Last update: 19 July 2020

Indicating Considerations in the Game of 42

Should acceptable methods of indicating doubles (or lack of) be defined in sanctioned 42 tournament rules, and is indicating doubles acceptable since traditional rules say signaling of any kind is against traditional rules? This narrative hopes to shed some light on the pros and cons of indicating doubles (or lack of) in the game of Texas 42.

I guess it all boils down to intent. If a player discards a domino that is not intended to indicate anything, then it is a strategic, thought-out action. If, however, the player discards a domino that is an indicator, and his partner recognizes it as such, then has N42PA Rule #17 been violated? If so, this could result in challenges as suggested by some players who believe acceptable indicating practices should not be defined in the rules.

To have "understandings" that some common indicating methods are okay is consistent with the unwritten rule. The N42PA cites an example that "indicating is considered 'ok' since the tile played is during the game and visible to all players (i.e. the play of the 5:1 tile when the bidder is fishing trumps, you are void, and can play anything tells your partner AND THE OTHER TEAM that you probably have the 5:5)." (This assumes everybody at the table observes this as an indication and understands its meaning.)

Some longtime social partners learned to play 42 with unconventional indicating signals as part of the game. They have no awareness that there's anything wrong since that's how they learned to play, and everybody in their local group played that way. When they compete in distant tourneys against other teams from other cultures, everybody at the table sees what's played; however, only the players who recognize the indications benefit from their observations.

A popular and commonly accepted method in 42 competition for indicating doubles is discarding a domino whose high end indicates the double held. Some players never heard of this, and the rules don't address this method or other methods used to indicate doubles (or lack of).

When omissions in the rules are exploited, unwitting partners have advantages as effective as witting partners who violate Rule #17. The classic example is a quote by a former Hallettsville winner: "I do not need a rule to decide what I think is fair." When fair play is not adequately defined in the rules, players use their own judgement in determining what is fair. Therein lies the problem. When players decide for themselves what is fair play, then it's prudent to adequately define fair play practices so the same rules apply to all sanctioned tournament players.

I'm beginning to believe that crafty partners, witting and unwitting, who exploit omissions in the rules are, indeed, smart players who are reshaping integrity in the traditional game of 42. New Rule #17 does much to discourage "private understandings" between partners, but more definition is still required for acceptability of uncommon, culturally learned indicating practices (no collusion).

This, of course, is my opinion, and there are differing views from both sides of the issue. Maybe others are right, and there is no practical way to improve the rules of 42 when it comes to indicating tactics outside Rule 17. If that's the case, then an Introduction to the rules should at least cite commonly accepted examples for indicating doubles (or lack of) so they are understandably "visible to all players" from diversified playing cultures who might not be privy to their meanings. MORE

Forty-two (42) was derived from the card game Whist, the same game that the card game Bridge was derived from. That's why 42 is often compared to Bridge. Bridge, however, made adjustments for indicating tactics between partners, and it is now a world-class game. Texas 42, however, has tried to keep it simple by making 42 an easy game to learn without effectively addressing indicating practices in partnerships.

Adjustments in the Texas 42 rules can be made without following the lead of the ACBL. If not, 42 will continue to be the beloved domino game in the state of Texas, without guidance on indicating doubles.

Paul Proft, E-mail


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