Addendum by Glynn Hill
How 42 Should Be Played
I wrote the Glynn Hill article many years ago before the virus of talking across the table had infected the great game of 42 to any significant extent. Now it is widespread and continuing to spread, debilitating and degenerating the game that would have shocked earlier generations. When first encountered by players, their immediate reaction probably was to exclaim: "That's cheating!"
My opinion on this is that any and all sorts of talking across the board is not cheating - as long as everyone playing at the table is aware of what's going on, has been fully informed about it and agree to it.
People can modify and change the game they call 42 in any way that pleases them. This can include not only indicating, but also variations such as Nello played three ways, splash, plunge and sevens and partners exchanging an unwanted domino. But all that is a departure from the original, traditional 42 played by earlier generations. The purist view, which is mine, is that the modifications don't serve to improve 42, but instead degenerate it.
The practice of telling your partner what doubles you have in your hand is often done by playing a domino, such as 6/0 or 5/1 or 4/3 at first opportunity to let your partner know you have double-six or double-five or double-four. It is done by attaching a meaning to such dominoes and thus we have departed from traditional 42 into Telling 42. Into talking-across-the-table 42.
Generations of players never imagined that such telling what you have would become accepted as a good thing. They relied on trying to deduce and figure out what best to play from seeing the dominoes in their hand and those played trick by trick. They didn't see any good in devising schemes to tell (to talk across the table) what doubles are in your hand.
It is sometimes asserted by advocates of such telling that this is no different than when your toss away your double-six or double-five. First, that is not telling what double you are holding---it is simply the playing of that double to which anyone can logically infer that you probably wouldn't have tossed it in unless you were holding the next highest.
It is wrong to conflate that with the telling what doubles are in your hand, not yet revealed by being played. An argument is made that you can discern just by looking at the dominoes your partner played what doubles he has. There is no need for any prior discussion about it, just notice that whenever you've bid that it happens that at first opportunity you see that when your partner plays a small six he has double-six or when he played a small five he had double-five. Isn't this just being observant and discerning in seeing what dominoes have been played? No, it isn't just that.
What has occurred is the understanding of an attached meaning. This I maintain, is talking across the table---just as surely and effectively as saying out loud "I have double-six (or double-five), lead your six (or five) off." Whether you say it out loud or via the high end domino method of telling, it is still talking across the table.
It should be noted that there are yet other ways people have devised to tell what they have, among them reverse indicating. By whatever means chosen, the purpose is to tell your partner what doubles you have through an attached meaning to the domino played. The allure of doing this is obvious. It makes it easier to make marks when you tell your partner what doubles you are holding. In my opinion, it isn't good 42.
Forty-two is better played when such telling is not practiced. Let your partner try to determine himself what to hold and what to play without telling. Don't prevent your partner the delight of figuring out for himself what best to play based solely on the dominoes played and those in his hand. Making it harder on the opponents to do the set because you told your partner what you have just isn't good 42.
There can be no policing of 42 involving what you can play. You certainly are allowed to play whatever domino you want for whatever reason, within the boundaries of the rules being enforced or those agreed to. If you enjoy playing that involves any kind of talking across the table, then play with those like-minded. If you believe 42 has been contaminated by such doings, find like-minded friends and play the way you enjoy the game.
Glynn Hill, July 26, 2020
More on indicating doubles
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Posted with permission from author