All About Dominoes in the Caribbean: Games and Variations

If you are looking for a new game to play, or a new variation of playing your next domino game with friends give these Caribbean styles a try. These four games began in Jamaica and Puerto Rico, but today are played all over the Caribbean and even in parts of Mexico. So dust off that domino set, call your friends and have a great Caribbean get-together. (Don’t forget the cocktails!)

Partner Dominoes (Jamaica)

Only four persons can play, around a square table. Your partner is the person directly in front of you. The object of the game is to get rid of all dominoes, while helping your partner and yourself and trying to pass the opponent.

  • Requires a double six domino set.
  • Each player receives 7 tiles.

How to play

  • The first hand begins with the individual who has the double six in his/her hand.
  • In subsequent hands the team that won the previous hand plays first. After seeing their own tiles the team is allowed to discuss who will play first, but cannot reveal to their partner their exact tiles.
  • The play continues counter-clockwise. The touching ends of adjacent dominoes must match. Double tiles are traditionally played at a right angle across the line. If a player cannot play anywhere, they must skip a turn.
  • The hand ends when an individual finishes playing all tiles from his hand first. Or if the game becomes blocked and no one is able to play anymore.
    • If a player manages to play all his tiles, that player’s team wins the hand.
    • If the game is blocked, the hand is won by the team of the player whose remaining tiles have the least amount of dots. (It does not matter the amount of dots the winners partner has remaining.)
    • If the game is blocked and there is tie for the amount of dots, then the hand is a tie, no matter what the other two players have.

Scoring

  • At the end of the hand, the winning team scores one point.
  • The aim is to win six times in succession – so the score is 6-0. So long as one side wins they add points to their total, if the opposite team wins a hand, the score returns to 0-0 and the next hand is begun by the holder of the double six.

Cut Throat Dominoes (Jamaica)

When playing cut throat, the size of the hand varies with the number of players:

  • 2 players get 14 tiles each
  • 3 players get 9 tiles each
  • 4 players get 7 tiles each

How to play

  • The play is the same as in the partner game.

Scoring

  • Each player keeps a score of games won and the first player to achieve 6 wins is the overall winner, if another player has zero.
  • If everyone wins a hand before anyone reaches 6 wins, the score returns to 0 for everyone.

Chiva Dominoes (Puerto Rico)

This is the most well-known Puerto Rican game, also known as Shutout. This four-player game is similar to the partner dominoes, except that only 4 games in a row are needed to win a match. Blocked games are normally won by the team having the lower score.

Scoring

  • The winner of a “Chiva” Match must win 4 games in a row.
  • If the player/team being shutout wins a game, they break the “Chiva” and the match goes back to 0 games for both player/teams, and they must restart the match again.

Gallinazo (Puerto Rico)

This game is said to be played most often in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, but has migrated to as far as Guadalajara, Mexico.

How to play

  • This is a four player game, each one playing for himself/herself.
  • A double six set of 28 tiles is used, and each player draws 7 tiles.
  • The holder of the double 6 tile begins the game and the hand continues counter-clockwise.
  • Seven hands are played, after which it’s traditional in Puerto Rico that the player with the most points (the loser) must buy everyone a beer. (but this is optional)
  • The scorer normally keeps the cumulative scores secret until just before the seventh hand, when they are announced to all the players.

Scoring

  • When a player gets rid of all their tiles, they win the hand and the remaining players score the number of dots total on their tiles.
  • If the game becomes blocked, then provided the player of the last tile has the lowest score, everyone scores the number of dots on their remaining tiles.
  • If another player has less or equal to the points of the person with the last tile, then the player of the last tile played scores 4x the number of dots in his/her remaining tiles. And the other players only score the number of dots on their tiles.

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Captain Tim
Captain Tim

Captain Tim is the founder of Caribbean Trading Company in Puerto Rico. Many years ago Captain Tim was a normal everyday guy who decided to do what so many people only dream about. He moved to the Caribbean. Traveling throughout the islands, he has the joy of sharing this lifestyle and its flavors with the world.

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