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Texas Forty-Two

Also known as 42, Four-Hand Texas, and Domino Rounce.  This is a card-type domino game, based on the playing-card game Auction Pitch, where the object is to win tricks from players' hands of tiles.  Some considerable skill is needed in bidding and gameplay.  Up to seven players may play, but it is best played by four as two partners of two.  It is played with a Double-Six domino set and a score sheet.

The game was invented by twelve-year-old William Thomas and fourteen-year-old Walter Earl in 1887 at Trappe Springs, USA.  As fundamentalist Baptists they were punished by their parents for playing the card game Auction Whist because Baptists considered playing-cards the "Devil's Picture Book", but they didn't have such restrictions on playing dominoes.


The first dealer or shaker is selected at random.  The dominoes are shuffled, facedown, by the shaker and then each player draws 7 tiles that only they can look at, with no remaining tiles left.  As a courtesy the shaker and their partner draw their tiles after their opponents.

The object of the game is to win tricks of tiles.  However, players must bid for the number of tricks they think they can win.  The hand begins with a round of bidding starting with the player to the shaker's left and then with players in turn announcing a higher bid until a limit is reached when no player will bid higher.  The lowest bid is 30 points which means the player who bids this thinks they can win at least 30 points together with their partner.  Subsequent bids must be raised to a higher total in increments of 1 point a time up to a total of 42 points.  Once a bid of 42 is reached a player may then bid 84 points which means they think that with their partner they will win all the tricks with all the available points.

Once the bidder has been decided he announces the trump suit.  The trump suit will rank highest over all the other suits as tricks are played.  Tricks are played with the highest bidder, playing a tile and then with subsequent players in turn playing a tile, with the highest ranked tile played, taking the trick.  Players must follow the lead tile with a tile bearing the same lead suit, if able.  If a player doesn't hold the lead suit, they may play a trump suit if they wish, with the highest ranked suit taking the trick  Doubles are only regarded as a separate suit when they are bid.  Tiles generally rank as listed in the table below, ignoring the declared trump suit.

Suit Rank Tile Rank (From High to Low)
Doubles 6-6 5-5 4-4 3-3 2-2 1-1 0-0
Sixes 6-6 6-5 6-4 6-3 6-2 6-1 6-0
Fives 5-5 5-6 5-4 5-3 5-2 5-1 5-0
Fours 4-4 4-6 4-5 4-3 4-2 4-1 4-0
Threes 3-3 3-6 3-5 3-4 3-2 3-1 3-0
Twos 2-2 2-6 2-5 2-4 2-3 2-1 2-0
Ones 1-1 1-6 1-5 1-4 1-3 1-2 1-0
Blanks 0-0 0-6 0-5 0-4 0-3 0-2 0-1

If a player leads with a non-trump tile, then the highest suit marked on it is taken as the suit the other players must follow.  This means that there are only three tiles bearing a two that can lead - 2-2, 2-1, 2-0.- because all other tiles bearing the two suit would be ranked by their higher end.  Non-trump tiles are ranked according to the table below, when played as the lead.

 Non-Trump Tile Rankings When Led
6-6 5-5 4-4 3-3 2-2 1-1 0-0
6-5 5-4 4-3 3-2 2-1 1-0  
6-4 5-3 4-2 3-1 2-0    
6-3 5-2 4-1 3-0      
6-2 5-1 4-0        
6-1 5-0          

The winner of a trick leads in the next trick played.  The turn of shaker passes to the next player in turn for each new round.

Each of the seven tricks won, scores 1 point to the winning partnership  The tiles bearing ten pips, score 10 points for the players winning the tricks with those tiles.  Tiles bearing five pips, score 5 points for the players winning the tricks with those tiles.  The 10s and 5s tiles are known as "counters".  Each round of seven tricks played, scores a total of 42 points (10 + 10 + 5 + 5 +  5 + 7 = 42) which is where the game gets its name from.

If the bidding players score at least the number of points they called ("make the contract") then they score that total of points and their opponents score their trick-winning point total.

If the bidding players fail to score at least the bid total they called, then their opponents score the called bid total plus any winning trick points they made during play (known as "setting the contract").

For example, if the bidders bid 32 points and scored 35, then they score 35 points and their opponents score 7 points.  If they bid 32 points and only made 30, then they score nothing and their opponents score 44 (32 + 12 = 44).

A number of rounds are played as described and the first partnership to score 250 points, wins the game.

In practice, most bids will be for 30 or 32, and 35 or 36 points.  Other bids are possible, but in practice their scores are not really achievable.  You may think you can make 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 points from counters.  However, making these counters depends on the suit declared trumps and the number of tricks you actually win.

Strategy when bidding is to look at the tiles which will lose tricks for you (known as "offs").



There are many regional variations to Texas 42 incorporating different rules to the basic game described above.  Many purists disagree with playing these special tricks, feeling it spoils the key elements of the game, like playing Poker with too many wild cards.  It's up to you if you want to play any of the variations, so the main ones commonly found are described below for your information.  All these variations may be played with doubles ranked from 6-6 up to 0-0, or with doubles ranked either high or low in their own suit.

Scoring by Marks

As an alternative to scoring standard points, players may score Marks.  This is the most commonly used variation to the basic game which is often used for tournaments to speed up play.  One Mark is scored for each game won, regardless of the points bid or scored except if a bid of 84 was made then the winning partnership scores two Marks.

The first partnership to score seven or more Marks and be at least two Marks ahead, wins the overall game.


Also known as Nel-O, Nillo, No Trick, Low Boy, or Low in parts of Texas.  A player who has made a bid of 1 Mark (42 points) or higher and wins may announce "Nello", which is a contract for the bidder to lose every trick.  In this event the bidder's partner turns all their tiles face-down and takes no further part in play of this round.  The winning bidder leads the first tile in the first trick which is played with no trumps.

Doubles count as a separate suit ranking from double-6 (the highest) to double-blank.  If a lead player plays a double then the other plaayers must play doubles if possible.  A lead of a non-double means subsequent players must play a tile bearing the lead tile's highest suit if possible.

Nello is sometimes played with the option for the winning bidder to decide whether doubles form a separate suit or whether doubles count as the highest ranked tile in their marked suit.  Another option allowed for the winning bidder is to declare that doubles rank as the lowest tiles in their suit.  Winning bidders who announce "Nello" must state whether doubles form a separate suit, rank high in suit, or low in suit.

No Trumps

In this version of the game there is no trumps suit, with the doubles ranked as the highest tile within each suit and with all the other tiles belonging to two suits.  The highest tile played in the lead suit, wins the trick.


Low-No is a bid to lose all the tricks that can only be made by the dealer when the other three players have all passed.  The bidder and their partner score 42 points (1 Mark) if they make their bid while the opposing partnership scores 42 points if their opponents are forced to take a trick.  This rule allows play even when players hold weak hands.


This is a bid to win all seven tricks that can only be made when a player holds at least 3 doubles.  The other players may ask to see the 3 doubles before the winning bidder starts the first trick.  The winning bidder's partner chooses trumps and plays the lead tile.  A Splash is played for 2 Marks.


Plunge allows a player to make a bid to win all seven tricks that can only be made when a player holds at least 4 doubles.  The other players may ask to see the 4 doubles before the winning bidder's partner starts the first trick.  The winning bidder's partner chooses trumps and plays the lead tile.  A Plunge is played for at least 4 Marks (168 points).

This is the only opening bid over two Marks allowed in a game.  Players may out-bid 4 Marks with 5 Marks, then 6 Marks, and so on.

If Plunge is bid, the player is gambling that he holds the double to the trump suit and offs that his partner is going to declare. Plunge is a huge risk for a bidder to take. If the bidder is lucky, he and his partner match most of their doubles and offs suits, if not, they make a huge loss.


This is the most unusual special bid/contract used in Texas 42 and when played makes the original game almost unrecognisable.  This rule takes away most of the strategy element of the original game making it pretty much a game of luck.

Players must follow the lead tile played with a tile whose pips total as close to 7 as possible. For example 2-4, 3-5, and 1-5 are all one pip away from a total of 7; 2-3, 1-4, 3-6 are all two pips away from a total of 7.

Each trick is won by the nearest tile played to a total of 7.  In the case of equally near totals to 7, the first of these tiles played in a trick, wins it.

Other Variations

There are many other variations to Texas-42 that are not thought to be in widespread use.  Multiple Trumps 42, Cajun Hokey Pokey, Naperville Onesies, Eagle Eye, East Lansing Deffered Style Nillo, are some of the variation names in use.




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