Updated 22 Sep Jun 2020  

Social and Tournament 42

I became active in social 42 in 1985. There were few written rules then on how the game should be played. Consequently, people in different locations played the game as they learned it, with variations and different cultural playing styles. Local tournaments had their own playing rules and guidelines for variations allowed in competition.

In 2005, with the help of the internet (became public in the 1990s), the National 42 Players Association (N42PA) was founded. They wrote 42 rules for the tourneys they hosted. Tournaments that agreed to the straight 42 format were designated as sanctioned 42 tournaments. Those that didn't (had no need, e.g., local closed group tournaments) could continue their playing customs as they saw fit.

Today, we have diversified social players, independent local tournaments, open tournaments sanctioned by the N42PA, and closed N42PA tournaments. The open sanctioned tournaments are widespread and attract 42 players from all over, many of whom bring their local playing styles with them. Some traditional players are unaware of various indicating practices that are not addressed in the sanctioned tournament rules.

Sanctioned objectives sought to standardize straight 42 without taking away "any control or traditions from existing groups." This essentially sanctioned the different cultural playing styles in local areas without defining acceptable departures from traditional playing ethics.

So, what does this mean, and what, if anything, needs changing? My observation has been that some players in sanctioned tournaments use unconventional indications, e.g., indicating doubles (or lack of), that are not addressed in the N42PA rules. They gain advantage in competition against traditional players who are not privy to indications between opponents that require private agreements and understandings to be effective.

What can be done to enhance fair play in sanctioned 42 tournaments? Well, standardizing acceptable indicating practices applicable to all sanctioned tournaments would be a good first step. "Show bids" (bids that indicate specific dominos or characteristics in the bidder's hand) have been declared unacceptable in the N42PA rules. Acceptable indications of doubles (or lack of) also need to be defined in rules applicable to tournaments sanctioned by the N42PA.

There are other subtle indications that need addressing. They fall under the broad umbrella of "Any physical signals or cheating of any kind will not be tolerated." For example, one of the sanctioned domino placement options (4-3 or 3-4) should not be used to indicate privately understood signals between partners following the drawing of dominos, before bidding begins.

If you have views to the contrary, I sure would like to hear from you. The majority of polling participants agree that acceptable indicating methods between tournament partners should be defined. Yes, I understand that having fun is paramount, even when prestige and large cash prizes are at stake. But, even in fun games, the rules should be specific enough to define acceptable playing practices when questionable unconventional methods are used by unwitting and creative partnerships.

Please help me understand if I'm out of line in this matter. It appears to me that the official N42PA tournament rules are written for pro-level competition. Wary N42PA members are generally more alert to irregular signalling tactics used in open tournaments and their own closed tournaments. I have no problem with that, but it seems an oversight when non-members play in tournaments sanctioned by the N42PA, and the rules do not adequately define acceptable indicating practices.

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22 Dec 2018 note (rev): After a recent FB exchange with some noteworthy tourney players, I wish to clarify that my objective is to help make the game of 42 the best it can be. In that regard, I believe that standardized rules should be definitive and apply to all open 42 tournament competition. Social playing cultures feeding into that competition will, in time, follow the lead of the "pros." The "pros" need to lead the way. It is not practical for them to accommodate all the traditions of the various diversified social playing cultures; however, if fair play prudence is applied in their standardization decisions, the 42 community will follow their lead. IMHO.

19 Mar 2019: Expanded this discussion in a follow-up document.

Paul Proft, E-mail

visitors since 16 December 2018