Last Update: 22 July 2020

History of Written 42 Rules

Following the reported "invention" of 42 in the mid-1880s by two Texas boys, the rules were passed on by word-of-mouth and spread rapidly in Texas, picking up variations along the way. Eventually the diversified rules were put in writing.

The following rule extracts show the chronology of "official" written 42 rules known to this author:

1955: The earliest known written official 42 rules were written years before the public internet (1990s) and the National 42 Players Association (N42PA). Those rules stated that "Signalling your partner by bids or in any other manner is against the rules."

2005: N42PA rules posted by North Texas founders (undated). Those rules stated that "Players shall not provide any physical cues or verbal statements (talking across the table) to their partner."

2010: Amended N42PA rules. Those rules also stated that "Players shall not provide any physical cues or verbal statements (talking across the table) to their partner."

2016: New N42PA rules posted by Central Texas leadership (undated). Those rules stated "Any physical signals or cheating of any kind will not be tolerated."

2019: N42PA rules posted by new leadership. The rule states "'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."


1. If players were taught as part of the game to sluff dominos to indicate doubles (no collusion), is that private and prearranged (and covered by "not limited to") in the 2019 rules? These players learned indicating doubles just as they did other unwritten rules of the game. Their playing group knows the rules they learned, and that's how they play the game, not realizing that others outside their group might not be privy to those rules.

2. When a player cannot follow the suit led, can he/she sluff a domino to indicate a double in his hand to his partner? Yes, that is considered fair play because a player may legally sluff any domino he/she chooses. If the indication is intentional and the opposing partnership is not aware of the practice, then they compete at a disadvantage.

So, how do you resolve this unevenness in the playing field? Here's one solution: Explain in a preface to the written rules that this is an anomaly in the game and define acceptable indicating of doubles via sluffs. If a player has no legal discard, he/she may sluff any domino he/she chooses; however, N42PA Rule #17 still applies if the sluff is not defined as an acceptable indication, e.g., the high end of the sluffed domino.

I realize this solution is splitting hairs, and I'm interested in how others feel this issue should be addressed. The other alternative is for players to share their indicating practices with their opponents. This was rejected because that's how Bridge is played (also derived from the card game Whist), and some vocal tourney players are adamantly opposed to that.

Your comments, questions, and/or corrections are welcome.

Paul Proft, email


1. Links to sites that provided "unofficial" rules, 1995-1997, after introduction of the public internet, are posted HERE. My unofficial rules for straight 42 are posted HERE.

2 The N42PA, a social/recreational club, is the authority for sanctioning open 42 tournaments that play straight 42 (no variations). The written rules in each sanctioned tournament are determined by its directors. Social players participating in sanctioned tournaments need only heed those rules. If the rules do not address questionable tactics, then players apply their own judgments and hope the tournament director decides in their favor if challenged.

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