Comments about the game of 42 and tournament play
By Jerry Witney, 2009 Texas State Champion

Everyone likes to win, but I think most 42 players just enjoy the playing the game. Most players can team up with anyone to play and have fun. If you draw great dominoes, the game is easy to bid and play. Hitting your partner with your off dominoes or with some of your trumps makes the game exciting and fun. The strategy comes in when you don’t have a great hand, but you make one out of it anyway. Having a great hand and not able to play because you get overbid by the opposition is depressing. But that same great hand may contain the dominoes responsible for setting the overbidding opponent.

We all like to see if we can make our bid playing our own hand, so it comes down to how much do you bid to get the option to be able to play out the hand that you have drawn. Most of the time: Just to see if you can make or not! It comes down to what your partner has in the way of help and if you can get them into the lead to help. This is without any prior knowledge as to what he/she has in their hand. It comes down to watching. Watching what your partner and the others have played and when they didn’t follow suit. With that information you can determine what your partner has or doesn’t have to try to get him/her in the lead. When playing with a person that you have never played with before, this “watching” strategy comes into play. It is the only strategy you have to try and win the hand and ultimately the game.

If you have played with the same person for some period of time, could be months or even years, we develop playing styles that are easily recognized because we’ve seen it over and over again. We know those playing styles by heart and what that person has by what or how they played it. We know by how they bid or what they bid what they possibly have in their hands. For example: Most skilled players only bid 30 when they have 3 or more doubles. But, they may not ever bid 30 with double blank, double ace, and double deuce as the only three doubles. Their style may only include mostly bigger doubles, which if you had been playing many years with that person you would know that. They may only bid 30 when they have 5-5 or 6-6 as one of the doubles. This knowledge about your partners playing styles gives you and your partner a great advantage over other players that may or may not have ever played with their each other. Other players may not have ever seen that style of playing or have never played with anyone long enough to have a style. Playing with partners without prior knowledge of their playing styles gives no one an advantage.

Even though tournament rules are strict and are designed to put all players on the same playing field; playing with the same partner over some period of time definitely gives you a tremendous advantage over other opponents. Tournaments that draw for partners take away that advantage and a person has to rely on their own skill or luck to win. The drawing of one partner to play the entire tournament may not be the best way either. A really good player may get teamed up with a person whose knowledge of the game is less than ideal. But it also gives a weak player a chance to play with someone who could help him to improve his game strategy. The game format of drawing for a new partner each round really puts everyone on the same playing field; no one has an advantage except for his own playing skill or luck of the draw.

My opinion concerning indicating: I realize that because of people who have played together for a long time have indicating and playing styles that are recognizable by those partners who have played with them. Is that illegal? It may not be illegal, but gives those partners an advantage that is very hard to beat in a tournament setting.

Use of high end of a particular domino to indicate a double was certainly a product of some of those playing styles and not part of the original game and should be illegal. Are there times when you have nothing else to play but dominoes whose high end is one or more of your doubles; yes. Does that give you a legal argument? No. If high end indicating style had never come into play, there would be no argument. Because of high end domino indicating, there are many times when you lose the hand or game because you have no doubles but have to play dominoes that your partner may perceive as a double indication and lead to you and lose the hand. So, indicating can be very misleading and a disadvantage. Also, indicating can be used against you by your opponents because they can read dominoes too, and know what not to lead! It seems since this form of indicating has been legalized, most everyone uses it instead of giving the needed count to make your bid. In my opinion, high end indicating is not a good indicating style. The best is the “watching” method. Paying attention to what is played, when it’s played, and when the suit is not followed and by whom is the best playing strategy! Watching facial expressions and/or sounds such as grunts and groans, hum’s, and other noises that people tend to make when a domino that they need to come in, doesn’t come in! One style that is perfectly legal and part of the original game is playing the double to indicate high domino of that suit. Watching what is played by each player can indicate what their bid trumps could have been if he/she had gotten the bid or what your partner may have in his/her hand.

42 is a great game that can give a person many years of gaming pleasure. I believe there is always a new strategy to learn. Playing with skilled players or those that have been playing many years gives every one the opportunity to learn more about this wonderful game. Teaching others things that they do not know about the game is exciting also. Since this is a partner game, I enjoy teaching others how to be a good partner. What to play and when to play it, what to hold and how long to hold it, talking to your partner without saying a word, and how to use the odds to teach you how and what to bid.

My opinion: The true test of whether you’re a champion or not is how well you can play with any partner without prior knowledge about their particular playing style, how they bid, or play certain dominoes. Using your own skill and strategy to win the game with integrity!

Jerry Whitney
2009 Texas State 42 Champion

22 May 2010    

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