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Cuba’s Love for Dominoes: 16 Reasons Why Cubans Love To Play Dominoes

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

The domino game is hugely popular in Cuba; it’s played at parties, in backyards, and most commonly in parks, down alleys, and on the street. A single table with four players seated and onlookers who lean in to see the game of double 9 dominoes or a row of tables with players and spectators are iconic of Cuban street life.

Cubans love playing dominoes. They keep a keen eye on the table and their tiles and are drawn to the game’s social side. The entertainment value stops loneliness as players and onlookers bond. Skill and strategy fuel players’ enthusiasm and interest, and this game is played across generations.

Cuba is known for baseball, salsa music, romantic ballads, and the lively vibe of domino players along streets and alleys playing the Cuban-style 55 tiles game here. The camaraderie and excitement of wiping the floor and picking up quick wins bring Cubans back each day and draw spectators’ interest. 

These are many of the reasons why dominoes is so popular in Cuba:

1. Playing Dominoes Is A Social Event

Cubans meet in public spaces and fold out square wooden tables to play dominoes. They love the social side of dominoes that attracts players and onlookers like causal walkers-by who stop to see the domino game. They too often get invited to play. This is the time when Cubans do what they like: play, talk, drink coffee, and eat fried pork rinds. 

Rum is an institution in Cuban life but not necessarily of playing dominoes. But playing dominoes happens for hours after work and on weekends. It’s as if the game is in the blood of every Cuban; the game is like part of Cubans’ DNA. 

2. Dominoes Is A Favorite Past-Time

Playing dominoes in public spaces or at home is an essential ingredient in Cuban social makeup and is a favorite past-time. Just popping past and standing at a table with domino players is a favorite past-time too. The game involves four players that makeup two sides. The two in a team each build a rapport, and playing is fun and often the start of life-long friendships.

Cubans love to play dominoes as a pastime with kids and grandchildren. This family ritual is steeped in tradition too.  

3. Dominoes Gives A Dopamine Rush

Dopamine as a feel-good moment hooks Cuban domino players, and that’s why Cubans crave (and love) to play dominoes. The enjoyment of the game (with rules that are easy to follow) has entertainment value and is fun. The competitive nature of dominoes often takes over with raised tempers, but these, too, are settled. And then there’s that moment, of course, of shouting: domino!

The love in Cuba for playing dominoes stretches across age gaps, and young kids are interested in the game. Mostly it’s pre-teens that start to play with older generations. All age groups get pleasure from playing dominoes, and economic backgrounds and gender (previously mainly men), don’t matter. It’s a pleasant social gathering against the background of distinctly Cuban music.  

4. Dominoes Is Entertaining

The entertainment value of dominoes is marked by having a good time with friends, family, and even people you’ve just met. In Cuba, playing dominoes is a time to sit around a table while a meal is being prepared or afterward. Or the game is played on picnics or outings to the beach. 

The entertainment value includes social time with family, friends, uncles, and grandparents, and that’s why Cubans love to play dominoes. 

5. Dominoes Is A Glue For Bonding

Playing dominoes is a game with high social value and a time to collaborate in teams. The Cuban domino game is set up as two players against two opponents sitting diagonally across from each other. The bonding happens through playing the game of dominoes and being part of a two-player (or opponent) team. Even regular passers-by stop and watch Cubans play and form lasting bonds.

6. Dominoes Offers An Emotional Outlet

Cubans love the game as players talk and even discuss deeper emotions. Or get so immersed in the game of dominoes that they forget what’s bothering them. Cubans love dominoes as a relaxing social game, and social interaction is easily an escape from personal problems. Different age groups play together and gossip and joke. Respect is maintained by older players.

7. Dominoes Is A Learning Experience

A stand-out feature of playing dominoes is that the game demands skill and patience. Both these appeal to Cubans who see playing a game of dominoes as having an educational value. The rules are relatively simple and easy to learn, take discipline to do, and playing dominoes involves strategy. This is why Cubans love to play dominoes and pass this game on to younger generations.  

8. Dominoes Involves Problem Solving

Though domino rules are simple, there’s more, and often a trial-and-error approach is the first stage in learning to play. Cubans love to play dominoes as a quick challenge to learn to problem-solve. The Cuban Double Nine game with 55 pieces offers a different set of challenges than the 18 pieces Double Six one.

Cubans’ love for the game of dominoes is the decision-making aspects and determining the game’s outcome. The critical thinking components, knowing how many bones have been played and what pips belong to the opposition, are why Cubans love to play dominoes. Cubans love to play fast, take quick action and win. Some older players play in silence for hours, though. 

9. Dominoes Boosts Mathematical Thinking

Cubans love playing dominoes as it’s more than a game of chance and involves mathematical reasoning. A quick glance needs to show what the pips are on hand and on the table. Then you’ll be able to calculate the opposition team players’ positions and which bone to play to put the opponents in a losing position. 

The mathematical recognition of patterns depends on what pips on bones or fichas the opposition players’ hand holds and those on the table. Cubans love the complexity of a game that depends on the pattern of the game’s train.

10. Dominoes Offers Types Of Camaraderie

Besides predicting and problem-solving (see above), which Cubans love, they also play dominoes, as the game is filled with energy, atmosphere, and camaraderie. Cubans are friendly, and playing this game allows them to create teams and friendships. These positive outcomes of playing this game started with the Chinese centuries back and are played (in different forms) worldwide.

11. Dominoes Teaches Strategy

The strategy elements involve playing the fichas in one’s hand to block opponent players. Cubans love playing dominoes and mastering what’s known as emptying one’s hand to outsmart the opposition players. The strategies that involve reading the table can include using doubles and anticipating opponents’ moves. Playing closely with a team-mate involves strategy too.  

The strategizing tactics develop through observation and thought-out at the moment, like the truncate one, when no one has a ficha they can play. A winning moment which Cubans say, depends on the strategy. That’s why Cubans love to play dominoes.  

12. Dominoes Is Played Defensively

Cubans like to play fast and pride themselves in strategies that unnerve the opposing team. A quick win is not easy, though, as there are unexpected moves that can’t be predicted. Cubans love the mathematical side of playing dominoes. It’s about knowing what’s on the table and working out what the opponents’ have in their hands. Also, keeping track of a team player’s fichas

Taking the initiative to score early and limiting the opponent’s moves is part of playing defensively and scoring. Moves are planned ahead, and blocking the board (with all hook ends the same) is a defensive strategy. 

13. Dominoes Is Affordable And Easy To Learn

Cubans love the easy way a game of dominoes is set up anywhere. The rules are quick to learn, and the strategies come from playing and watching. The social rewards top the lists, and playing dominoes is suitable for memory skills. It’s also an affordable game; it can be said that no Cuban home is without a set or even one for each family member.

14. Dominoes Is A Game To Vent Grievances

While playing a game of dominoes, Cubans talk about everyday concerns like the country’s current social and political situation. Artists have even used these ideas and conversations to create popular culture exhibits linking Cuban’s love for playing dominoes with their feelings.

Playing dominoes is not pure escapism for Cubans, but the game allows them to vent their feelings. 

15. Dominoes Boosts Players’ Confidence

Of course, what Cubans love about dominoes is how, through playing, one can teach others about the game’s rules and be confident. Playing dominoes is about enjoyment and camaraderie, but the game hooks players when they feel their confidence grows. In Cuba, different age groups with different economic backgrounds, even genders, play together. 

16. Cubans Love To Play Dominoes As Memory Game 

Cubans love to play dominoes as a form of reward. Players want to win, and this feel-good motivation drives them to play hard and well. Beneath such reward lie strategies to remember what’s been played and always to watch opponents’ behavior. The memory aspect of playing dominoes also keeps players alert to block opponents in the hope that such moves don’t backfire. 

Looking for tell-tale moves involves memory and takes concentration.

In Closing

Cubans love to play dominoes. They regard playing dominoes as a tradition and a ritual that creates bonds between people and family members and even brings in outsiders or strangers. The game’s social aspects stand out, and in Cuba, playing dominoes has been passed down from one generation to another.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.