A tournament unlike any other heads to Venice Beach

By Stephanie Case
Harold Moret is an unconventional athlete. He can turn any table into a playing field, and his training doesn’t require a gym — just 28 black-and-white pieces of rectangular plastic.

“Dominoes is the world’s oldest game, and it’s the youngest sport,” Moret says.

Calling it a sport is no exaggeration. Three years ago, Moret founded the Universal Domino League — the NFL of dominoes — an organization with monthly tournaments and ranked players across the country.

This Saturday’s Summer Classic Domino Championship on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, happening in conjunction with the Venice Wave Fest, has a March Madness-meets-WWE feel. Sixty four players will battle it out in a single-elimination bracket until only two remain. The winner takes home a $1,500 prize and a glittery championship belt, fit for a wrestling pro.

To amp up the competitive spirit, a 15-second clock counts down each turn, forcing players to think fast and beat the buzzer. If there’s a dispute over the score, four league-certified referees are at the ready, athletic whistles between their pursed lips.

These days, Moret doesn’t compete; he’d rather grow the league and introduce new players to the sport he fell in love with.

He was just 12 when his hospitalized grandfather taught him the rules of the game, sparking a lifelong passion.

“Every time I see dominoes, it makes me think of him,” Moret says.

The two bonded bedside, playing one of the only sports a bedridden man and a preteen boy could evenly face off in.

To this day, domino tournaments can be a beautiful display of equal opportunity.

“We have actors; we have accountants; we have people in the Wheelchair Basketball Association; we have military veterans with prosthetic limbs,” Moret lists. “Anyone can play. The physical attributes don’t matter. You’re able to use your mind to win.”

For novices who want to put their minds to the test, UDL instructors will set up free learn-to-play tables four hours before the Summer Classic kicks off. Away from the countdown clocks, whistles and referees, beginners — young or old — can fall in love with dominoes at their own pace.

The UDL Venice Wave Fest Summer Classic Domino Tournament starts at 2:30 p.m. at Windward Plaza under the big tents. The entry fee is $50 per player, with a total of
$5,500 in prize money up for grabs. Visit universaldominoleague.com to enter.