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In the most popular versions of dominoes, each player chooses seven dominoes to start the game. As there are 28 dominoes overall, different variants exist for the four-player game. In some, each player picks six dominoes, in others seven, and players can pair up for team play.

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Players first choose a single domino and the player with the highest double, or the highest valued domino if no one has a double, wins the right to choose first. After reshuffling, players either pull their full hands or rotate pulling one domino at a time until they all have full hands. Depending upon the variation or house rules, the player who chose first plays first or the player with the highest double plays first.

Two of the main variations, straight and draw dominoes, differ in what happens to the leftover dominoes, or the boneyard. In straight dominoes, play continues until a player can no longer make a play. Players in draw dominoes pull bones from the boneyard until a play can be made or no dominoes remain.

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