Just like cricket, the ‘sport’ of dominoes has captivated the hearts of Lucians. What? You don’t class dominoes as a sport? Well it may not be in other parts of the world, but here in Saint Lucia, dominoes is played with energy, a competitive spirit and strict adherence to the rules. It can be a simple way of passing the time, or a cutthroat and strategic joust.
How to play
Dominoes is played by four people. Each player is dealt seven dominoes from a ‘double six’ domino set. Where the game is played with partners, the person seated across from you is your partner. The object of the game is to get rid of all your dominoes before your opponents.
The person who has the double six domino tile starts the game by ‘placing’ it in the middle of the table. Play continues counter-clockwise. The touching ends of dominoes must match, and double tiles are usually played at a right angle. When a player is unable to make a move, he must skip a turn. In Saint Lucia this is known as ‘knocking’.
In the Caribbean you don’t gently lay your tile on the table, you slam it down, with gusto, striking your palm on the table top to create noise. And especially in bars, the players (and any spectators) keep themselves refreshed with bottles of beer. In the islands, dominoes is a boisterous game, not a sedate one!
Who plays the game
Although men are often seen playing dominoes – it’s popular with bus and taxi drivers waiting for fares – it’s enjoyed by all: from children playing with their siblings, to family members competing at celebrations.
For the avid players who seek more than entertainment, there are national competitions that can last for weeks, with each round held at a different bar or ‘rum shop’ around the island. The competition is a social event with members of the community observing and passing comment (not always complimentary!) on the play. All washed down with a few cold Piton beers.
Don’t feel shy about approaching groups of domino players. They’ll be glad of your interest and happy to chat. They may even invite you to play so practice that ‘slam’!
Local domino terminology
In Saint Lucia there are some colloquial domino terminologies: sapat refers to a player who has four consecutive wins; dos bal is where a player can win with a tile that fits at either end of the board.