Texas Primer: Forty-Two

Don’t tell a player that this Texas game is just luck—and don’t ever call it dominoes.

Have you ever played a game of 42? Chances are, if you’ve been around Texas very long, you have. The game, after all, was invented in Texas. It may be waning now—it’s hard to compete with Jacuzzis and VCR movies—but 42 endures. Granted, it’s not the major pastime that it once was, but it does and will survive.

What is 42? you may be asking. Well, it’s a domino game with rules like bridge. It is played with partners, the object being to win tricks, or rounds of play, and while doing so to capture “count rocks,” or point-scoring dominoes. The name 42 comes from the method of scoring. Each trick is worth one point, and each domino whose spots total five or ten is worth the total of its spots. When you add all the count rocks and the tricks together, the sum is 42. I won’t go on trying to explain it; just play 42 a couple times, and you’ll understand it far better than I could describe it here.

Some dismiss 42 as a game of luck. The late bridge expert Oswald Jacoby said it is, and a lot of Texas’ top domino players—Charles B. Wallace, Ralph Foster, and George McAlister among them—agree. Now, it may be true that the mathematical calculations required in 42 are less intricate than those required in regular dominoes. And the rules of 42 may be fairly simple compared with those for bridge.


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