Domino Whist

Invented by Howard Fosdick ©

Overview: In this game, you bid and try to win the number of dominoes you bid in tricks. It's a bit like playing Whist with dominoes.

But watch out! Dominoes make for a very different game than cards. Each domino is a member of two suits -- instead of one -- and that gives this game an entirely different feel. I recommend this game to card players for a mindbending change.

Players and Equipment: 3 to 5 players. We'll describe the 3 player game first.

3 players use a 7-7 set of 36 dominoes. You can create a 7-7 set by taking a standard 9-9 set and removing all tiles with 8's and 9's on them.

Objective: Win the most points by winning the most tricks.

Deal: The first dealer is randomly decided, after that, the deal rotates clockwise. Each player draws a hand of 12 tiles.

Suits: There are 9 suits, each of which consists of 8 tiles. The doublet is the highest tile in each suit.

The Doubles themselves comprise a suit, with the 7-7 tile as its highest member. Here is the suit system:

‹––high    Members    low––›
7-7  7-6  7-5  7-4  7-3  7-2  7-1  7-0
6-6  6-7  6-5  6-4  6-3  6-2  6-1  6-0
5-5  5-7  5-6  5-4  5-3  5-2  5-1  5-0
4-4  4-7  4-6  4-5  4-3  4-2  4-1  4-0
3-3  3-7  3-6  3-5  3-4  3-2  3-1  3-0
2-2  2-7  2-6  2-5  2-4  2-3  2-1  2-0
1-1  1-7  1-6  1-5  1-4  1-3  1-2  1-0
0's (blanks)
0-0  0-7  0-6  0-5  0-4  0-3  0-2  0-1
7-7  6-6  5-5  4-4  3-3  2-2  1-1  0-0

Each tile is thus a member of two suits. Singlets are members of the two suit numbers on their faces. Doublets are members of the suit number on their face and the Doubles suit.

Bidding: Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player may make a bid, or pass. If he makes a bid, he is stating how many tricks he guarantees he will win -- in exchange for the right to dictate the trump suit and lead the first trick.

The bidding starts at 4 tricks. Each bid must be higher than the last. Bidding continues until a person makes a bid that all others decline to raise. The person making the highest bid is the bid winner.

Now, the bid winner announces the trump suit for the hand. He can select any one of these options:

  1. Any of the 8 numbered suits, 0 through 7
  2. The Doubles suit
  3. No trump suit for the hand (aka "follow me")

Play: The bid winner leads any tile he likes to the first trick.

He announces which of the numbers on the tile represents its suit. Others must play a tile of this suit if they can. Otherwise, they can play any tile.

If the lead is a doublet, the trick leader announces whether the suit is the number on the tile, or the Doubles suit. If it is the Doubles suit, others must follow suit by playing a doublet if they have one. Otherwise, they can play any tile.

If the lead is a trump suit tile, the trick leader says "trump".

If any trump(s) are played to the trick, the highest trump wins. Otherwise, the highest tile of the suit led wins the trick.

Whoever wins the trick leads a tile to the next trick. The hand ends after all tiles have been played to tricks.

The Trump Suit: Once a trump suit has been declared, all tiles that are part of the trump suit are considered only members of the trump suit.

For example, if 2's are trump, all tiles with 2's on them are now considered only trumps. They are no longer part of the 2's suit.

Say the trick leader plays a 6-4 tile and announces "4's suit". The only tile you have in hand with a 4 on it is the 2-4. You do not have to play your 2-4 because it is a member of the trumps suit only, not a member of the 4's suit.


If the bid winner won at least the number of tricks he bid, he scores points equal to this bid. He does not get any extra points for any tricks he won exceeding his bid.

If the bid winner failed to win at least the number of tricks he bid, he substracts his bid from his score.

In all cases, those who are not bid winners score 1 point for each trick they won.

Winning Across Hands: First player to at least 25 points across as many deals as it takes wins.

Optional Rule -- Passing: Some prefer to play with passing. After the deal but before bidding, each player passes three dominoes face down to the player on their right. The recipient cannot view those tiles until he has set face down the bones he is passing to the player on his right. In the second hand, pass three tiles to the player at left. In the third deal pass hold all dominoes (no passing).

For Further Information: You might also like to read our article on all domino trick-taking games.

Tips for Play: This is a very different game than playing cards because each tile is a member of two suits. That dramatically affects your calculations on how to estimate what tricks you can win. Plus, there are many fewer tiles in play than the 52 cards in a standard deck.

The leader to a trick has great power because he can specify either of two suits for his lead. This means that if you can keep the lead, you can count on many of your tiles to "play high" -- play as the high end of the tile in the suit determined by the lower end number. But if you lose the lead, you lose that option.

To analyse your hand for bidding, count all doublets as likely winners (assuming you can play them with the lead). Look for your longest suit, and determine how many tricks you'll win if that suit is trump. Remember that under-bidding means you win fewer points if you make your bid. But failing to make a bid loses points, so be cautious.

Often it's beneficial to speak last when bidding because you gather information from what others bid. (This is why the first bid rotates clockwise with every deal.) On the other hand, speaking last may rob you of a chance to win a bid when you can only tie a previous bid, since each bid must be greater than any previous.

Remembering what tiles have been played is a big advantage. You may well win a few late tricks with low tiles if you remember what has already been played, and know what leads will succeed.

When passing, don't just pass low tiles unlikely to win tricks. Look at your hand's suit distribution as well, and consider whether voiding a suit is worthwhile.

4 Player Game

4 players use a 8-8 set of 45 dominoes. (You can create an 8-8 set by taking a common 9-9 dominoes set removing all tiles having 9's on them. This leaves a total of 45 tiles.)

Each player draws a hand of 11 tiles. 1 tile is left face down.

After winning the bid, and before playing to the first trick, the bid winner secretly looks at that face down tile and optionally replaces any other tile in his hand with it. He discards the unused tile face down.

If playing with passing: in the first deal, pass to the player to your left; second deal, pass to the player to your right; third deal, pass to the player sitting opposite; and fourth deal, hold all tiles (no passing).

4 Player Partnership: 4 can play as two competing partnerships. Partners' winnings (or losses) total as a team. Bidding starts at 4 tricks. First team to 30 points across as many deals as it takes wins Game.

4 Players Individually: Alternatively, 4 players may play as individuals. In this case, there is no minimum bid. The first player to 20 points across deals wins Game.

5 Player Game

All rules are the same as the 3 player game except that 5 players use a 9-9 set of dominoes. Each player draws 11 tiles. There is no minimum bid. Play to 20 points.

Summary: Here are game requirements by the number of players:

Number of Players:
Tiles in Set:
Each Player Draws:
Minimum Bid:
Points for Game:
4 partners8-84511430
4 alone8-84511020

For Further Information: You might also like to read our article on all domino trick-taking games.

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