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How to host a Mexican Train Dominoes tournament

You can set up a Mexican Train Dominoes tournament among your family, friends, or community in less than a day. Whether you go all-out with Mexican Train or domino-themed food and drinks or just establish some friendly rules and competition is up to you.

Follow these steps for a great tournament:

  1. Find at least six players, but more is better. Try to source players in multiples of three or four, too. This way you can have the right amount of players per game. Like Bridge or Poker, it's hard or impossible to play Mexican Train Dominoes with one or two people unless you're using a Mexican Train Dominoes app.
  2. Establish consistent rules. This includes using the same style dominoes, how to handle doubles and other house rules.
  3. Set up consistent tables. You could choose to use tables that seat four, or long rectangular players with multiple games happening at the same table.
  4. Establish consistent rules on who goes first. This could be the youngest or oldest player on the first round, who draws the double-12 first, the winner of the last round, or the winner of a series of coin flips.
  5. Establish great prizes. This could be cash, food, or just bragging rights.

Finding and establishing players

Mexican Train Dominoes is a great game for any age group, so encourage older players to ask their kids or grandkids to join in, or invite neighbors over with their friends and family. And because Mexican Train Dominoes is a game of strategy and luck, divide players up by skill level. To keep it simple, just ask players to self-grade themselves as beginners, intermediate, or experienced players.

If you have more than six or nine players, you might find it helpful to write down a chart of each player's name and their skill level. You can write this on a whiteboard or a sheet of paper and use it to track a player's progress.

Bonus: Download these free Mexican Train Domino tournament brackets. These print-friendly sheets can handle up to 32 players. A separate one is available for up to 16 players.

Bonus: Keep score with this free scoresheet.

Establish consistent rules for your tourney

Be upfront about the rules you're establishing for the tournament and solicit feedback from the players. Most people have variations in play, so consider these as a starter set of rules:

Bonus: We have more detailed Mexican Train dominoes rules you can view or print. Use these rules to understand other ways of playing dominoes, how to handle double domino tiles and playing doubles, and different rules for two or more doubles.

Set up consistent tables and dominoes

Make sure each table is consistent so players can't see each other's dominos and the playing surface is identical. But also because people playing alongside you may be distracting to some and not others, keep the table setup consistent throughout the tourney.

You could also choose to divide players up by class so only beginners play against beginners, or you could start everyone randomly regardless of play experience. We recommend a good starting point with players competing based on skill level. As winners progress up the tournament rounds, let them compete regardless of skill level.

Bonus: use consistent domino sets, too, if possible. If you don't have any, you can download this paper set of Mexican Train Dominoes to cut out.

Establish who goes first

Traditional Mexican Train rules say the player who draws the double-12 tile starts and play moves clockwise. If a player cannot play after the first round, subsequent turns draw until a player finds it or the next lowest double, such as a double-11 or double-10.

But you can shake it up depending on the number of players involved. You could set a rule that the youngest or oldest player goes first. Or after the first game is played, the winner of the last round goes first on the next.

You could also use a series of coin flips since coins are a traditional way to place a marker on a public personal train and already lying around. We've also heard of people who let the player with the MOST number of dominoes left in the last round going first.

Establish great prizes

Cash is always a big hit. You could have each player "buy-in" with some small or modest amount and the winners can earn more as the game continues. Or have a "big pot" at the end one player walks away with. Consider it a game setup fee for your work and use some of the cash to purchase food and drinks for everyone or rent a space.

You could also source a local trophy maker to produce a trophy in the shape of a double blank domino or an actual train or train marker.

Alternatively, you could bring food.

Bonus: Need some ideas for domino-themed food or party favors? Try these domino-themed recipes for game night or tourneys.

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