How to Play the Game of Jamaican Dominoes
I play dominoes for fun and you will too once you get the knack of it. Go out and buy a pack of Double Six, or order online right here on this page, and get ready for family and friends to turn off the TV and the laptop, and have some good ole West Indian time. Evidently there are many variants of the domino globally but right now let me share with you the version played in Jamaica.
What is the game all about?
Are you new to the game? The word Dominoes (or dominos) generally refers to the collective gaming pieces making up a domino set or pack. Wikipedia says “Each domino is a rectangular tile with a line dividing its face into two square ends. Each end is marked with a number of spots or is blank. The backs of the dominoes in a set are indistinguishable, either blank or having some common design.”
You would imagine that the backs of the dominoes are indistinguishable because you don’t want other players to know your cards. A domino set is usually white and consists of 28 tiles and are usually constructed from synthetic materials designed to look and feel like ivory. If you calculate all the possible combinations from zero to six you will end up with 28 pieces including blanks.
The game is played by matching the numbers end to end and the purpose of the game is to empty your hand first. You try to block opponents’ cards throughout the game. Should the game end in a block with no one able to play then the player with the lowest count wins the game.
There are two variants of Jamaican dominoes. Firstly there is cut-throat where from two to four players may participate in a game.
The second type, which I prefer, is called partner. This is where four players are seated round a table. The player opposite you is your partner but you may not communicate about the cards in your hand. You can talk and joke, and half the time is spent poking fun at your opponents, but it is taboo to reveal your card or try to give hints. Here is how you play Jamaican dominoes partner-style:
1. Place all 28 dominoes face down on a clean table and shuffle them.
2. Each player draws 7 cards.
3. The player with the highest double will play first but only for the very first play in a set. The first team that scores 6 games wins. So for every fresh round of 6 the first play or ‘pose’ is double six. If something goes wrong and a game has to be played over the double six is posed.
4. The game is played counter-clockwise so the player to the right will then play a matching card or pass.
5. The winner is the player who plays out all his cards first. In the case of a blocked game the winner is the player with the lowest count. Because of this there is a logical tendency to play sixes, fives, fours, threes, etc in that order but not as a hard and fast rule. And players like to get rid of high counting cards as early as possible unless of course they drew a ‘school’ of them and hold them to have strength in the game later.
Many Jamaican ladies play this game but there was a time when it was seen as a rum bar macho thing with shouting, cursing, drinking, and gambling.
A couple decades ago many self-respecting churchgoers would not be caught dead playing dominoes but times have changed and it is now a family pastime and a regular fixture at church socials.