Domino games

One Arm Joe

This game, also known as One-Armed Pete, is generally played as a children's game, but it related to the Chinese domino game Tsair Deng (slanted nails).


The game uses a double six domino set. The game is best for 5 to 9 players.

The Deal

Each player gets a hand of three tiles. The remaining tiles form the boneyard.

The Play

The highest double leads. After that, the other players in turn build a train from one and only one side of the lead double. This single arm is where the games gets its name.

Doubles are not played crosswise on the train. If a player plays a double, he can immediately play again if he is able to do so. If a player plays a double, but has no other tile to use for his free turn, he announces this and the turn passes to the next player.

A player who cannot play a tile from his hand, draws tiles from the boneyard until he has a playable tile. He immediately plays the newly acquired tile. If the boneyard is empty, then a player without a playable tile passes.


The game ends when it is blocked or when one player dominoes. The score is the number of pips in each player's hand when the game ends. The player with the lowest score gets the total of the pips in the hands of all the other players.

Comments & Strategy

Doubles early in the game are a good thing to have.

The main strategy is to play defensively, keep a variety of suits in your hand so as to maximize the chance of playing a tile when it gets to your turn. Usually you cannot predict what the open half is by the time the others have played.

It is always possible to make a chain of all the tiles in a Double Six domino set, so the tableau for this game can get to be fairly long. It is a good idea to "snake" it around a bit or even to place the tiles side by side, with the matching ends alternating on the top and bottom halves of neighboring tiles.

The rules for the Chinese game of Tsair Deng (slanted nails) can be adapted directly to the Western domino set. Since Asian domino games tend to be based on totals rather than on connecting the ends of the tiles, there is a good chance that Tsair Deng was invented fairly recently and is based on exposure to western domino games. Here is such an adapted set of rules:

Each of four players is dealt seven tiles and the player with the [6-6] leads. The other players then take their turn. In his turn each player may do one of two things:

  1. Discard any tile in his hand face down, keeping it in front of him.
  2. Play a tile on the end of the train.

Play continues until each player has played or discarded all seven of his tiles. Each player scores the number of pips in all his discarded dominoes (which he should have kept face down in front of him). If one or more players has no discards, then other players scores are doubled.

Obviously, it is important what you discard, not just how many, since you score the number of discarded pips, not number of discarded dominoes. Because of this, most players usually discard the tile with the highest pip total. But that can be shortsighted and leave you unable to play in future rounds.