Bruno Poso was only seven when he was initiated into his family’s domino clique.
“I didn’t even know what I was doing, but it was the best thing I had ever known,” said Poso, who learned how to play dominoes by watching his father and grandfather. “To be there with the men and being a boy, it was amazing.”
At 29, Poso has his own clique. He drives two to three times a week from his home in Coral Gables to Havana Cuba Cigar Company in Miami Lakes to play dominoes with other guys who enjoy the game.
People have been playing dominoes in Miami for more than 50 years—in backyards, family gatherings and the famous retiree spot, Maximo Gomez Park in Little Havana.
But recently, dominoes have stepped outside the home and gone mainstream.
Havana Cuba Cigar Company is one of many cigar shops around South Florida that are setting up card tables with built-in cup holders and slits for cigars to host the game of dominoes.
A new generation of men is reviving the game and turning to new venues, like this cigar shop, that have a certain “man cave” quality.
A MODERN SOCIAL CLUB
Crowds of more than 60 men attend the Thursday night tournaments held weekly by Havana Cuba Cigar Company located at 15348 NW 79 Ct. The place fills up with smoke from men’s cigars as they clatter domino tiles and trash talk to their opponents.
“We talk about what you did right, what you did wrong. You think you are good but you are actually bad, guy camaraderie,” said Angel Suarez, a 36-years-old Cuban native, who plays dominoes at Havana Cuba Cigar Company twice a week to have “guy time.”
The modern-day social club attracts men of all ages and diverse nationalities.
Jose Chardon, 52, a Miami Lakes local, thinks that being able to play dominoes outside the home provides an escape for most men.
“This is a getaway, ” said Chardon. “You get away from the family for a little bit, mingle with friends, release stress, and then go back home.”
Chardon also credits dominoes for bringing people together as a group without having to play a physical sport.
“You used to just sit in front of the TV and get fat,“ said Chardon. “Now, there is a place to come together with a lot of your peers and just play dominoes.”
GUY TIME: GOOD FOR BUSINESS
Kiki Berger, owner of Havana Cuba Cigar Company, capitalizes on this crowd. He said although there is no cost to play dominoes, a lot of men smoke cigars while they play and it’s becoming part of the business model.
“In the Kendall area I know several shops that are doing it,” said Berger, who owns four other cigar shops known as Cuban Crafters. “That [domino games] has increased their revenue for sure because they were empty, they didn’t have the people. Now the people in the neighborhood come in.”
Along with holding games at his cigar shops, Berger also sells domino tables.
Some of his sales include cigar shops from other states that have picked up on the trend and are adding domino tables to their stores.
While the game is generating business for many, for others like Poso, it’s heaven.
“We are just a bunch of dudes that like to play this game,” said Poso. “Come here smoke a good gar and hang out after work.”
Paula Callejas is a senior at Florida International University. This story was produced as part of a partnership between FIU and WLRN - Miami Herald News.