What is Domino?

A domino is a flat rectangular piece that bears an arrangement of spots or dots, similar to those on a die, on one side and is blank or identically patterned on the other. A set of 28 such pieces forms a domino game. The word is also used as a noun, meaning any of the many games played with such pieces, ranging from simple lines and angular patterns to complex 3D structures.

Dominoes are popular toys for children, who stack them on end in long lines and flick them so that the entire line topples over. In fact, such a chain reaction is called the “domino effect.” It’s also a popular metaphor for how an initial small action can cause much larger consequences, even disasters.

The first domino to fall starts a series of events that can be as dramatic and unpredictable as a landslide or an earthquake. This is why the term domino has come to be used to describe anything that triggers a chain reaction with far-reaching, often unanticipated, results.

When playing domino, each player draws the number of tiles specified in the rules for the particular game being played. The resulting set of tiles should be placed face down before the players and kept out of sight. Each player then takes turns playing a tile onto the dominoes in his hand. The player who plays a tile that matches the pips on the open end of the existing dominoes is known as the setter, downer or lead.

A player’s turn ends when he plays a matching tile onto the dominoes in his hands or when the existing dominoes are used up. The player then passes his turn to the next player, as instructed in the game’s rules. If a player holds a double, the rules usually call for him to play it first.

Once a domino is toppled, it loses its potential energy and converts to kinetic energy, the energy of motion. This causes the remaining dominoes in the line to tip over and continue the sequence. This is the essence of a domino effect, which can also be applied to complex, sometimes chaotic systems, such as financial markets or political systems.

The earliest dominoes were functionally identical to playing cards, and the game developed in China sometime in the 12th or 13th century. By the 16th century, a domino set consisting of 28 tiles was common in Europe. Over time, different sets were developed with progressively larger numbers of pips on each end, so that a single domino could cover a wider array of combinations.

The basic rules of most domino games are generally the same across the board, though some variations exist. For example, in some games, a hand of tiles is not drawn and a domino is played by its heaviest double, while in other games, the winner of the last game may open play. In addition, the heaviest double in a hand may be a triple instead of a double.