Updated 21 Apr 2021

Signaling Rules in the Game of 42

Forty-two (42) reportedly was "invented" in Texas in the mid-to-late 1880s and was primarily a social game that was passed to other folks via word-of-mouth. Over the years, game variations, diversified cultural playing styles, and 42 tournaments evolved.

The inventors, reportedly two boys in northeast Texas, patterned the rules of the domino game 42 after the card game Whist which did not allow partners to "signal" each other. (Whist was the forerunner of the card game Bridge, hence the similarities between 42 and Bridge.)

Thanks to the public internet in the 1990s, there has been much progress in carrying the game into the 21th century which now includes 42 tournaments with diversified rules (other than the straight 42 format required for sanctioning by the N42PA club).

The following are rule extracts, past and present, that address signalling between partners in 42 competition.


• The earliest official written rules known to this player are contained in a 1955 publication by Richard Wall. His rules in "How To Play Texas 42" state the following:

Signalling your partner by bids or in any other manner is against the rules.

• Rules were developed in 2005 by the newly formed National 42 Players Association (N42PA). This is from their official 2010 rules (archived in 2015):

Players shall not provide any physical cues or verbal statements (talking across the table) to their partner.

Note: The 27 Sep 2019 N42PA rules linked at the N42PA website defined "talking across the table" to include private signaling schemes between partners prearranged away from the table.

Signalling and indicating terms were included in the N42PA rules revision in Sep 2019.


• Current Austin 42 Club rules (June 2018) state the following:

Any physical signals or cheating of any kind will not be tolerated. Also, bids meaning specific information will not be tolerated. An example would be if a team agrees that each and every time they bid 30, they always have the double 5. Examples of physical signals could be taping dominos on table before being played, pointing dominos in certain directions intentionally as a strategy, encouraging your partner to bid or pass during the bidding cycle, etc.

• Current N42PA rules (27 Sep 2019) state the following:

'Talking across the table' is cheating and against the rules. 'Talking across the table' includes (but is not limited to) any kind of communication or signaling that is private to the two people doing the communicating. If there is conversation beforehand to set up certain actions to mean certain things, then it is cheating. This rule applies to physical cues, bidding practices, indication of doubles (or lack of), and optional placement of dominos after the shuffle. For example, if my partner and I agree that if I bid 32 that means that I have the double-five this is a conversation beforehand and is considered cheating when implemented. The Tournament Director shall have the authority to interpret this rule to apply to situations not specifically mentioned.

• The 2019 Hallettsville Texas State Championship 42 Tournament rules state the following:

Any form of signaling by or to a team will result in automatic disqualification.

Note: The 42 handbook, 'Killer' 42 (© 2015), states signaling is "A practice by low life types of secretly transmitting information to their partners so as to gain an unfair advantage." (page 19 of 110)

The key words in the rules are signalling and signals. Technically, by definition, indicating is the same as signaling (synonyms); however, indicating doubles is not considered signaling unless there is prior private agreement or understanding between partners regarding their use(s) in competition. When partners use privately understood indicating methods that are not discernable by experienced opponents when first observed, then that can rightfully be considered signaling.

Another example of signalling would be if one of the sanctioned domino placement options (4-3 or 3-4) is used to indicate privately understood information between partners following the drawing of dominos, before bidding begins.

I welcome feedback from site visitors who might disagree or have something they wish to add. My only motivation in this matter is to enhance fair play in 42 competition via awareness of history and interpretation of the written rules, past and present.

Paul Proft, webmaster
16 May 2018

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