Last Update: 27 July 2020

Indicating Doubles in 42

Glynn Hill, a highly regarded 42 player, posted an online 42 document in 2001, before the founding of the N42PA in 2005. The document is now archived at the Wayback Machine. Nowhere in his document does he address indicating/signaling doubles via sluffs/discards. That tells me that the practice was little known in the 42 community in those days; otherwise, he would have included it. His document, reposted with graphics and Table of Contents in 2007, is shown here.

In 1997, I posted the 42 rules I had learned via word-of-mouth in the mid-1980s. They included indicating tactics I had learned as part of the game. It wasn't long before site visitors advised me that the indicating practices I had posted were either cheating or bad form. With their help, over the years, I cleaned up my playing instructions to be more in line with straight 42 (no variations). After years of scrutiny by traditional 42 players and refinement to accommodate valid comments, my rules on indicating doubles were posted here.

Many traditional players do not approve (or have knowledge of) signaling doubles via sluffs/discards. I left the part about indicating doubles in my rules so new players would be made aware of the practice and could be on the lookout for it. Perhaps, someday, someone will figure out how to make intentional indicating via sluffs illegal and enforceable.

It's common knowledge in the 42 community (and addressed in the official 1985 rules) that a player may discard/sluff any domino he chooses if he/she cannot follow the suit led. The official rules also state: "Signalling your partner by bids or in any other manner is against the rules." Maybe acceptable sluff indications can be explained and prefaced in the rules so all players are aware which methods are legal; otherwise, all intentional sluff indications have to be considered illegal.

In 2004, a high profile tournament player posted his rationale for sluffing dominos to indicate doubles held. This explanation is bulletproof, but it does not address intentional signals to indicate a double when this anomaly occurs (talking across the table?). Perhaps someone can explain what to do in situations like this. Defining acceptable indicating practices in the rules went over like a lead balloon, so what is the alternative?

Here are message extracts from a longtime, experienced traditional 42 player:

I used to go to tournaments, but it's unlikely I'd ever go to another (and absolutely not to a ... sanctioned tourney) to perhaps run into players who are in cahoots with their telling ways. Forty-two will never return to the good old days as long as people don't recognize that talking across the board just isn't a good practice, whether it's saying out loud "partner I have double-five and double-six, lead in to it if you can" or they say the same thing via their (sluff indications).

In Sep 2019, the N42PA amended its Rules, including #17 as follows. The rule defines "talking across the table" and pretty much covers prearranged (and intentional?) indications of doubles via sluffs between partners.

'Talking across the table' is cheating and against the rules. '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.

Historical signaling rules are addressed HERE. To me, it looks like more work can be done to level the playing field in the magnificent game of 42.

Comments and/or corrections are welcome.

Paul Proft, email

visitors since 24 July 2020