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.