March 27, 2014

New updates to dominoes software

For all of you who play Win42 and the Dominoes game that goes with it, I've recently updated them. As computer screens have gotten larger, the domino images have gotten smaller, so I've made some new size choices including much larger ones. In Win42 and WinMoon, the "Pile" window now has a setting to make those dominoes larger. In Dominoes and Double-9 Dominoes, the Bone Yard and opponents' tiles are also larger and easier to see. I've also made some changes to the sounds that had issues with newer versions of Windows, and made a few other changes. You can download the new versions from my web page.

March 20, 2012

Another article on 42 in the LA Times

This one's about the big 42 tournament in Halletsville.

Domino effect consumes a Texas town

They tied at first, but Badum and Kuntschik finally prevailed, shaking hands and moving on to their next opponent, a legendary 42 player named Don St. Clair.

St. Clair, 76, has been playing for 68 years. He and partner Richard Mach, 50, a retired engineer, have been together for 20.

With his thick, yellow-lens glasses, leathery skin, and cigarette pack tucked neatly in the breast pocket of his Oxford shirt, St. Clair looks every inch the card shark.

He may spend his days painting lines on parking lots in the Dallas suburbs, but he has the mind of a mathematician.

"Nice hand, Richard," Badum said as they began.


Underneath the table, Mach twitched a leg rhythmically. He had the pained expression of a high-stakes poker player. St. Clair had a dynamite hand, but his eyes remained impassive.

Badum watched the hand unfold, disappointed.

"It's about time we get rocks like that, Aaron," he said to Kuntschik.

When they finally won a trick, Kuntschik pumped his fist.

His joy was short-lived.

St. Clair and Mach seized control of the game by betting aggressively. With luck, and the rocks, on their side, the older men won and went on to claim the state championship, their third, about 10 p.m.

As the two Austin players left, St. Clair was sympathetic.

His real advantage comes from knowing his partner so well he can read his eyes, his manner, even more than his bids. Perhaps, he said, the next generation of Austin 42 teams can stick together long enough to master that.

March 14, 2012

Article about the game of 42 in the NY Times

I just came across an article about 42 today in the NY Times, at least the online version. I think it's taken from a Texas Monthly article.

It mentions the Austin 42 Club, and how they're working to keep the game from dying out due to mainly being played by older people:

Hundreds of small groups, mostly composed of retirees, now gather weekly or monthly for informal games and tournaments. Last year, the unofficial “national game of Texas” received a more formal designation when the Legislature named it “the official state domino game.”
Despite the recognition, however, the game is dying off as its players age. There are a few cities in Texas where this is not the case. One is Austin, home to the largest club in the state.
Aaron Kuntschik, the club’s 39-year-old director, says the group formed in the spring of 2005. “In six years, we’ve had a little more than 200 people sign up,” he said. “Of those, we usually have 60 or 70 active members in the league.”
Besides mini-tournaments once a month, the club offers spring and fall leagues, each 10 weeks long, plus playoffs and a six-week summer fun league.
During a break in play at the mini-tournament, Mike Sobin, a 32-year-old in a red T-shirt and backward baseball cap, explained how he helped create the club.
“A friend taught a few of us how to play, then we taught other people, and within a year we had a little league of eight,” Mr. Sobin said.
In 2006, his club combined with another that had risen independently at a bar across town, bringing the number of teams to 16.
Partly because Mr. Sobin and his friends who started the group were in their 20s, the club that has formed is much younger than other 42 groups in Texas. Roughly one-quarter of players are under 30, half are between their 30s and 50s, and a quarter are in their 60s or beyond.

December 8, 2008

Rule Variations

42 is played predominantly in Texas, and maybe because of limited geography there is a fairly standard set of rules, with a few prominent variations. Here are some of the more frequent ones.

  • Nello - Bidding that you can play the hand without catching any tricks. Since no one could make this bid with his partner still in the game and able to catch tricks, Nello play has the special rule where the bidder's partner doesn't play. Nello is almost universally allowed in casual play, but not in some competitive tournaments. You first bid 42 or 84, then when it's time to state your trump, call Nello. My in-laws play so that saying "one mark" or "two marks" implies Nello, as opposed to "42" or "84" which would imply going straight, but I don't think that's common or desirable.

    Sub-variations of Nello specify how doubles are to be treated. Nearly everyone allows doubles to be high in their suit (like regular 42), or specified as being a separate suit of just doubles. Some other time I'll get into the strategy of which way is the best.

    A less common, and in my opinion inferior, way to play Nello is to allow doubles to be called low in their suit, so that the 6-0 would beat the 6-6. I've mainly seen this from Aggies, but don't know how widespread it is.

  • Plunge - This is less common, but not uncommon. The person bidding Plunge states his bid as 84 (or four marks in a variation), then when it's time for him to state the trump, he calls "plunge" and his partner calls the trump suit and leads the first domino. In order to call plunge, the rule is that the bidder must have at least four doubles in his hand. It's often a desperation bid, trying to catch up when you're behind.

    The plunge for four marks variation is, to me, excessive and shouldn't be allowed.

  • Sevens - This is a completely degenerate way to play and shouldn't be allowed in a civilized game. It's a bid for all the tricks, so is usually played for two marks. The only important thing is the total number of spots a domino has, and how close that number is to seven (either seven exactly, or one away, or two away, etc.). The winner of a trick is the one who plays closest to seven, or who plays that first. A hand that has several dominoes close to seven, especially having two of the three sevens, is a good one to bid on if you're into this sort of thing.

  • Leading the suit of the low side - I have seen before, some people allow a non-trump off to be led on the very first trick of a hand, and specify that the low side of this domino is the lead suit. This is much less common, and I think it's usually meant to get rid of an off that otherwise would draw out (and probably lose) the 5-5 or 6-4. For example, on the first trick, the bidder plays the 1-5 and states that the "1" is the lead suit for that trick, thus getting rid of his five-off without drawing out the double-five. I don't like this variation.

  • Doubles as trumps force you to follow that suit - Some people think that if doubles are called as the trump, that if a double is led and you don't have a double to play, you're forced to play the number suit of the lead domino. For example, if doubles are trumps, and the leader plays a 5-5, and you don't have a double, that you would then be forced to play a five. This is less of a variation than an error if you ask me. I don't think it's considered standard anywhere.

  • 36 will overbid a Nello bid - I kind of like this one. I think it's very uncommon, but I've been told that some people play that if someone before you bids on Nello, you can overbid him with 36. This would necessitate that someone bidding Nello has to state it up front and not simply say "42" or "84." But it does allow a good hand to overbid a trash hand.

  • Can't open at 84 bid - This is also a mistake I've seen before. Some people play that you can't bid two marks until someone previous to you has bid one mark. It's a mistake, because if you played this rule, no one would ever bid 84, since no one bids 42 on a straight hand, since you can almost certainly win the bid with less risk by bidding 36.
What variations have you seen? Post them in the comments.

December 5, 2008

Welcome to the 42-Dominoes Blog

Hi all 42 players! I've started this blog to have a place to discuss ideas about playing the great game of 42. I have a few ideas for future topics, and I would entertain guest postings as well.

For now, leave your thoughts in the comments of a post.