Partnership Dominoes

Introduction

This four player game in which all the tiles are dealt is perhaps the most straightforward form of dominoes and also one of the more skilful. It is especially popular in Spain and Latin America, and versions of it are also found in some other places.

Players and Equipment

There are four players in fixed partnerships. Partners sit facing each other. A double six set of 28 tiles is used. Play is normally counter-clockwise.

Deal

All the tiles are dealt to the four players - seven tiles each.

Play

In the first deal of a new session, the player with the [6-6] begins and must lead this tile. In subsequent deals, the turn to start passes to the right, and the player may start with any tile they choose.

Each player in turn adds a tile to the layout. Played dominoes form a single line, touching end to end (except for doubles, which are conventionally played at right angles to the line), with the touching ends having the same number. Players must play a tile at their turn if they legally can. If unable to play, the player must pass: this is usually done by knocking the table with one of one's tiles. The play ends when one player plays his last tile or when all four players pass in succession.

The deal is won by the team of the first player who plays all his tiles. A blocked game (one that ends in four passes with the players still holding at least one tile each) is won by the team whose unplayed tiles have the lower pip total. In case of a tie for pip count, the team that played the last tile loses.

Scoring

The winners score the pip total of the losing team's unplayed tiles (ignoring the value of their own tiles). If the teams have equal pip totals in a blocked game there is no score for that deal. The first team that achieves a cumulative score of 100 points or more wins the match.

If the same players wish to play another match, the first deal of the new match is started by the player to the right of the one who started the first deal of the previous match, and this player may lead any tile.

Variations

Some play that the winning team scores the total pips on all unplayed tiles, including those of the partner of the player who went out. In a blocked game the winners then score the total pips on the dominoes held by all four players.

Some play that in the second and subsequent deals, play is started by a member of the team that won the previous deal. The members of the team can decide between them which of them will start. The first player can begin with any tile.

Some play that every deal must be started with a double, unless neither member of the team that is due to start has a double. Some play that every deal is started by the holder of the double six, who must begin with this tile.

Some play that a player who has five or more doubles can show them before play begins and ask for a new deal. All players then return their tiles and the shuffle and deal are repeated. Some players allow a redeal to be demanded with only four doubles; most do not allow any redeals.

There are various rules when the scores are equal in a blocked game. Some play that the side that played first wins; some play that the side (if any) with more unplayed tiles wins (their average number of pips per tile is lower). Some do not count the score and repeat the shuffle and deal.

Some play that in a blocked game both teams score their unplayed tiles. In this version both teams can reach 100 or more points as a result of a blocked game; the winner is then the team with fewer points in total. If the points are tied, another deal is played.

Some players divide all scores by 10, rounding down, but with scores less than 10 counting as 1 point. So for example 39 points are scored as 3 and all scores from 1 to 19 count as 1.

Jamaican Partner Dominoes and the Puerto Rican game Chiva (shutout) are described on the Jamaican and Caribbean Dominoes page.

In Sudan, according to the Great Lakes Folk Festival site, the winners score the total of all unplayed tiles and the target score to win the game is 51. There is a variation in which the double blank counts 50 points instead of zero, and the target score is then 101.

Doscientos

Jose Carillo's page describes a number of versions of this game played in Puerto Rico. In these games the winners of each game score the total of all unplayed tiles, and it is the winner of each game who starts the next. Sometimes the game is played to 100 points but it is more popular to play to 200 points - this game is called Doscientos (200). There are several variations in the case of blocked games. Normally a blocked game is won by the team with fewer points, and the member of that team with fewer points starts next. In case of a draw, either there is no score and in the next game the holder of the [6-6] starts, or the team that played first wins and the member of that team with fewer points starts next, or the team that played last wins and the player who blocked the game starts next. Some play that in any blocked game, even if it is not a draw, the winner is either the person who played last or the player to his right, whoever has fewer points. In all cases the winning team scores the total points of all four players.

Some players draw tiles for the right to start the first game of a match, the player who drew the highest scoring tile starting. In this case the starting player need not begin with the [6-6]. Some play that (if agreed in advance) in any deal, the starting player may pass the right to start to his or her partner, who may begin with any tile. Some play that a blocked game is won by either the last to play a tile or the player to his right

Some play that a player holding 5 or more doubles can show them and cancel the game. The tiles are shuffled and redealt.

Some award a bonus of 20 points to the team of the first player in a match who plays a tile that causes the next player to pass. On each subsequent occasion when a tile is played that causes the following player to pass, the team that played the tile scores 10 points. Note that if there are two passes in succession, it is only the first of them that scores, but if there are three passes, as in a blocked game, the player of the last tile scores 20 points, 10 for each opponent who passed. In this version it is usual to keep score with poker chips, and to round all scores down to a multiple of 10 points.

Quinientos

In the variation Quinientos (500), played to 500 points, there is a bonus of 100 points for the winners of the first game of a match, 75 for the second, 50 for the third, 25 for the fourth, and no bonus for subsequent games. If any of the first four games is blocked, the corresponding bonus is not scored.

  • If the winner's last tile is not a double and can be played on either end of the line, there is a bonus of 100 points for "capicú".
  • Winning with a double that could be played on either end of the line is known as "dominao" if the winning double is not the double blank. This does not score any bonus points.
  • When the a player holding the double blank (chucha) and no other tile wins by playing the chucha, there is a 100-point bonus for "chuchazo" irrespective of whether both ends or just one end of the line shows a blank.

Note: winning a trancado (blocked game) never earns a bonus, even if the final tile played (the tranque) is the chucha, or if the tranque could have been played on either end of the line.

Variation: some play that 100 points for chuchazo are scored only when there is a blank at just one end of the line, and the other end of the line is not blank. If both ends are blank winning with the chucha is just a dominao and no bonus is scored.

South American Dominoes

Joe Celko reports the following variation of the partnership dominoes, played in South America:

  • The first team to win 10 rounds wins the game, but only if the other team has won at least 5 rounds; otherwise the game is tied.
  • If one player is dealt five or more doubles, the tiles are thrown in and the hand is re-dealt. An older variation was to re-deal when a player held all seven doubles, a very rare event indeed.

Milo

In Africa and parts of Indonesia, the game goes by the name Milo and points are scored differently. The winning partnership gets one point for domino. If the game is blocked, the partnership with the smallest total of pips on their tiles gets one point for the round. If the tile that made domino causes both ends of the train to end in the same suit, then the partnership scores two points. This is called a Milo and can be announced the same way that "Domino" is called. A game is five points.

Comments & Strategy

For details as to how to play the four handed game, we recommend COMPETITIVE DOMINOES by Miguel Lugo (Sterling Publishing Co.; ISBN 0-8069-1793-8).

The best play is to set your strongest suit, preferably with a double, so that you will have more options for further plays when it is your turn again. This also tells your partner what your strong suit is so he can play to it.

The better control you have of a suit, the more you should try to leave that suit on the ends of the train.

In a partnership game, you can assume that your partner's lead is his strongest suit and play to it.

This game is not as easy as you might think. Here is an example taken from INTERNATIONAL DOMINOS by John Anderson and Jose Varuzza (Avid Press; ISBN 0-9624571-0-8; 1981). The rules they give deal all the tiles to four players in partnerships

Player A:
[0-5] [1-3] [1-4] [2-2] [3-4] [4-4] [5-6]
Player B:
[0-0] [0-1] [0-6] [1-1] [1-6] [2-3] [2-6]
Player C:
[0-2] [2-4] [2-5] [3-3] [3-6] [4-5] [4-6]
Player D:
[0-3] [0-4] [1-2] [1-5] [3-5] [5-5] [6-6]
RoundPlayer APlayer BPlayer CPlayer D

1----[1-1]pass[1-5]
2[1-4]pass[4-5][0-4]
3[0-5]pass[2-5][1-2]
4[4-4][0-1][0-2]pass
5[2-2][2-6] [3-6]*[0-3]
6[3-4][2-3][2-4]pass
7[5-6][0-6]pass[5-5]
8pass[1-6]

Here are the same hands played differently. Now Players A and C lost by 10 points when player B dominoed. The critical move (*) was playing [3-6] instead of [4-6].

RoundPlayer APlayer BPlayer CPlayer D

1----[1-1]pass[1-5]
2[1-4]pass[4-5][0-4]
3[0-5]pass[2-5][1-2]
4[4-4][0-1][0-2]pass
5[2-2][2-6][4-6]pass
6[3-4][2-3][2-4]Blocked

Partners A and C made 46 points. This partnership had strength in the fours suit and needed to play to it.

Other Web Pages

Rules of the version played in Puerto Rico, together with the variations Quinientos and Chiva can be found on Jose's Page on Domino Games.

The Federación Internacional de Domino organises domino tournaments worldwide.

The 4-player partnership game with 7 tiles dealt to each player is sometimes known as Domino Whist. A comprehensive description of this game in German can be found on Roland Scheicher's Domino Whist page.

Domino Software and Online Games

On the Net Dominó site, you can play Latin Partnership Dominoes on line. There are tournaments and a rating system.