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Old 05-30-2003, 12:10 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Sacramento
Posts: 117
Is there any strategy to dominoes?

I just learned how to play recently, and I can't win! I've played my roommate about 9 times now, and lost every game. At first I thought the game was pretty much all luck, but after losing 9 times in a row I figure she must be using some kind of strategy. But, she swears that she is'nt.

Can you play defense?

It seems pretty hard to set yourself up for your next turn. Since, the other player will just screw things up.

What don't I know?

Also, I know I'm not just being stupid and overlooking points.
I'm pretty good at math, I feel I should be winning.
Old 05-30-2003, 01:22 PM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Bay Area, CA
Posts: 544
There is strategy.

I'm no expert, but here are some pointers:

Obviously, if you have only one choice of what to play, there is no skill.

If you do have a choice, you should consider the following:
1. How many points can you get with your next play.
2. How many points could your opponent get if they had the right tile, after you make your play, and subsequently, do you have a tile that would get you even more points.
3. How will your play effect your chances of using all your tiles first.

For 2:
There are certain tiles that naturally lead to point exchanges, like the 0/5, the 5/5, and the 0/0. If your opponent scores points, then you play one of these tiles, you score at least as many points. You may want to hold back on the 0/5 until you are sure your opponent doesn't have the 5/5, etc.

There are other tiles that are good for this sort of thing too, (like the 6/1). There are also a lot of nice plays involving double tiles. Like 4/6, 4/4, 6/6 gets you 20 points. In other words, there is a structure to who gets points imposed by the values on the tiles, and this structure suggests which tile you should play next if you have a choice.

For 3:

There are a few things going on here.

First, if you play your double tiles first, generally you have a better chance of being able to play later, just because you have a wider variety of numbers.

Second, you can maintain control by playing your tiles right. Suppose you have a lot of 4s, including the 4/4. Then you should play the 4/4 if you get the chance. Now, whenever your opponent plays some tile, say 3/6, you play your corresponding 4 tile so that you give them a 4. Eventually your opponent will run out of 4s, and you will still have some. Soon most of the available plays will be 4. This is good, because if you still have 4s, it gives you another way to play that your opponent doesn't have. With the 4/4 and another /4 end in play, that is two ways to play your 4, plus the other end. This means that if you have any 4s left, you have at least 2 ways to play, maybe 3. Each of these ways to play has a chance of getting you points. At the same time, if your opponent has no 4s, then they have either 0 or 1 way to play. You can see how this is a serious advantage.

Correspondingly, if you have very few 4s, but you have the 4/4, then you may want to hold off playing it until another double has been played.

So in short, there is a lot of luck, but there is also a lot of skill. Very good players will figure out what their opponent has by what they play, and use that to make their choices.

Of course, there are some games where you have no choice the whole game and it is just luck. That is why you play to a high number of points, or play multiple games.
Old 05-30-2003, 01:38 PM
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Saint Paul
Posts: 26,231
Yep. Don't make any sudden moves while you're lining them up or they'll fall over prematurely, spoiling all your work.
Old 05-30-2003, 04:50 PM
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: lO-'kA-sh&n
Posts: 2,967
Most of the strategy in my game comes from the technique used in holding 7+ dominoes.
Old 05-30-2003, 05:34 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: California
Posts: 8,083
There is no strategy. None whatsoever. The fact that my mother-in-law kicks my ass at this game every time we play is a complete and utter coincidence, and the odds are gonna turn against her any time now

Ditto for my wife and her rummy. And her grandmother and her goddamned canasta. They're in for it, every last one of them.
Old 05-30-2003, 05:56 PM
Registered User
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Garden Spot of the South
Posts: 9,135
To add to jawdirk's advice:

1. If you are having trouble making plays and are holding "big" tiles (double six, six & five, etc.) go ahead and play them. They will only hurt you if you have to turn them over for the other player to gain points on if he wins.

2. Be on the alert for odd combinations to make points. Remember your spinner. I've won many games by remembering the spinner when others made points on the ends.

3. Block your opponents. This works well under the 4-player scenario. As jawdirk said, you can generally figure out the others' tiles and play yours to their disadvantage.

4. Only play with kids. j/k
Old 05-31-2003, 12:41 AM
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Texas
Posts: 6,402
Besides the 0/0, 5/0, and 5/5 that jawdirk said, other "repeater" dominoes to hold waiting for a scoring opportunity are the 1/6, and to a lesser degree, the 1/2, 2/4, 3/6, 4/3, and 6/2. These last five are for playing on a double 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, respectively, to allow you to score after your opponent has done so. When you score, it's harder for your opponent to score without one of those, or a spinner-0 or spinner-5, so you are somewhat in control. Then when your opponent doesn't score, it's easier for you to score next time.
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