Open Message to the N42PA and Sanctioned 42 Tournament DirectorsAmended N42PA Rule #17 has been the most significant improvement in the N42PA rules since the N42PA was founded in 2005. The new rule defines "talking across the table" to include prearranged indicating signals between partners. Previous rules stated "Players shall not provide any physical cues or verbal statements (talking across the table) to their partner," but it did not define "talking across the table" to include private agreements away from the table.
There has been debate in tournament circles about the legality of indicating doubles via sluffs. The 42 rules say a player may discard any domino he/she wishes when he/she cannot follow the domino suit led. Some players use this opportunity to indicate to their partner that their sluffed domino might indicate they are holding the double in the suit they discarded. Is this "good 42?" No, but it is completely legal as long as the indication was not prearranged.
One indication method that is commonly practiced is sluffing a domino whose high end indicates the double held. If no illegal prearrangement is applicable, then the other partner has to deduce the sluff's meaning (if any), as does the opposing partnership. Is this fair? Yes. It's an anomaly in the game of 42 that has not been addressed in the rules.
How do the rules resolve this issue. Well, in my opinion, acceptable doubles indication methods should be addressed in the rules so all players are knowledgeable of their existence. In the absence of such rules, traditional partners can avoid 42 competition that lacks definition in its rules regarding indication of doubles via sluffs.
When social players get together for friendly competition and one partnership discovers the other is indicating doubles via sluffs, the newly "offended" players can avoid further social play with the other partnership. When competing partnerships agree to using specific methods to indicate doubles via sluffs, then the playing field is level. If not, then adios!
In sanctioned tournaments, there is diversity in how sluffed dominos can be used to indicate doubles. Opposition partnerships are assigned, and those they compete with might not know what indicating methods, if any, are used. The only way to find out is to observe and, hopefully, not have to "burn a mark" to determine their methods. (The "Pros" are well adapted in recognizing opponents' sluffing signals.)
If new-entry tournament players become aware of and are uncomfortable with indicating doubles via sluffs, they can avoid future participation in 42 tournaments. If, however, they learn the ways of diversified players that indicate via sluffs, they can continue to compete in tournaments and apply their newly acquired knowledge against other newbies. It is a matter of personal choice.
Is there a solution? Yes. If tournament rules identify acceptable sluffing indication of doubles that comply with the N42PA rules, then the playing field is levelled. If not, then traditional players can elect not to participate in sanctioned tournaments. Standardization of N42PA playing rules in sanctioned tournaments would be a big plus, too.
Surely such measures would increase membership in the N42PA and promote more participation in open tournaments it sanctions. There are a lot of traditional social players who still play by the 1955 rules and who have not participated in tournaments (70% in polling). Others who have participated in tournaments might have lost interest in continuing because of diversified signaling tactics used by opponents.