This description is based on interviews by Ms. Kelley of Cubans in Chicago, Houston and Miami areas. However, DOMINOES AROUND THE WORLD by Mary D. Lankford gives a completely different set of rules; she gives credit for them to in her acknowledgments to "Miami Public Library, ...Hispanic Library, Miami, Florida, and ... Los Angeles, California, for Cuban Dominoes..."
The game uses a double nine domino set. The game is played by four people, in two partnerships.
Each player draws ten tiles. The remaining 15 tiles are not used during the round.
The player holding the highest double makes the first play of the first hand. If nobody holds a double, players turn in their hands and it is redealt. This is very unlikely, since there are ten doubles in the set and forty tiles in play.
In subsequent games, the winner of the previous hand makes the first play and may play any tile. After the first domino has been played, play continues to the right (counter-clockwise), as in most South American card games.
The play continues as in the block game, each player adding a tile that matches one of the two open ends or passing.
Count the number of pips on the tiles left in each hand. The lowest number is the winner.
Comments & Strategy
There is a fair amount of slang in Latin American games. "Napoleon" is the word that is used to describe the situation where the two exposed ends on the line of play are a 1 and a 9. The [9-9] tile is called "caja de muerto", meaning "box for the dead" or "coffin", though the Spanish word ataúd (coffin) is not used. This contrasts with the practice in Puerto Rico of calling the [0-0] by that name.
You can find tournaments and weekly games at assorted Cuban centers in major cities. The Cuban Chamber of Commerce in Chicago has held domino tournaments. Casa Cuba of Houston has held an annual Cuban Festival in May, with a domino tournament. The Atlanta Cuban Club has regualr bingo and domino games.
Scott Pitzer, President of Puremco Inc., which boasts of being America's only domino company, is extremely interested in Cuban Dominoes and its players as an upcoming market for his more expensive dominoes which have designs printed on them. Pitzer said laughingly, "An Hispanic game of dominoes is serious and emotional, with a lot of 'slamming' down of the dominoes, which often results in breakage. Consequently, our company gets many requests for replacement pieces. 'Domino Cubano' must truly be a game of 'gusto mucho!'"