Dominoes, Cuba’s National Pastime

By: Frank Guiral, Photos CubaPLUS, on: Heritage & Traditions
Dominoes, Cuba’s National Pastime

According to many people, baseball is Cuba's national sport. It is said that babies are born with a baseball and a bat in their hands, unlike any other country. But there are some people who believe that babies come with a domino in their hands. It is a game that is also very popular throughout the Caribbean islands with many people getting familiar with the rectangular pieces at a very young age. Usually the father is the first teacher, playing a game with friends and family at home with their child on their lap.

Dominoes, Cuba’s National Pastime Dominoes is a game where you can make new friends and which provides hours of entertainment. Its popularity in Cuba crosses both genders and all races, ages, religions, and parts of the country. It is played in homes, public parks, porches, and on the streets.

Maybe it is because it is Cuba's number one pastime that the International Federation of Dominoes decided to hold its first World Championship in Havana in 2003 and, some months ago, has decided to repeat the visit. The game originated from six sided dice that traveled from India to China where the double sided tile was invented. It then traveled to Europe where it took on its modern form before spreading to the Caribbean.

Originally made from bone or ivory, they are now usually made of plastic or hardwoods, like local cedar or ebony. In the eastern region of the island, people prefer playing with 28 pieces, from the "white" or zero tile to the largest which has six dots. Usually four people play together in teams of two and each player has seven pieces. The alternative way is in a guerra or "war" where everyone plays on their own.

In Havana, however, people prefer playing with tiles that go from zero to nine dots, with a set totaling 55 pieces. This makes the game more complicated since rivals take.

Dominoes, Cuba’s National Pastime 10 pieces each leaving 15 out of play. In team play, the individual who plays all their pieces or finishes the round with the lowest amount of points on their tiles wins. The winning team scores the points on their opponent's unplayed tiles and the first team to 100 points wins the game.

The game has its own special language with a shut- out being called a pollo, signifying the round "egg" or zero points scored by the team. And there is nothing better than winning with a pollona, or a "big chicken". Where you score more than a hundred points and win in the first game.

The term fresca, or "fresh" is often said when a tile with a new number is added to the table - something good players usually avoid.

Beginners and many Canadians are accused of being bota gordas for dumping the big tiles instead of playing strategically with their partners. The term is usually said as a friendly insult, especially if the beginner had the luck to win! It certainly isn't any fun for an experienced player to lose against a bola gorda but they can be very difficult to play against since there isn't a lot of logic or strategy behind their moves.



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