Five-Up

Written by Howard Fosdick © BestFreeNewGames.com

Overview: Five-Up is one of the best of scoring dominoes games. It's most popular in California and the southwestern United States.

The game requires some math for success, and is an excellent way to teach youngsters both arithmetic and game strategy. We recommend the game to those who like a bit of mental exercise in their gaming.

Players and Equipment: Two to four may play this game, but it's considered best for four players paired into two partnerships. We'll describe the partnership game here, which you can easily adapt to fewer players.

Use one standard 6-6 set of dominoes.

Many find a cribbage board useful in scoring the game.


Start: Shuffle the dominoes face down. Then each player takes 5 tiles into hand. Determine who goes first by drawing tiles. In subsequent hands, whoever dominoed in the previous hand goes first.


Play: The first player lays any tile to the table.

Play proceeds in two directions from any singlet tile, as is common in domino games where players create a layout of connecting tiles.

However, every doublet played is a spinner, a bone from which connecting tiles can be played in up to four directions. Spinners are laid side-ways to the line of play. The first two tiles played against a spinner continue the current line of play. Only after this is accomplished may dominoes be laid against the remaining two open ends of the spinner.

Each contestant plays one domino to the layout during his turn. If he has no playable tile, he must draw from the stock until he pulls a playable one. In this case, he plays that domino immediately and his hand ends.

Should a player have no playable tile, and there are none left in the boneyard to draw, he says "pass" and it becomes the next player's turn.


Scoring During Play: A player scores points every time he lays a tile to the layout that creates open ends (playable ends) in the layout that total to some multiple of 5. The points he scores are that total divided by five.

So if the playable open ends total 15, for example, that participant scores 3 points for his play.


Doublets: When played to the layout, dominoes must be played on both sides of the doublet -- in the original line of play -- before the other two sides may be played upon.

For scoring purposes, a doublet that has all sides exposed (except for the one side connected to the layout) counts as the total of its pips. For example, a 5-5 on the layout that is fully exposed counts as 10.

Doublets do not count in the open end total once both sides have been played upon. They are effectively "cut out" of scoring. This is so even though there may still be one or two openings to play tiles on that spinner in the layout.


Winning the Hand: If the hand ends with one player going out, that partnership wins the hand. If the game ends blocked, the side with the lesser total pip count wins the hand.

Regardless of how the hand ends, the scoring is the same. The winner(s) score points equal to the total pip count of their opponents, divided by five.

(A remainder of 1 or 2 is disregarded, while a remainder of 3 or 4 is rounded up.)

For example, if a player dominoes and the opponents' hands total 15 pips, he scores 15 divided by 3, or 3 points. If he goes out and the opponents have 12 points total, he scores 2 points for his win. And if the opponents have 13 count, he scores 3 points.

In the rare event that a hand ends blocked and both sides have the exact same total pip count, the hand is a draw and no one scores at its ending.

Winning Game: The first player (or partnership) to accumulate 61 points wins Game. Many find a cribbage board useful in scoring.


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Tips for Play: Counting and tracking tiles is key. Remember that there are 7 dominoes in each suit in the 6-6 set.

In trying to score, remember that you can play a bone that decreases a scoring total, as well as increasing it (though the latter is obviously more favourable) Learn to think in multiples of 5. And know that the lower the pip count you leave on the open ends, the lower your opponent's score is likely to be.

You can win this game either by higher scoring or by blocking your opponent at an opportune time. Keep both strategies in mind, and be flexible -- go with the one that fits your hand for the victory.


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Sources: Dominic C. Armanino is considered to have been the world's Five-Up expert. These rules follow those in his books, Dominoes: Five-Up and Other Games, and Dominoes: Popular Games, Rules, and Strategy.


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License: Feel free to print, copy, and distribute these rules, so long as you retain this paragraph. Written by Howard Fosdick © 2023, distributed under Creative Commons License BY-ND.      HOME