Webmaster's note:

Darrell "Odie" Morgan is a 42 player in Central Texas. He has been active in officiating 42 tournaments, including the State Championship tourney in Hallettsville. He's a former Board member of the N42PA and has served in other leadership capacities in the Austin area.

I asked Odie to comment on a narrative I wrote about enhancing fair play rules. I was delighted when he accepted my invitation to write about his 42 background and his thoughts about indicating in straight 42. Here it is. Enjoy.   - PP

☆ Darrell “Odie” Morgan’s View on Indication ☆

Some background on me……

I grew up in a family (mom’s side) that played 42 for decades, they also played 88 & 84. Growing up, this was the adult’s thing at family gatherings, we would play other things up until I hit my teenage years. I’m not sure the exact point in time, but I started to learn 42 when I was around 15 give or take. Until I was about 31 or 32 years old, I never played outside my family. No tournaments, no weekly meet ups, nothing. And I only played at family events once every few months at best. We never strategized about 42 and it was much more of a happy go lucky game. In 15 or so years, I had never bid above 32, it was unheard of for my family. We also never lead anything besides a trump domino first. Basically, the bidder would have big trumps, they would clear trumps from opponents and they play all their winners. At the end of each hand they would punt their off and hope (crossing fingers) that their partner would catch their off and have the rest. We also played with Nello, so many bids were 42 low. We also used plunge as well, so those hands were automatically 84 hands where you had to get all the tricks. As the helper to the bidder, you were taught to give count at the first possible opportunity- the 10 counts first, then any 5 counts you might have. After that you kinda just threw your smallest and most insignificant dominos at random.

Fast forward to September 2008….

My sister found the Austin 42 Club and signed us up for their Fall League. They played in North central Austin at a place called Ginny’s Longhorn Saloon. My sister also had the same 42 experience as I did, so neither of us had played outside our family gatherings. Long story short, we got smoked by our opponents for the first 4 or so matches. I was so puzzled and shocked that our opponents would bid high and often and more often then not hit their partner and make their bids. My very first league match we played David Roberts and a lady named Carrie. I couldn’t believe that he would dare bid 35 and have a straight 5 off! What was more shocking is that he had a 5 off and a much less dangerous off- like a 2 or 3, yet he chose to punt the 5 off and his partner caught it with the double 5. I was so in shock I couldn’t talk for several minutes and just had a very odd look on my face.

Fast forward a few more months from this point….

I learned from others in the group that many of the teams practiced “indication” and it was acceptable and not considered cheating. Basically, indication meant that the helping partner would “hint” to the bidder which doubles he/she had to help the bidder decide which off to punt. Forward indication means that you would play a domino with the high side matching the double you had. So, an example would be if the bidder went in blanks and you (the helping partner didn’t have any blanks to start with) When the bidder leads out double blank, you as the helper play the 6/1. By doing so, you are hinting that you likely have the 6/6. This is forward indication. A more obvious example also be if you happen to have both the 6/6 and the 6/5. In same scenario the bidder leads out double blank and you play 6/6. You are hinting to your partner that you have the next high 6 domino- the 6/5. Special note: even this would not be obvious to my family, they would just be puzzled and look at your crazy if you did this. Forward indicating teams generally have a high to low order. In other words they’d rather indicate the higher doubles versus the lower ones. (this is because they higher the double- the more offs associated with said double) There are 6 dominos that can lead into the double 6, yet only 1 domino that can lead into the double 1. See the difference?

After 2008 I started going to many more tournaments and became much more active in the 42 world outside my family. I learned and practiced this indication method and my bidding became much more aggressive. I also noticed that this practice was happening many other places outside Austin, this was happening in Houston, DFW, New Mexico, Huntsville, Willis, Mt Vernon, you name it. It was very common practice and was the standard for virtually all the players I knew around the state. When we had random partner mini-tourneys, you just assumed your partner would know this.

Fast forward to about 2009/2010….

A few players I was playing often with suddenly came up with a new method called “Reverse Indication”. This basically means that the helping partner plays a domino hinting to the bidder for what they DON’T have. So in the scenario with the blanks, the bidder plays double blank and the helper plays 6/1. They are hinting to their partner that they likely do NOT have the 6/6. So, the bidder knows to punt a different off if given a choice. This method was much less common and I only had about 5-6 players I would use this method with. I preferred this method and enjoyed this more then “Forward indication” as was standard practice. As a setting player, it was good to know or pick up on which of these methods your opponent was utilizing. We used to jokingly say “Reverse Indication” was going to the dark side.

Not a perfect system.

Neither of these methods were perfect and always worked, for example, you might get hands with Zero doubles. Or you might have a lot of doubles but no similar dominos to show. My uncles referred to indication as “show and tell”. I always thought that was funny. Though not a perfect system, the teams that understood and practiced indication (forward or reverse) had an advantage over family kitchen table players- like I was from 15-32 years of age or me prior to Sept 2008.

My thoughts about this going forward.

I know that very recently several have frowned on this and even some say this should be outlawed and have rules made against these methods. I don’t think that’s possible, as you have to play a domino when not following suit. Also, you have players would have played and used these methods for decades, some 40 years or more. You’d have to outlaw them from ever partnering together anymore. I’ve heard some reference a “pre-conversation” rule, meaning you can’t have any pre-conversation or discussion before partnering with another player. I don’t think this is practical nor possible. I think this would prevent you from teaching newbies the game and also prevent those long time partners from partnering up again. (their pre-conversation was 40 years ago)

One very big key thing to remember when talking 42, is there are not original cut in stone authoritarian set of rules from the founders. So, subjects like indication are extremely subjective. It’s basically up to the majority if they deem this practice as cheating or not and it’s up to them on how to enforce this if that’s their goal. I personally don’t think it’s possible to set a hard rule in writing outlawing indication. There’s way too much grey area for this. I do think that these methods need to be taught for players to watch for and to help their setting games, I do think it’s good to have this information out to the masses and educate all the family players how it works and that others use it. I’m personally of the opinion that it’s not cheating, but that’s my subjective opinion. I do think that if you want to outlaw or believe indication is cheating, then both these scenarios are one in the same:

      Playing 6/1 to your bidding partner to hint that you have 6/6

      Playing 6/6 to your bidding partner to hint that you have 6/5

Either both are cheating or neither are - can’t have it both ways. You might say the 2nd example is much more obvious and argue it’s logical, guess what? Not to my family. And it’s still conveying information to your partner on what off they should punt to you.

I’d actually like to make an instructional video to demonstrate and teach how indication works and the differences between forward and reverse indication. I think we should draw light and educate players all around on these methods so they are aware and it becomes less of the “elephant in the room” as it seems to be now in certain circles.

I do want to make it very clear that I am not currently serving on the N42PA board nor the A42C board or any other 42 organization. These are simply my personal opinions. I do help run the 2 Hallettsville tournaments each year, but am also not an official member of their chamber of commerce. They do respect my opinions however and trust me to run & help organize their tourneys.

Thanks, Odie
16 June 2019


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