T E X A S 4 2 - A G A M E O F D O M I N O S (for mobile devices)
OVERVIEW: The domino game 42 is similar in strategy to the card game Bridge; however, it is not as complicated. Some folks say 42 (also called Texas 42) was conceived by a lad in east Texas because his parents would not let him play cards; others say 42 originated in Georgetown (central Texas). The most widely publicized story, however, says 42 started in Garner (northeast Texas) in 1887. The rules discussed in this document reflect the game as played by and taught to me by friends in the south Texas town of Devine.
Forty-two (42) is played by four people. A set of double-six dominos is required. Players sitting opposite each other
are partners. The dominos are "shuffled" face down. Players draw seven (7) dominos apiece at random and conceal the dot (pip) sides from each other. Each player "bids his/her hand" in rotation. The highest bidder may designate "trump" and begins play by "leading" a domino. Each player, in turn, must follow "suit" (if possible). The person playing the highest domino takes the "trick" and leads the next domino. This process continues until all 28 dominos are played, the bid is made, or the high bidder is "set." Partners work together (without "talking across the table") to make their bid or to set the opposing team.
THE PLAYERS: Who will be partners is determined by mutual agreement or by drawing dominos.
When drawing, the dominos are shuffled and each player draws a domino. The player who draws the highest domino will be the scorekeeper, and the next highest domino holder will be his partner. The two lowest domino holders will be the opposition partners. In case of tie(s), those players each draw another domino to break the tie.
Partners sit opposite each other at the table.
THE SHUFFLE: All 28 dominos are shuffled face-down. The scorekeeper shuffles the dominos to start the game. Thereafter, the shuffle rotates to the left (clockwise) after each "hand" has been played.
If multiple games are played at one sitting, and the same partners are retained, then either of the previous winning player partners shuffle to begin a new game.
BIDDING/PLAY: The player to the left of the shuffler begins the bidding. He may bid or pass (not bid). The bid rotates left (clockwise) to the next player until all have had an opportunity to bid. Each bid must be higher than any preceding bid(s). If all players pass, the dominos are reshuffled and the bidding process repeated. (My house rules require the shuffler to take the bid for at least 30 points when everybody passes. Because the last bidder has to take the bid, he has the option of "going low." See GOING LOW.)
The minimum bid allowed is 30. Bids higher than 41 must be in marks. The first bid in marks can be one or two marks. Subsequent players may bid one mark more than previously bid. (My house rules allow twice the number.) When one or more marks are bid, the high bid partners must take (win) all seven tricks. If they lose one trick, they are set, and the opposing team partners get the mark(s) they bid. (Dominos with count value have no special significance when the bid is one or more marks.)
PLAYING THE HAND: Following the bidding process, the high bidder declares a trump suit (or no trumps) and starts playing the hand by leading a domino. Each player, in turn (clockwise), must follow the suit led if possible. For example, if a 63 is led, sixes (high end of the domino) is the suit led unless the high bidder had declared treys (threes) the trump suit. (See TRUMPS for clarification.) The player who wins the trick leads the next domino. Scoring for each hand is recorded after all seven tricks are played or the high bidder is set (doesn't make his bid).
SCORING: Each trick is worth one point. Dominos divisible by five (5) are worth their face values, e.g., 64 or 46 is 10 points and 32 or 23 is five points. (The other three count-dominos are 55,5, and 41.) There are seven (7) tricks in a hand and five dominos with a total "count" value of 35 points, hence the name 42 (7+35).
Each hand won is scored as a mark (or marks bid). If the bidding partner(s) do not make their bid (or higher), the opposition partners get the mark(s). The partner team who score seven marks first wins the game. Marks are recorded on paper by spelling "ALL." (Each letter segment is a mark.)
Scoring by points is optional.
TRUMPS: Trumps are like a suit in cards. When declared, the trump suit outranks the other domino suits. If a player gets the bid and calls "treys" (threes) trump, then the seven dominos with three dots (pips) on one end are trumps: 33
(double is highest), 36 (second highest), 35,34,32 (a five-count), 31,3 (lowest). Doubles may also be declared a trump suit.
When a trump is led, each player must play a trump if he has one. High trump wins any trick. If a non-trump domino is led, and a player cannot follow suit, he may (does not have to) play a trump if he has one.
These are the eight optional trump suits (ranked highest to lowest in each suit):
NO TRUMPS: A player who gets the bid may call no trump ("follow me"). When "follow me" is called, each player, in turn, plays the "suit" corresponding to the high end of the domino led in each trick. The double in each suit is high. A player may play any domino if he cannot follow suit. In any case, whoever wins a trick leads the next domino.
STRATEGY: If your bid is the highest, you have the advantage of calling trumps and leading the first domino. The object is to bid wisely, make your bid, or help your partner make his bid. If the opposing team partners get the bid, then you and your partner try to set them. This is done by preventing them from making their bid, if possible, by "catching" (winning) tricks with "count." (If the bid is in marks, you can set the opponents by taking any trick.)
For example, if an opposing player leads the double-five (fours are trump), and you do not have a five, you can play a four (trump) on your turn and win the trick (if nobody else "overtrumps" you). By winning the trick, you and your partner get 11 points (the trick plus the ten-count), or 16 points if the five/blank (5) is also played in the same trick (or you trumped-in with the four/ace ). This is sufficient to set a bid greater than 31 (42-11=31) or, with the additional five-count, set any bid (42-16=26).
Here are the most points you can lose in a hand and still make your bid:
CAN'T LOSE MORE THAN
Two tricks, one 10-count (or two 5-counts)
One trick, one 10-count (or two 5-counts)
Five tricks, one 5-count
Four tricks, one 5-count
Three tricks, one 5-count
Two tricks, one 5-count
One trick, one 5-count
Five tricks, no count
Four tricks, no count
Three tricks, no count
Two tricks, no count
One trick, no count
(Must win all seven tricks)
* Bids higher than 41 are one or more marks
When trying to make your bid, normally, you should call in the trumps (or try to find out where they are) by leading them early in the hand. You want to put count on tricks you and your partner take. When possible, you may want to take the lead to allow your partner to get rid of (unload) "off" dominos which would otherwise jeopardize making the bid. In this regard, knowing what to do comes with experience and playing the odds on domino distribution. It helps to keep track of which dominos have been played and which ones are still held. Sometimes luck and guesswork determine the outcome of a hand.
INDICATING: Many 42 players interpret a 30-bid to mean that the bidder has doubles and/or count dominos that could help his partner make a higher bid. In some cases, however, a 30-bid simply means that the bidder thinks 30 is the highest bid he can make.
Some players also try to indicate to their partners which doubles they're holding by what they play when they are unable to follow the suit led. The two most common practices are  playing a domino whose high end indicates they're holding the double in that suit, or  playing the double itself to indicate they're holding the next highest domino in that suit. (When more than one double is held, players usually indicate their highest doubles first if they can.)
Whereas these indicating styles are frowned on by some "pure 42" advocates, they are nonetheless commonly practiced and completely legal. Realistically, they cannot be legislated out of the game. Prearranged secret indicating signals between partners, however, are considered cheating and are not tolerated.
"False indications" can occur, sometimes with undesirable results. Playing count or some other domino is sometimes more prudent than indicating. Even without indicating, a bidder normally expects some kind of help from his partner, whether it's donating count or having an important double. In any 42 game, experience and observation skills are helpful to correctly interpret bidding practices and play action on the board.
GOING LOW (Nel-O): This option is popular among social players who enjoy a little twist in the game and don't like to reshuffle every time everybody passes. When
the last player in the bidding process (the domino shuffler) has the bid "dropped" on him (everyone before him passed), he has the additional option of bidding one or two marks "low." In this case, there are no trumps, his partner does not play (turns his dominos face-down), and he tries to take no tricks. He begins play by leading a low domino and hoping one of the opposing players takes the trick (and the lead).
Doubles are a suit of their own. If a double is led, then doubles have to be played by the opposition if they have any. If he can stay out of the lead (take no tricks) for the remainder of the hand, he makes his bid. If, however, he takes one trick, the hand is ended, and the opposition partners get what he bid. Count-dominos have no special significance in Nel-O.
PROTOCOL: Players agree on the rules before beginning a game. The shuffler draws his dominos last. The partner of the high bidder normally gathers in the dominos at the end of each trick they take. The opposing partner team gathers their own tricks taken and keeps them separate from the other team's.
The tricks are stored face up, off to the side of the playing surface. When one or more marks are bid, the dominos are stacked so only the last two tricks can be viewed (dot sides). (This makes domino tracking more dependent on players' memories.)
• When a player plays out of turn or reneges (doesn't follow suit led when able), the hand is ended and the opposition partners get the mark(s).
• Once a domino has been played, it cannot be retrieved (taken back).
• Talking across the table about the hand in play is strictly prohibited. (Social chitchat is okay.)
• If a domino is inadvertently knocked over (exposed), it must remain face up and played at the first valid opportunity.
• If a player bids out of turn, the bidding process resumes normally, but he cannot change his bid. If his bid is not higher than previous bids when it is his turn, then he must pass.
SAMPLE HAND (with indicating): Nancy, Steve, Will and Ella are from Austin. They play 42 every Friday night. Nancy shuffles, and each draws seven dominos (Nancy last). Ella bids first.
N A N C Y6464332111614
W I L L666362523331
Sample hand Texas 42
E L L A655351522212
55544442413S T E V E
Ella(sits left of shuffler Nancy) begins the bid. She has four fives
she could call trump, but she doesn't have the double-five (a ten-count) so she passes. (I would have bid 31 since I could afford to lose the trick with the double-five; however, trying to get back in the lead to "walk" my deuces would be risky. In this hand, Steve
has the double-five, would win the trick when it was played, and could come back with his double-blank 
lead and set me.)
The bid rotates clockwise to Steve who has a good helping hand (three doubles). He bids 30 since he can indicate two of his doubles to his partner. (If his partner passes and he ends up having to take the bid for 30, he would probably call fours trump or call no-trumps ["follow-me"] in hopes of making his bid. In this case, unbeknownst to Steve, his partner [Nancy] has the other three trumps if he called fours as trump. If Nancy/Steve played their dominos wisely, they shouldn't have any problem making 30.)
Will is strong in treys and sixes, so he bids 31. If he gets the bid, he could call either treys or sixes as trumps. In this case, he wants to try sixes, hoping his partner has the six/four (64) trump, and/or it falls on the first trick when he leads the double-six (66). (Treys might be a safer trump since the five/deuce  "off" domino makes Will more vulnerable to being set, especially if he didn't take in the six/four  trump in the first trick. In this case, Nancy would surely play her six/blank  on the first trick and then she would be holding the high trump [a ten-count] and the double-ace  for taking subsequent leads and setting Will.)
Nancy (last bidder) is strong in aces. Since her partner (Steve) indicated he had a helping hand, she bids 32 and calls aces trump. (Bidding more than 32 was not necessary since Nancy had last bid, and the previous high bid was 31. If Nancy would have had to bid higher than 32 to get the bid, she could have bid as much as 35 without being set [as demonstrated in SAMPLE PLAY].)
SAMPLE PLAY (with indicating): Here's how the players could play the SAMPLE HAND after Nancy/Steve got the bid (aces trump, indicating demonstrated):
D O M I N O S P L A Y E D Points
T o t a l s :
Trick #1: Nancy leads her highest trump (11), and each player, in turn, follows suit by playing a trump. Nancy takes the trick.
Trick #2:Nancy leads the second highest trump (16) to call in the other trump and, hopefully, get an indication from her partner (Steve). Her partner cannot follow suit so he indicates he has the double-five (55) by playing the five-four (54).Will cannot follow suit, so he "throws off" the trey/blank (3).Nancy takes the trick.
Trick #3:Nancy does not have a five, so she cannot "come" to her partner by leading a five. Since Nancy has the 64 (a ten-count), it is relatively "safe" for her to lead the 6 (it won't draw the 64 out).
Her partner cannot follow suit, so he indicates his double-four (44) by playing the 4.Ella takes the trick with the 65. Her partner (Will) could have taken the trick with his 66, but decided to save it in hopes of "catching" the 64 later.
leads her double-deuce (22), and everybody follows suit. Ella takes the trick which includes the five-count (32) that Nancy had to play.
Trick #5:Ella leads the 2 (a "walker" since the other six deuces have already been played). Nancy "trumps in" with the four/ace (41), a five-count, and takes the trick.
Trick #6:Nancy leads the 43 so her partner can take the lead (assuming the 4 he played in Trick #3 was not a false indicator). Her partner (Steve) takes the trick with the double-four (44).
Trick #7:Steve leads the double-five (55) to take the last trick and make the bid. Nancy was able (fortunate) to play the 64 on this trick, and Ella had to play the last five-count (5).
Nancy/Steve get a mark on the score pad, and Ella shuffles ("shakes") the dominos for the next hand.
Forty-two (42) may be played with variations not discussed in this document, e.g., Plunge or Splash (bid four [or two] marks if four [or three] doubles held; partner calls trump and leads), Sevens, and Nel-O variations. Three-handed 42 (Moon) can also be played. (Going Low, discussed above, is a variation not allowed in sanctioned tournaments.)
More information is available at Texas42.net.
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