Don’t worry, American fast food pizza has not yet arrived in Cuba. But “Dominos” is well known throughout the island. Dominos, the tile game, is a ritual, probably nightly for many passionate players.
(PS, before I talk Dominos, more photos of Remedios are at the bottom of this post).
We first bumped into Dominos on a walkabout in Remedios, a sleepy colonial town with wide empty streets, a couple of churches, one beautiful town square park, two hotels and three restaurants (besides the homes where you can also buy a meal). We LOVED Remedios. It was so, for lack of a better word, REAL.
Four guys were at a table in the street, playing. The oldest was about 90, the youngest in his 30s by my observation. Turns out, they were employed at the restaurant a few steps away. The shift hadn’t yet started.
Days later, our group (we traveled to Cuba via Overseas Adventure Travel) experienced a Cuban Domino Party at a local club. I remember playing dominos as a kid, but now I “get it.” Of course, maybe a few mojitos contributed to my clarity.
Here are the Rules and Strategies by Tomas Rodriquez and the Havana Chapter of Cuban Federation of Domino (per our handout, verbatim):
- Every player draws ten tiles from the tiles’ pile (boneyard);
- Players cannot select, change, replace or show his (her) tiles;
- The player that holds the higher double makes the first play in the first hand. In subsequent hands, the winners of the previous hand make the first play and may play any tile (not necessarily a double);
- After the starter, the second player to play is the one set on starter’s right hand side and then, the game continue following counter-clock-wise;
- It’s forbidden to play tiles with numbers that don’t match with one of the two open ends of the line of play;
- The player has to say “I pass” or knock the table whenever don’t have tiles with the number to play that match with the two open ends of the line of play;
- The hand ends when one of the players wins by playing his (her) last tile or when the game is blocked because neither of the players can play. When that occurs, the winner will be the player with fewer dots;
- The score is determined by counting the dots of the losing players;
- In case of tie (same amount of dots of two opponent players), the couple that started the hand lost the right to start in the next hand;
- The winners of the match are the couple that first accrued 100 dots (or the amount of dots previous agreed: 150, 200, etc.).
STRATEGIES — Combine your hand with your partner as a team by:
- Always try to play the best tiles (with the numbers that you have more);
- Don’t “kill” your partner’s best tiles unless you are obliged;
- Don’t “kill” the starting tile of your partner unless you are forced;
- Try to play the same numbers of your partner. By doing so, you’ll likely block your opponents and they’ll probably pass several times during the hand, meanwhile you and your partner are playing your tiles.
- Try to “kill” the numbers that you suppose or know that your partner don’t have (sic), allowing him (her) to play as many tiles as possible;
- You should always help your partner if he (she) has fewer tiles than you.
- Concentration on every play of the game is probably the best recommendation to every player. You should notice and keep in mind every number played by your partner and opponents.
- To count the tile’s numbers played in the table (line of play) is a good practice, because you will know which of your numbers are “strong” and which ones are “fresh,” helping to decide which one you should play at any moment.
- If you or your partner have less tiles than the opponents and your tiles are “lights” (less dots), then you should try to block the game.
- In case of doubt, play the “heaviest” tile;
- Get rid of the doubles as soon as possible, mainly the heavy ones.
Welcome to Remedios: