The Art of Domino

Jun 3, 2023 Gambling

Domino is a small rectangular block of wood or plastic, each end bearing an arrangement of dots resembling those on dice. The blocks are asymmetrical and are usually colored black or white, though they can also be colorless. Each domino has an identity-bearing face divided by a line or ridge into two squares, with one blank and the other identically patterned (or, in some cases, a single spot). A domino is distinguished from similar blocks by its ability to be stood up on edge like a tabletop.

The word is most frequently used to refer to a game played with a set of these tiles, generally 28 in number. The games can be simple, with only the matching of a domino to another, or complex with many rules and scoring systems.

Most commonly, Western dominoes are used in block-and-draw games for two to four players. The dominoes are shuffled and then drawn at random by each player, with the first player placing his or her tiles on the table—typically starting with the heaviest piece. The pieces left behind are referred to as the boneyard, and at the end of a round the winner is the person who has scored the most points—as determined by the combined sum of all the dots on their remaining tiles.

Physicist Stephen Morris, who has studied the physical properties of dominoes, describes their behavior in terms of energy: “When you stand up a domino upright against gravity, it stores some potential energy. But when that domino falls, a lot of energy is converted from that potential into kinetic energy of motion.”

When Hevesh designs an installation, she starts by creating flat arrangements of the largest sections. She then adds a series of lines that connect these sections. Her goal is to create a “domino-like” structure that is sturdy, elegant, and playful.

She often tests her work by setting up the pieces in her grandmother’s garage. She uses a drill press, radial arm saw, scroll saw, belt sander, and welder—all tools she already owns. “It is a challenge to take a complex idea and make it into something you can actually hold in your hands,” she says.

Hevesh builds her sculptures using a variety of materials, from foam to cardboard to paperboard, but she prefers the rigidity and durability of wood. The process is time consuming, but she loves the way a wooden domino feels in her hands. “It’s almost a sensual experience.”

There are several different sets of domino available, with the most common being a double-twelve set, containing 91 dominoes. Larger sets, such as the double-nine, are possible but rare. When playing a game with a larger set, the pieces are typically laid out in a grid and each player draws 12 dominoes at the start of the round. Additional dominoes can then be added based on the rules of the game. The most basic rule is that a domino with an open side—straddling the long or short ends of another domino—can be added to the layout.

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