number of pips in his adversary's hand: e.g. he scores 25 if his adversary has 27 pips, 30 if he has 28. If neither hand can match, the lowest number of pips wins, and the score is taken as before, without addition or subtraction, according to the adversary's pips.
All Threes is played in the same manner as Muggins, save that three or some multiple of three are aimed at.
Threes-and-Fives is similar, but only one point is scored for each five or three made at the two ends, though they can be scored in combination. Thus A plays six-five; B six-one; B scores 2 points for 5-1 (two threes). A plays one-five; B double five; B now scores 8 more, 5 for five threes and 3 for three fives.
Domino-Whist is played by four players. Partners are drawn for as at Whist, the player drawing the highest card leading. Each player takes seven cards. There are no tricks, trumps or honours. The cards are played as in ordinary dominoes, a hand being finished when one of the players plays his last card, or when both ends are blocked. Pips are then counted, and the holder or holders of the highest number score to their debit the aggregate number of points. The side that is first debited with 100 points loses the game. Strength in a suit is indicated by the lead; i.e. a lead of double-blank or double-six implies strength in blanks or sixes respectively.
Matador (from the Spanish word meaning "killer," i.e. of the bull in a bull-fight). This is a favourite and perhaps the most scientific form of the game. It is played on a different principle from the preceding variations, the object being not to match the end number, but to pose such a number, as, added to the end, will make seven; e.g. to a five a two must be played, to a three a four, etc. Seven dominoes are drawn and the highest double begins. When a player cannot make a seven on either end he must draw from the stock until he secures a card that will enable him to make seven, two cards remaining in the stock. As Matador is played with dominoes no higher than six, a blank means the blocking of that end. In this case no further play can take place at that end excepting by posing a matador, which may be played at any time. There are four matadors, the 6-1, 5-2, 4-3 and double-blank. It is often better to draw one or more fresh cards than to play one's last matador, as it may save the game at a critical juncture. In posing a double counts as a single number only, but in scoring the full number of pips is counted. When the game has been definitely blocked the player whose pips aggregate the lower number scores the number of the combined hands (sometimes only the excess in his opponent's hand), the game being usually 100. Matador can be played by three persons, in which case the two having the lowest scores usually combine against the threatening winner; and also by four, either each for himself or two on a side.
Other varieties of the game not often played are the Bergen game, Sevastopol and Domino Loo.
See Card and Table Games by Hoffmann (London, G. Routledge & Sons).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)