Last update: 18 Mar 2023

Fair Play Rule Considerations in 42 Competition

The N42PA Board approved new N42PA rules on 27 Sep 2019. Changes included definition of "talking acoss the table" and guidance for placement of dominos. The N42PA advises the new rules apply to all sanctioned tournaments. The 2023 Hallettsville rules are an exception. (They are compatible in scope with the updated N42PA rules; however, they do not include the definition of "talking across the table.")

The following are categories of 42 players and how the new rules might affect some playing practices. In my view, there are three categories of 42 player partnerships:

     1. Those who play their hands without resorting to signaling tactics with their partners. This category is no problem in 42 competition.

      2. Those who signal their partners via privately agreed methods (collusion). This category is unethical (cheating).

      3. Those longtime partnerships that use culturally learned signalling tactics as part of the game (no collusion). This category oftentimes seems innocent, but opponents not familiar with their indicating methods are at a disadvantage.

So, how do you address these different styles to "level the playing field" in 42 competition?

The first category needs no addressing (complies with traditional written rules).

The second category was addressed by adding the following definition to existing tournament rules (approved for inclusion in the N42PA rules on 27 Sep 2019):

N42PA Rule 17: "'Talking across the table' includes (but is not limited to) any kind of communication or signaling that is private to the two people doing the communicating. If there is conversation beforehand to set up certain actions to mean certain things, then it is cheating. This rule applies to physical cues, bidding practices, indication of doubles (or lack of), and optional placement of dominos after the shuffle. For example, if my partner and I agree that if I bid 32 that means that I have the double-five this is a conversation beforehand and is considered cheating when implemented. The Tournament Director shall have the authority to interpret this rule to apply to situations not specifically mentioned."

Note: The original 2005 N42PA rules stated the following: "Players shall not provide any physical cues or verbal statements (talking across the table) to their partner." The September 2019 definition of "talking across the table" was certainly a plus in moving the game forward.

The third category can be addressed by defining acceptable indicating practices, e.g., sluffing a double might indicate the next highest unplayed domino in that suit is held by the player, or the high end of a sluffed domino might indicate the double in that suit is held by the player. If a team's indicating methods are not defined as acceptable, then it will have to comply or face possible challenge.

All other indicating methods are unacceptable unless defined as acceptable in the rules. Bridge has a similar rule: "The gravest possible offense is for a partnership to exchange information through prearranged methods of communication other than those sanctioned by these Laws." ("Prearranged" and "culturally learned" methods yield the same results in competition, except the latter is not contrived.)

Note: A player may sluff (discard) any domino he/she wants when he/she can't follow the suit led; however, the rules for second and third category players (above) still apply. (Sometimes false indications might occur, a common risk inherent in the game of 42. Experienced players know how to minimize false indcations.)

Generic helping hand bids are acceptable provided they do not indicate specific information about the bidder's hand, and they meet the criteria of the second category rule above ('talking across the table').

When social players contact regarding questionable playing practices, I usually cite the N42PA tournament rules. Other than the straight 42 format, however, the N42PA club rules are not standard to all sanctioned tournaments. Sometimes the issues are not addressed in the N42PA rules, and I have to advise the inquirers to agree on their own rules, e.g., acceptable practices for indicating doubles.

One can readily see how adequate universal standardized fair play rules are needed in sanctioned competition. Social and tournament players will, in time, follow fair play guidelines enhanced by the leadership in the 42 community. My question: If not the N42PA, who is the leadership in the 42 community?

Paul Proft, email
26 May 2019

Postscript: Fair play rules are important in all 42 competition, social and tournament. A very wise player once stated that the game of 42 is not about tournaments, but, instead, tournaments are about 42. (Very profound if you think about it.)

Note: Link and conversations deleted from FB 30 May 2019.

References:                   ←New

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