The Art of Dominoes


Dominoes are fun to set up in straight or curved lines, grids that form pictures, or 3D structures like towers and pyramids. These structures aren’t just playthings – they can be beautiful works of art. Dominoes are also useful in math, as students learn how to count pips and determine the total value of a group of dominoes. Many kids’ and adults’ games involve the placement of dominoes, but it can be just as much fun to create and plan intricate patterns of dominoes that will fall in a particular way when they are snapped apart.

Lily Hevesh learned to create these domino patterns at age 9, when her grandparents gave her a classic 28-pack of the little black pieces. She loved setting them up in straight or curved lines, flicking the first one, and watching the rest of them fall, domino after domino. When she got older, Hevesh started posting videos of her creations on YouTube, and her audience grew rapidly. She now spends her time creating domino setups for movies, TV shows, and events – including the album launch of pop singer Katy Perry.

A domino is a flat, thumb-sized, rectangular block with two square ends – called “ends” – that have from one to six pips (or dots). The number of pips on a single end gives a domino its rank and, in a game of positional dominoes, its value. The other end of a domino is blank or has a lower rank than the dominant end.

Once a hand begins, players draw dominoes out of a bag and place them on-edge in front of them. Each player then plays a domino in turn by positioning it against another such that the adjacent faces either match identically or produce a specified total. If a player cannot play any of his tiles, he raps the table and passes to the next player.

Most dominoes are played in chains, with each tile touching the end of the previous tile and producing its own matching end. The resulting snake-like pattern of dominoes can develop according to the whims of the players, space constraints, or limitations of the playing surface. If a tile is played to a doublet, it must be placed diagonally to the doublet so that both matching sides are touching fully.

In many of the most popular domino games, winning depends on emptying a player’s hand while blocking opponents’ play. A player who does not do so loses the game.

This strategy is often employed in business as well, as illustrated by Domino’s Pizza CEO Don Meij in a recent episode of the show Undercover Boss. As part of his attempt to analyze how his company runs, Meij visited several Domino’s locations and analyzed the way workers dealt with busy periods. Meij observed how busy periods impacted the quality of work, and concluded that Domino’s could improve by focusing more on training and scheduling. He also recommended putting Domino’s stores closer to college campuses to capitalize on the customer base.