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Dominoes: A Game of Luck or Skill & Strategy? – 15 Things to Consider

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

Dominoes were invented in China in the 12th century. But it wasn’t until the 18th century that modern dominoes became popular in Europe and spread worldwide. Dominoes is a highly competitive game and is even played in tournaments. If you’ve ever played dominoes and tested a few strategies, you’re probably also wondering if dominoes is a game of luck, skill, or both.

Dominoes is a game that requires skill and strategy and hardly ever comes down to luck. To win in dominoes, you must incorporate mathematics and probability. Of course, there is always beginner’s luck, and a player may be lucky when playing dominoes, but winning a game is mainly based on strategy. 

There can be a lot of controversy around dominoes being a game of luck or a game of skill. Some people believe dominoes is purely based on strategy and skillful gameplay, while others consider it a game based on luck. Before you decide whether it’s a game of skill or luck, there are a few things you should know.

These are 15 things you should know about dominoes being a game of skill and strategy or luck:

1. The Chances Of Winning By Luck Are Slim

When playing regular dominoes, the odds of winning the game based on luck are low and are entirely based on the tiles randomly chosen at the beginning of the game. Once the dominoes tiles are drawn, the rest is up to the player to use strategy and skillful gameplay to win the game. At times the most skillful dominoes players can lose a game due to drawing bad tiles.

2. Play Your Double Tiles First 

One of the key strategies for dominating a game of dominoes is to play your doubles early. Double tiles are dominoes with the same suit of values on both sides, and although they look like they give you an advantage, they can leave you stuck without tiles to play.

As the game progresses, you’ll notice that there are fewer opportunities to play doubles. This is because playing your doubles first gives you a better chance of winning the game.

3. Keep Different Value Dominoes On Hand

Keeping many different valued domino tiles on hand is another skill you can use in a dominoes game. With various suits, you have more tiles you can play with, and you avoid passing a turn. This strategy gives you a competitive advantage over your opponent, especially if they aren’t playing strategically.

4. Put The Biggest Value Dominoes Tiles Down First 

When beginning a dominoes game, it is impossible to determine who the winner will be. Use your heaviest tiles first to give yourself a slight advantage over your competitor. This skillful gameplay will ensure you won’t have the highest score if a round is blocked. Even if you draw a bad hand of tiles and get rid of the heaviest tiles, you may have a very good chance of winning.

5. Analyze Your Opponent’s Weaknesses 

To win at dominoes, you must study your opponent and know what tiles make up a set of dominoes. Be on the lookout for missing suit values when they are forced to pass on a play. Also, pay attention to when they need to draw from the pile of tiles. This will make it easier for you to block them as the game progresses.

Analyzing your opponent’s gameplay is key to helping you win the game.

6. Be Strategic With Blank Tiles

Blank tiles are like wild cards and can be a saving grace when you have no other tiles to play. No matter which tile is played, you can use a blank tile against that tile. Blank tiles can be used at the beginning or the end of the game, depending on your hand.

7. Scoring Early Increases Your Odds Of Winning

Like many other games, the goal of dominoes is to win. For instance, in certain variations of Muggins, the first player that scores 100 points is the winner. Scoring early in dominoes increases your odds of winning, and when playing a game of dominoes, it’s good to aim for as many points as possible and as quickly as possible.

8. To Master Dominoes, You Need Mathematics

Incorporating mathematics is a great strategy to use when trying to win a game of dominoes. There are many different domino sets. For example, in a double six dominoes set, there are 28 tiles; of these, 7 are doubles, and 21 are singles (including blank tiles). Knowing these figures allows you to estimate the likelihood of drawing a single or double tile and even work out part of your opponent’s hand.

Calculating these types of odds can help you have an advantage over your opponent when playing a game of dominoes. 

9. Play The Same Numbered Tiles Repeatedly

Once you play a specific numbered tile, a good strategy is to play the same number repeatedly. This forces your opponent to use up all their tiles of that same number as well. This strategy works exceptionally well when playing any dominoes game.

10. Dominoes Requires Keeping Your Options Open

Keeping your options open is an excellent strategy when winning a dominoes game. Sometimes this can be passing a turn, especially if your opponents have a bad hand. Knowing when to pass and when to play is a skillful move that can give you a winning advantage.

11. Focus On The Board Count

It is easy to start scoring quickly in dominoes. This is why keeping track of the board count is so important, especially if you are behind in scoring points. By analyzing the tiles on the board, you can either increase or decrease the board count and make it more challenging for your opponents to score more points and slow them down so you can win the game.

12. Blocking Can Help You Get Ahead

When there are fewer chances to score points in a game of dominoes, you can use as many blocking strategies as possible closer to the end of the game. Keeping your opponent from scoring points is just as important as other strategic gameplays.

13. There Are Many Different Ways To Play Dominoes

There are so many ways to play dominoes, and it’s almost impossible to be lucky enough to win every dominoes game. Each dominoes game requires a strategy to win the game. Dominoes can also be played by many different players, and this can also influence your strategy for winning the game.

14. Practice Makes Perfect In Dominoes

To become an excellent dominoes player, you need to keep practicing. Winning a game of dominoes depends on skill, strategy, and mathematics. The only way to get better at winning is by playing and using different strategies in each game to figure out which ones work for you.

15. In Dominoes, There’s Always A Chance Of A Bad Hand

Dominoes tiles are chosen randomly, and sometimes you get a bad hand. Having a bad hand of dominoes tiles can impact your odds of winning. There are strategies like blocking and raising and lowering the board count, which can help you have an advantage over your opponent, but with a terrible hand of tiles, your chances of winning can remain low.

All In All

It’s clear that dominoes is primarily a game of skill, and winning a game of dominoes is hardly ever due to luck. You may get lucky when playing a game of dominoes, but players who use strategic gameplay definitely have an advantage over those who play without a winning strategy.

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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.