Domino is the name of a family of game pieces, often stacked on end, that can be set up in long lines. When the first domino is tipped, it causes all others to fall over in a rhythmic pattern. This is known as the domino effect, and it can be a fun way to teach children basic math concepts. It is also a popular pastime for many adults who enjoy constructing elaborate domino structures and watching them come crashing down in the same pattern. In domino shows, builders build very complex installations of hundreds and even thousands of dominoes to demonstrate an amazing array of domino effects and reactions.

Dominoes are made in various shapes and sizes, and they can be made from different materials as well, including wood, marble, granite and soapstone. They can also be made from polymer materials such as styrofoam and plastic, or from clay and ceramic. Some people like to use metal, brass or pewter as well, especially for sets that are to be used at special occasions. Some dominoes have a smooth surface, while others have a textured finish for a more elegant look and feel.

When a set of dominoes is shuffled, each player draws the number of tiles specified by the rules for the particular game being played. The player who draws the heaviest tile, whether it is a double or a single, makes the first play. If there is a tie, it may be broken by drawing new hands or by using a rule specific to that game (see Order of Play and Heaviest Tile).

Once the players have drawn their hands, the dominoes are placed on the table in front of them, usually face down. Each player then matches his dominoes with the pips on the open ends of the other players’ tiles to form a line of play. This configuration of the dominoes is called the layout, string or line of play. Doubles and only doubles are played lengthwise; singles are played crosswise.

A player scores when his dominoes reach the end of the line of play and are no longer being used, either because he has finished his turn or because the line is blocked. If the line is blocked, no one can continue playing and the game is over.

Dominoes are sometimes set up for spectators to watch, as is the case in domino shows, where the builders compete for the most spectacular effects and reactions. It is fascinating to see a line of thousands or more dominoes, carefully set up in a sequence that will result in the one domino being tipped ever so slightly to cause all the others to topple as well. This is a great example of the domino effect, which can be seen in any action that triggers a chain reaction that results in much larger or more dramatic consequences than the original act alone. For example, a car accident that leaves someone stranded on the side of the road can lead to traffic jams and other problems that affect the lives of everyone involved.