C o m m e n t a r y b y B e e r d a d d y 4 2
Thank you, Mr. Proft, for inviting me to post a commentary that reflects my observations and personal philosophy on the game of 42.
First, it's not possible for me to say anything about the game of 42 without paying special honor to my old GrandPa. I was named after my GrandDad and the fact is he took interest in the raising of all of his grandkids, but he did favor me quite a bit. He made sure I knew right from wrong and taught me most of the things that truly are important in life . . . and most of it I learned at the Dominoes table. The Dominoes table in my grandparents' home was GrandMa's kitchen table.
My Grandfather was born in Collin County, Texas in the mid-1890's. His family was second generation Texans. Collin County is in Northeast Texas not far removed from the area that is most often referred to as where the game had originated. He was not quite yet a teenager when they moved the family to Ty, Texas, just outside of Abilene. As a young man he loved 42, baseball, and working the railroads. Later, he became a teacher, a cotton farmer, and a merchant. He helped organize the first co-op cotton gin in Post, Texas. I am certain his family had learned and played the game of 42 as close to its original form as anyone could possibly have.
I was raised in a Dominoes Family. We played cards and other games, but my people, especially my grandparents, were all dominoes players. We played Dominoes, Texas42, and Shoot-the-Moon. I was grown before I knew that MoonN42 was not just a single word.
I virtually could play Dominoes at age three and, by age four, I not only knew you had to match the ends, but wanted the tally to equal a multiple of five in order to score marks on the board. At age six, I was already a serious threat on the Dominoes Table and could not be taken lightly. I knew most of my GrandDad's dominoes secrets and ploys.
So, at six years old, my GrandDad, my Dad, and his brother-in-law, taught me 42. I did not get to play it often, so I always looked forward to the times I knew that I would be allowed to join in. Most of the times it was the adults playing and, if I was quiet and did not interfere with the game, I was allowed to watch.
The 42 parties would be quite lively. There was usually more than one table playing and it was not uncommon for as many as four or even five tables to be going. Winners would take on winners and the vanquished would play it out for the determination of the biggest loser.
People who love the game do take it seriously and it being such an infectious game, most everyone that plays it, loves it. We had no serious brawls on account of Texas42, but I do recollect there being a few spats. We had couples in our family that could not play together or even at the same table for that matter. One Aunt and Uncle in particular could not be in the same room when the game of 42 was being played.
I avoided the pool-halls my cousins found refuge in as very young men. I was, however, often found in the dominoes hall that granddad had warned me to stay out of and was quite guilty of playing in "Money Games" that the old men there played. By the time I was really grown, I had a traveling job and my favorite places to kill time after finishing my day was dominoes halls.
In the early 1970's, there were still a lot of local dominoes halls that were often the main attraction in the very small towns. I played dominoe games, especially Moon and 42. I picked up almost every variation of the way my favorite three dominoes games are played in Texas and all of the surrounding states save for New Mexico.
My grandfather had taught me the original game of 42 the way he had learned it. There was no follow-me, and you had to lead one of your selected trumps upon winning the bid on the first trick played in the hand. There were no other special bidding contracts that were played. Once I had the original game down, he taught me follow-me and allowed a non-trump to be led on the first trick. Next, I learned Nello. I was taught about splash and plunge, but after that we never played them in our family. He told me about 7s, but he never actually taught me how to play them, and our family did not play them at all.
In our family, if you called Nello, you could call doubles as a separate suit, "Doubles is Doubles" or call them "Doubles is Bulls" (high in the suit). As I played the game in a variety of regions, I learned that where your folks are from determined what one would think was the real way to play 42 more so than where one themselves were actually from. I think that the other games folks like to play do affect the style and variety of Texas42 that they like best.
The games of Pitch, Rounce, and Pinochle have had a tremendous affect on the game of 42. Make no mistake, Bridge-players have also had an impact on the game both in favored table rules and in playing styles. I never met a player of both Bridge and 42 that did not allow that 42 helped make them better Bridge players. To be sure, both games require a lot of finesse, and a certain amount of bluffing occurs.
Regardless of the table rules and playing style you prefer, it is my hope that you will teach the game of 42 to someone that has never played it before soon. If you know how to play Shoot-the-Moon, I recommend teaching it first. Moon seems to be an ideal way of coaching folks on the nuances of a bidding/trick-taking card game that is played using dominoes as cards. For example, lots of people play the card game Spades.
The difference in Spades and 42 is this: In 42, there are only 7 tricks per hand as opposed to 13. There are only 28 bones in a double-six set of dominoes as opposed to 52 cards in a standard deck of playing cards. There are eight suits available for trumps in Moon and 42 instead of one (spades) if you count no-trump or follow-me (cards have but four suits all together).
42 is played to only seven marks. One side or the other gets the score as opposed to making your bid and setting your opponents in Spades and scoring on both sides of the board. 42 is a quicker paced game and the tricks are laid face up except on bids of 42 or higher. Everyone knows what has been played and can see therefore what is still out against them.
The biggest difference between 42 and bidding/trick-taking games played in regular playing cards is that there are actually two different suits on all the bones except for the doubles. If the 6/4 is out against you, you can pull it in with the double/6, the 6/5, the double/4, or even a little four or little six if you know your partner can catch the trick. Specifically, in 42 you can pull bones out against you from either end of the domino. In cards there's not a big end and a little end to work with and to defend against. Though it can be most confusing at first, this aspect of the game triumphs in making it unique and the most exciting and challenging of the trick-taking games.
It takes maybe an hour or so to learn to play 42. One can might-near play at a master level of the game in a few weeks or so. A lifetime to enjoy the game, however, is not nearly enough, so in the nicest parts of heaven they had to put up some 42 tables, and the folks in hell can only hear the clicks of the dominoes as they "Shake 'em Bones!"
My philosophy about the game is that 42 is a game. It's not a religion. Folks that consider themselves "purists" deprive themselves of the opportunity to master more than one variety or style in which the game is played. So what if you are the greatest "BareBones" 42 player in the world? Can you beat me at Nello? (BareBones would be no special bidding contracts; Nello would be the adding of the special bidding contract, "Catch-None".)
I have been known to laugh at players that insist on playing "Forced-Bid" for two reasons. First, I for one, never have to be forced to bid. ~Grin~ It would seem forced bid on the dealer is ok for 42-newbies. They will definitely learn that many hands they would not bid 30 on will make a 35. As far as forced bid is concerned, it makes far more sense to me to require the first player to bid 30, their partner has the option of taking the bid because he already knows his partner is stuck with a 30 bid. Thus, making forced-bid seem fairer to me. That being said, my second reason would be why would you want to make marks by forcing someone to bid a hand that can not be made save for tremendous luck of the draw (sometimes hands between partners do "marry-up")? So, I'll play forced bid, but not without those requesting it receiving at least a little bit of tongue-in-cheek ridicule.
Over the years, I have seen many a "head-lock" bid made in a dominoes hall. Headlock bids are bids that, once made, result in one of the players at the table being in said wrestling hold. Though rare, this one has witnessed a headlock bid in so-called friendly games at the families' place. Most spats and disputes over the game of 42 that I have been witness to were over accusations of cheating made by people that were being a sore-loser at the time.
Unfortunately, there is this one undesirable aspect of the game the remedy of which I was taught early on. Before beginning to play the game, everyone decide together what the table rules are and specifically what is allowed and that which is not. It worked for us. Though from time to time tempers would flare, we rarely had a major spat over the game in our family.
Upon following through with that approach when playing in dominoes halls, I have never been at a table where there were serious disputes about rules and fairness of play. It seems to me that "House Rules" prevail.
Some players are so intuitive and so lucky that they make a lot of daring hands. Partners working together can make more daring hands more often. Once one has played with or against someone often enough, they learn their style and techniques.
I saw a dispute at a nearby table over how a player knew his opponent's partner still had a trump. The answer was that player always stood his dominoes up with his trumps in the same line. He had simply been observed. Sometimes a reckless bid is made and the hand marries-up well with partner's hand and the hand goes. Sometimes a player knows how his partner plays and reads his bid and decides to go two marks. Sometimes bidding signals are involved.
I want to visit this topic on the game because having played the game in a variety of regions and running up on top-notched players of the game, I have seen first hand a variety of what folks consider unfair play. The only things considered universally unfair are using bids to reveal specific dominoes in a hand and employing special indicators such as a touch of a domino or a stroke of the eyebrow, etc. GrandDad's definition of cheating: "When you give signals that reveal specific dominoes or play in variance with what is specifically disallowed at the table you are playing at."
A lot of what determines what is fair depends mostly on what is allowed or perhaps more so on what is not allowed. This will be different in tournament play as opposed to playing for fun at Aunt Sadie's kitchen table.
To most everyone who plays, a 30-bid means "Partner, I have a helping-hand." The definition of a helping hand varies quite a bit between players. Most everyone plays allowing indicators on the board. Players would indicate dominoes in their hand through their discards. Some people play give all the count you can on your partner's tricks first, then indicate to your partner a suit to come back to your hand with. Some play show a suit I can hit your hand with, and then throw count. Players attempting to go for the set will indicate suits as soon as possible to one another as well. Those first eight bones played pretty well tell everyone who has what. So, "Now, what you gonna do about it?" These players frequently open with bids of 35 and higher. Plenty of unusual hands will make a 35.
If you are going to use bidding signals, in bridge they call them bidding conventions, to keep it to where it's going to be considered fair in almost any 42 gaming environment, I would recommend you keep it to where bids don't mean that certain dominoes are in your hand. I do know a player that is adamantly against the use of "bidding conventions" in the game of 42. From experience in playing them, I can tell you for a fact if they bid 32, they will have 3 doubles in their hand and one will be 6/6. By my definition, that would be revealing a specific domino using a bidding convention thus unfair. This same person disapproves of me bidding 34 to indicate that, "I have a wheel-barrow full of doubles and, Partner, if you don't bid and call a trump, we may be playing follow me". That being said, you only have to play a few games to notice that I only bid 34 when I have a wheelbarrow of doubles and some stoppers.
In tournament play, it will even vary as to what is not allowed. Those that disallow bidding conventions, I would sure hate to officiate. If your team has a 42 bid up and I am last bidder, I am likely to bid 2 marks if I believe that my chances of setting your bid of 42 are slim. Should I decide my chances of getting set are less than 1 in 3, I might bid 2 marks if I have a wheelbarrow of deuces and good stoppers but don't have my double-trump. I have a 1 in 3 chance of partner having my double. Should I get lucky and someone points their finger and says "you cheated" I sure would not want to be an official attempting, in all fairness to everyone involved, to have to determine if a bidding-convention was employed or not. Likewise a player that whines they were Brother-in-Lawed at the Moon table puts a big grin on my face. It's Moon, ain't it?
I know of an outfit that is on the web that wants to standardize table rules in tournaments they sanction. I approve of that and would likely also approve of different standards by another outfit of some sort. Because one outfit has a different way of thinking would not make either one of them the dominoes experts that get to decide this for everyone.
My Texas42 attitude is: "Who's Next?" . . . Let's shake 'em! You wanna play barebones? I am the best. You wanna add Nello? Come on. You wanna play nuttin but Nello? I am the best. Sure, if you are weak and have to be forced to bid, we can play forced bid. Plunge? It's ok. I like it at 2 marks better than at 4 marks. Players like me will bid 5 marks Nello/doubles high if I know you got a wheelbarrow of them. You wanna play 7s? Ok, I'll play them, but that is a bastard bid if I ever have seen one.
My Texas42 creed would be: Shut up and play 42. Bid high and play fast.
My Texas42 Motto: This IS your GrandPa's Game - Make it your game too!
With Sincere Thanks,
[These observations are private ones of my own and do not represent any position taken by the Texas42Club as an organization. We allow players to have their own positions and to take the stance that is the one they believe in. It's only 42. It ain't a religion.]
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