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Dominoes as Playing Cards

There are a number of games which are attempts to replace playing cards with dominoes. The degree to which they succeed seems to depend on how much they follow the flavor of the original game. The closer they try to stay to the rules original game, the weaker the results. It is better to borrow principles from the card games and then adapt them to dominoes than it is to try to construct an exact one to one mapping from playing cards to dominoes.

The reason that this family of games grew up at all is largely due to Southern Christian fundamentalists (usually Baptists or Methodists) who regard regular playing cards as "the Devil's picture book" and would not allow playing cards in their homes.

Generally speaking, the dominoes are played as if one half of the tile is a suit and the other half is the pip of the suit, called the suit number. Obviously, a tile can be played one of two ways (except for the doubles) while a playing card cannot. In trick taking games, players may be required to follow suit whenever possible or to play tiles in the trump suit only as trumps.

Card terminology also comes into play and you will here the terms "Treys", "Deuces", "Aces" and "Blanks" instead of "Threes", "Twos", "Ones" and "Zeros" respectively, as you might in other domino games.

The obvious way to make suits is simply to declare one end to be the suit and the other to be the suit number. These games rank the seven tiles of a suit in the actual numerical order of the suit numbers, giving a "deck" that looks like this:

 Domino Suits Suits Tiles in Order (highest to lowest) Sixes [6-6] [6-5] [6-4] [6-3] [6-2] [6-1] [6-0] Fives [5-6] [5-5] [5-4] [5-3] [5-2] [5-1] [5-0] Fours [4-6] [4-5] [4-4] [4-3] [4-2] [4-1] [4-0] Treys [3-6] [3-5] [3-4] [3-3] [3-2] [3-1] [3-0] Deuces [2-6] [2-5] [2-4] [2-3] [2-2] [2-1] [2-0] Aces [1-6] [1-5] [1-4] [1-3] [1-2] [1-1] [1-0] Blanks [0-6] [0-5] [0-4] [0-3] [0-2] [0-1] [0-0]

However, many of these modified card games rank the seven tiles of a suit from the double of the suit (high), followed by the suit number in numerical order.

Sometimes, doubles are considered a suit by themselves. There are seven dominoes in each suit in the double six set, thus:

 Suits Tiles in Order (highest to lowest) Doubles [6-6] [5-5] [4-4] [3-3] [2-2] [1-1] [0-0] Sixes [6-6] [6-5] [6-4] [6-3] [6-2] [6-1] [6-0] Fives [5-5] [5-6] [5-4] [5-3] [5-2] [5-1] [5-0] Fours [4-4] [4-6] [4-5] [4-3] [4-2] [4-1] [4-0] Treys [3-3] [3-6] [3-5] [3-4] [3-2] [3-1] [3-0] Deuces [2-2] [2-6] [2-5] [2-4] [2-3] [2-1] [2-0] Aces [1-1] [1-6] [1-5] [1-4] [1-3] [1-2] [1-0] Blanks [0-0] [0-6] [0-5] [0-4] [0-3] [0-2] [0-1]

Both these patterns can be extended for larger sets of tiles. In general, there are (n+1) tiles in the (n) suit in a double (n) set.

Domino adaptations of card games can naturally be classified into similar families to the card games they replace. There are trick-taking games, fishing games, draw and discard games, adding games, and many other types, such as domino versions of Poker and Pelmanism (Memory).

Alongside these there are games in all these families and more that use dominoes in a way similar to playing-cards but are not adaptations of card games. They include most of the games using Chinese dominoes, which have their own traditional suit system and ways of forming combinations.

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This page was contributed by Joe Celko (jcelko212@earthlink.net) and is maintained by John McLeod(john@pagat.com) .   © Joe Celko, John McLeod 2001, 2020. Last updated: 20th September 2020

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