Last Update: 3 Nov 2020

Thoughts on the Direction of 42

The National 42 Players Association (N42PA) is a social/recreational 42 club with membership dues and closed competition in its quarterly and annual tournaments. The club sanctions external tournaments that play by the straight 42 format (no variations). The N42PA rules and by-laws are linked at

Sanctioned tournaments are advertised at the N42PA website. N42PA members who compete in sanctioned tournaments earn qualifying points that allow them to participate in the Club's annual Tournament of Champions (TOC), also referred to as the National 42 Championship. Winning cash prizes in that tournament can be quite large compared to external sanctioned tournaments.

The reach of the N42PA is limited in that the only sanctioned tournaments (as of this writing) are in Texas and New Mexico. The N42PA, founded in North Texas in 2005, has been active for the last 15 years. Participation in open sanctioned 42 tournaments has increased over the years, thanks to N42PA leadership and its members who volunteer their services to promote the game.

My observations from (and feedback from and polling of site visitors) indicate player concerns about signaling between partners in tourneys. There are omissions in the N42PA rules that need addressing; however, the N42PA made a significant clarification in its rules in September 2019 when it defined "talking across the table" to include prearranged private signals between partners.

I learned over the last 30 years that tourney players enjoy playing 42 and the fellowship it brings to the game. Most trusting players do not normally question the tactics of their competition; however, commonly accepted indicating methods, e.g., subtle tactics to indicate doubles are not defined in the rules. This has opened the door for some creative players to exploit those omissions.

Even though the N42PA is a private club, it is in a position to lead the direction that 42 is taking in today's culture. Its sanctioning authority infers leadership responsibilities for not only sanctioned tournaments, but for all those in the 42 community who participate in sanctioned tournaments. Who better to fill that role than the N42PA?

Hopefully, the N42PA will standardize fair play rules (in coordination with the tournaments it sanctions) that will benefit the entire 42 community, tourney and social players alike.

Comments and/or corrections are welcome.

Paul Proft, email

1 July 2020 postscript:

I'm a longtime 42 player who learned the game as taught to me by friends and co-workers in the mid-1980s. I learned how to signal my partner(s) via bidding prompts and how to indicate my doubles. This was culturally learned as part of the game, and everybody at the table knew what the signals meant.

In early 1997, following introduction of the public internet, I posted the rules, as I learned them, how to play the game of 42, for my soon-to-be daughter-in-law in New Mexico. She was (and still is) a fast learner.

Later, it was great fun when my wife and I played 42 with my son and his wife; however, I learned from site visitors that my playing instructions needed rework because I had learned and taught unacceptable practices: signal bids ("show bids") and indication of doubles, both unacceptable per 1955 official rules: "Signalling your partner by bids or in any other manner is against the rules."

Thanks to Dennis Roberson (Winning 42) and Jerry Whitney (Hallettsville champion), I amended my original rules to be more in line with straight 42 as advocated by the N42PA and the tournaments it sanctions. (The final version of rules, after years of scrutiny by experienced players, social and tourney, are posted here.)

There are other players in the 42 community who learned signalling as part of the game, and they assume their tactics are okay because they are not addressed in the rules, e.g., seemingly acceptable methods for indicating doubles. As such, their opponents might not be privy to what is going on, putting them at a disadvantage. Surely acceptable methods should be included in the rules or at least introduced in writing for common awareness.

That is why I think the official N42PA rules should define acceptable indicating practices for all 42 competitors in sanctioned tournaments. More information regarding third category (unwitting) players is posted here.

In closing, thanks to the N42PA leadership for its vision in moving the game of 42 forward. In my opinion, the most significant rule change by the N42PA leadership was Rule #17 approved by the N42PA Board in Sep 2019.

Paul Proft

2 Jul 2020 postscript (edited 3 Nov 2020*):

A lot of people see me as a person who does not play in tournaments but wants to change how tournaments are played - that is, a busybody. In my defense, I have made it clear over the years that I am only interested in making 42 the best game it can be, including leveling the playing field with standardized playing rules to accommodate versatility in the 42 community.

I learned to play 42 in the mid-1980s from players who taught signaling as part of the game. This was before the public internet and the N42PA. The two methods I learned was a 30 bid to indicate I had three doubles and could indicate at least one of them. The other method was to sluff a domino that indicated I held the double for the high end of the domino I discarded.* Everyone in the group knew these signals (culturally learned).

When I played others outside our group, I assumed the opponents played by the same rules as I had learned. I did not realize that other players played by culturally learned rules that might not include the signaling methods I had learned. They were at a disadvantage but, at the time, there was a lot of diversity in playing rules, and there were few written rules until the public internet in the 1990s.

Two things I learned since then: [1] Some tournament players agree privately on indicating methods to be used in formal competition (collusion), and [2] some partners use indicating methods as I did (culturally learned, no collusion). The N42PA recognized the first method (collusion) and amended their rules in Sep 2019 accordingly by defining "talking across the table" to include private indicating agreements between partners.

That left only the culturally learned indicating methods. My suggestion was to define acceptable indicating methods. Many players know about specific signal bids and how to indicate doubles; however, there are social players who participate in sanctioned tournaments who have no awareness that subtle signals (indications) are going on at their table. They play at a disadvantage because the rules don't address them.

I play 42 for fun and, yes, I don't participate in formal tournaments. Competition in tournaments is more than just fun, it also offers cash prizes, recognition, and mementos for the winners. As such, the written rules should be standardized and address fair play adequately to level the playing field for all tournament contestants, pros and entry-level players alike.

Again, my summary for rule considerations is posted here. If you have issues with my logic, please send email.

Paul Proft, email

7 July 2020 postscrip (closeout, updated 9 Jul 2020):

In the mid-1980s (prior to the public internet in the 1990s, Roberson's book on Winning 42 in 1997, and the National 42 Players Association in 2005), I learned to play 42 which included indicating doubles via sluffs when I could not follow the suit(s) led. All the players in our group knew about indicating doubles, so the other three players (not just my partner) knew the sluff could be an indicator.

I posted the rules (as I had learned them) online in 1997. Some visitors to my site were quick to point out that indicating doubles via sluffs was either bad form or outright cheating. I was perplexed because that was how I learned to play the game, and all the players at the table knew the indications. I assumed that's how all 42 players played the game. Later, in 2011, I learned that "official" rules written in 1955 (prior to the public internet) stated: "Signalling your partners by bids or any other manner is against the rules."

After receiving feedback from players who never heard of signaling doubles, I posted an online poll in 2018 to survey players about indicating in 42. The survey question was "Should tournament rules define acceptable indicating practices, e.g., methods to indicate doubles (or lack of)?" As of this writing, 70% of the participants voted YES, 21% voted NO, and the remainder was undecided.

The N42PA amended its rules in 2019 to include prearranged indications between partners in the definition of "talking across the table." This was a significant step forward in addressing the concerns of some social players feeding into sanctioned tournaments. The amended rule, however, did not include longtime partners who had learned indicating methods as part of the game (no collusion).

I will not belabor this point any longer. The N42PA club is at the helm, and my opinion at this point is inconsequential. All I can hope for is that social players who participate in open tournaments sanctioned by the N42PA will become more active in club policy in improving the rules. I want 42 to be the best game it can be, and I believe there are others in the 42 community (and the N42PA membership) who are also interested.

Closing note: The big bucks in winning at 42 occur in the annual N42PA Tournament of Champions. You have to be an N42PA member with qualifying points to compete. The tournaments sanctioned by the N42PA club provide opportunity for its members to earn qualifying points to play in the TOC, entry-level and "pros" alike.

Paul Proft, webmaster

visitors since 13 June 2020