Helping Hand Considerations in 42, Part 2Before the game 42 became widely known as 42, it was called Rounce by many early players. The game reportedly had its beginning in Garner, Texas more than 120 years ago. Its home is Texas, but it has spread to neighboring states and beyond. The core playing rules today are essentially the same, but various playing cultures have added game variations and local bidding conventions which are still observed today by some groups.
The original game allowed players to play a trump anytime, even if they could follow the suit led. The game started out with players bidding their hands and not "talking across the table" to their partners about their dominos or play action on the board. During the evolution of the game, local groups added Nel-O, Plunge, Splash, Sevens, and other variations. Somewhere along the way indicating doubles and the helping hand 30-bid came into play.
The internet became popular in the 1990s, and the different playing cultures began sharing online information about the game. Players learned that not everbody played 42 the same way. It became apparent that some generalized rules were in order to help maintain consistency in 42 tournaments. In that regard, some dedicated 42 enthusiasts got together to establish a governing body for sanctioned 42 tournaments. They named it the National 42 Players Association.
The N42PA constitution characterizes the association as a social/recreation club. Its original charter set standards for 42 tournaments without taking away any control or traditions from existing groups or tournament sponsors. It has held to that objective since its inception in 2005. Most of its members reside in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. (The N42PA rules are for a "straight 42" format and do not allow variations like those mentioned in the second paragraph above.)
Because of the diversity of playing cultures converging on tournaments sanctioned by the N42PA, there are sometimes bidding tactics used by some players from other cultures that come into question. The N42PA rules address bidding practices and obvious unfair subtle physical cues. These rules satisfy their charter, and they leave it to the players (and tournament directors) to interpret their meanings.
One of the best insights I've read on the diversity of playing cultures participating in tournaments is included in a 2008 commentary at this website. On another note, most (not all) polled 42 players agree that show bids are unfair. These are described in another 2008 commentary.
In closing, I was going to discuss Strength of Helping Hand (SOH) bids in the 32-34 and 37-39 ranges and include a survey form to see if they are considered fair play in tournaments. After mulling it over, I decided this is just another example of a bidding practice that is culturally learned (no collusion) and therefore might be acceptable as long as specific dominos (doubles and/or count) are not indicated.
Paul Proft, 3 August 2016
• 18 Sep 2016 Addendum:
The new N42PA tournament rules include the following statement: "... bids meaning specific information will not be tolerated." (The example cited is a show bid.)
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