Forty-two (42) is a four-player (partnered pairs) trick-taking game with bidding and trumps. Technically, it is a card game played with dominos. This domino game was conceived in Texas in the mid-to-late 1880s to circumvent the then moral ban on playing card games in Christian homes. (It was also against the law to play card games on trains in Texas in the post Civil War era.)
Parents taught their kids how to play, and the game was passed from one generation to another. According to Dennis Roberson, author of Winning 42, Texas notables like former Presidents Lyndon Johnson and George Bush, Laura Bush, Ann Richards (former Governor), Dale Evans Rogers (entertainer), and Willie Nelson (singer) also play(ed) 42.
The game is called 42 because that's the maximum number of points that can be won in a hand of play. Each of the seven tricks is worth one point, and there are 35 points in count (dominos with total pips divisible by 5). Partners work together to make their bid or try to set their opponents by keeping them from making their bid.
Prior to the internet, folks learned the game by playing or watching others play. Written instructions were rare, and the rules of play were passed on via word-of-mouth. In 1997, Dennis Roberson published his book Winning 42 and, with the help of the internet, 42 became even more popular in Texas (and other places worldwide).
A 1988 "Texas Monthly" magazine article entitled "Forty-Two" provides a quite accurate description of the game. In the article, Michael Hilton accurately states "42 is a game of bluff, finesse, psychology, and calculated risk."
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