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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
SuitsTiles 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:

SuitsTiles 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.

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This page was contributed by Joe Celko (jcelko212@earthlink.net).   © Joe Celko 2001. Last updated: 9th September 2001