Last Update: 1 Aug 2020

Indicating Doubles in 42

The following is an online message exchange between Glynn Hill, author of "How 42 Should Be Played" (2001) and Paul Proft ( The conversation was about indicating doubles in the game of 42.

Proft: The bottom line, according to the "official" 1955 rules, is: "If you are unable to follow suit, any domino can be played." If the sluffed domino is intended to signal your partner that you have the double in that suit, then the discard would be illegal according to N42PA Rule #17 if the partners had prearranged the signal.

Hill: No prearrangement is necessary for the attached meaning to be understood. Just keenly watch what your partner plays. If at your bid you notice that at first opportunity of your partner not following suit, your partner plays a six and observe every time he does that he has double-six in hand, same way when he plays a small five, at first opportunity you take notice he had double-five in his hand. And so on with a small four or trey, you observe he had double-four and 33. The attached meaning has been understood. And so both players do accordingly. The signalling, the talking across the table has commenced. The signalling, the talking across the table is not obviated simply because no one verbally talked about it---no discussion is necessary.

Proft: Many experienced opponents; however, will see it, too, recognize it as a possible indicator, and react to it accordingly. (They might have to "burn a mark" to determine which method the opponent team is using.)

Hill: That is exactly what they do. How do you prove collusion? You don't prove collusion. This is what I mean when I say a player is allowed to play any domino he wishes--that you can't police what domino people play. All you can do is to recognize what is going on. Recognize the signalling is being done, the talking across the table is in full swing and either accept it or decide not to play with those who do that.

Proft: The TD will probably rule it as an acceptable common practice, even if it's not specifically addressed in the rules.

Hill: I would expect the N42PA sanctioned tournament TD to rule it acceptable, likewise at the 42-online playing site. It's acceptable to them, not me.

Proft: I don't advocate this line of reasoning, but sluffing to indicate a double is, indeed, common practice, right or wrong, and there's no way that the rules can definitively address and prevent it. The "official" 1955 rule covers the waterfront, but it is quite general in nature: "Signalling your partner by bids or in any other manner is against the rules."

Hill: I agree---again I say it can't be policed---for players are allowed to sluff any domino of their choosing for whatever reason.

Proft: It's an anomaly in the game. So, in my opinion, others after us will have to figure it out.

Hill: I don't think there is much to figure out---you either agree to or accept this talking across the table and merrily join in with those doing in it---or you find like-minded players who don't attach a signalling method to what they play and enjoy playing as earlier generations played the game: with no special attached meaning to message one's partner what doubles he is holding. At my partner's bid when I don't follow suit I may play 60 and it may be that I have double-six in my hand, but then again, I may not have 66. I have not attached a meaning to this sluff. My partner has no idea whether I have double-six or not. To me, it's better 42 to not reveal my doubles via signalling. There are still players like me who agree. And if the truth were known about it, we may be in the majority---and that the high-end domino telling may be primarily that of a minority clique.

Proft: The one thing I learned over the last few years is that tourney players don't want to share their indicating methods with their opponents (like Bridge players do). Bridge and 42 were both derived from the card game Whist.

A compromise is necessary, and I believe N42PA Rule #17 is the best way to start. Based on my exchanges with players who indicate doubles via sluffs, it's a losing battle since the practice is widely accepted in tournaments (and unknown to some entry-level players).

I consider myself a traditional player, even if I had learned some "liberal" ways in the 1980s. Perhaps those liberal ways are realistic and acceptable now and need to be defined in standardized rules for all sanctioned tournament players. I believe that the rules should not only regulate, but also educate entry-level contestants so they can compete effectively in santioned tournaments with large winning cash prizes.

Hill: Let people know there are two distinct ways of playing 42: one includes signalling via sluffs what doubles you're holding and the other way of playing is not doing that.

We must always keep in mind that 42 is just a game. It's to be enjoyed. We can lament how the playing has changed over the years and believe that many of the modifications and additions have harmed the game and sapped its original and traditional ways of playing.

Proft: In social games, you can pick your partner and like-minded opposing players. In sanctioned tournaments, you can pick your partner, but the opposing teams are assigned. Unless you know them, how do you determine if they're like-minded? If they're not like-minded, what recourse do you have?

Hill: In tournaments, all players know the rules and are to abide by them. You do as the other players. My focus is on social playing, that in these games there should be agreement on whether to indicate. If there is no agreement, such as one side insisting that it is "legal" to indicate and others not wanting it---then you can either put up with it or get out of the game.

People are free to decide for themselves how they play this game called Forty-Two. Play and enjoy!

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Back to Hill's addendum "How 42 Should be Played"

Hill: getreal42(at)suddenlink(dot)net
Proft: Proft(at)texas42(dot)net

Posted with permission from Mr. Hill

visitors since 31 July 2020