Domino games

42 - dominoes

A game of Dominoes

42, also known as Texas 42, is a trick-taking game played with a standard set of double six dominoes. 42 is often referred to as the "national game of Texas". Tournaments are held in many towns, and the State Championship tournament is held annually in Hallettsville, Texas on the first Saturday of March each year. In 2011 it was designated the official State Domino Game of Texas.


According to a 1985 news article written by Christopher Evans of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the game of domino originated in Garner, Texas. Two local boys, William Thomas and Walter Earl, developed the game in response to a general disapproval of card-playing games held by many Protestants at that time. William and Walter were able to incorporate dominoes in their game, which mimicked the mechanics of a trick-taking card game like pitch. The game they developed, which was the precursor to today's 42, found acceptance since dominoes did not carry the negative stigma of card-playing. From there, the game spread throughout Texas.



The game is played by four people, in teams of two each, who sit facing each other across the table. The object of the game is to be the first team to reach seven "marks" or 250 points. The game consists of a number of hands (a maximum of 13 hands when playing for marks).


Before commencing each hand, each player will bid to win the choice of trumps. The bidder determines what to bid by estimating how many of the forty-two (42) total points the team will win in the hand based only on the seven (7) known tiles. The minimum bid is 30. A player may also pass (make no bid). If all players pass, the dealer is either forced to bid or, in some variations of play, the dominoes are reshuffled by the next dealer. Each hand consists of 42 points. One point for each of the 7 tricks, plus 35 points from the 6-4, 5-5, 3-2, 4-1, and 5-0 dominoes, each worth the number of pips it contains. The maximum bid possible is 42, with one exception: a player may bid 84, which means (like 42) that the player must catch all tricks, and the results of the tricks will be stacked atop another as they are played, so as to prevent the players from seeing what has already been introduced into play. The benefit of bidding "84" versus only "42" is that if successful, the bidder wins two marks for the game instead of only one. As the trump is declared by the winner of the bid, one strategy is to bid high if one has most of the dominoes in one particular suit.


After each player gets one chance to bid, the highest bidder chooses the trump for the hand of play, which can consist of calling a particular suit trumps (blank through six); doubles as trumps, or "follow me" (also known as "no trump," in which there is no trump suit). Some variations of rules allow players to call "no-trump" where doubles as a suit of their own, or doubles are low in their respective suits. Play then proceeds to the left of the person who played. Each player must follow suit, if possible. When led, each domino is considered to belong to the suit of its higher end, unless that domino contains the number of the trump suit, in which case it is considered a member of the trump suit. The double of any suit is the highest-ranking member of that suit, followed by the highest number on the non-suit side. The highest number of the leading suit wins, unless a trump is played, in which case the highest trump wins. The winner of the trick takes the dominoes into their possession and leads on the next trick. If playing for marks, play continues until the bidding team has made their contract, or else is "set" (denied the possibility of winning) by the non-bidding team. At that time, the appropriate team is awarded one or more marks. When playing for points, play continues until all seven tricks have been played, or one person can unquestionably win the remaining tricks.


Each trick is worth one point. There are five "count" pieces (those whose spots total five or ten) that are worth that number of points: the 0-5, 1-4 and 2-3 are worth five points each; the 5-5 and 6-4 are each worth ten. The total of all the count pieces (35) plus the seven tricks equals 42, which is the number of points in a hand, hence the name of the game.

  1. Marks: A game is typically played for seven marks. This can be documented with tally marks, spelling the capital letters ALL, or by spelling "A" and "M" around a large "T" to make an A&M Logo.
  2. Points: A game is typically played to 250 points. After the hand, if the bidding team reaches their contract they are awarded the bid they made, not the number of points taken in the hand (if a team bids 30 and reaches 35, only 30 points are awarded for the hand), and the non-bidding team is awarded any points they caught during the hand. If the bidding team does not make their contract they do not score on the hand and the setting team is awarded the bid in addition to any points they caught (if the bid is 30 and the bidding team only catches 26 points, the bidding team receives 0 points while the setting team receives 30 points for the bid and 16 for the points in the hand for a total of 46 points).

Special Contracts

The bidder's team must win all the tricks. Dominoes are played trick atop trick to avoid revealing what has been played thus far in the hand. If the bidder's team succeeds in catching all the tricks, the team earns two marks.
The bidder's team must win all the tricks. The hand is played as per usual.
The minimum bid. Successive bids must be higher than this bid, or the player must pass (make no bid).

The highest bid wins the auction and that player has the right to name the trump suit and lead.


There are a number of special terms in the game of 42:

Optional Rules


Also known as nillo, nil, low, or low-boy, Nello is an optional house rule that allows players with an otherwise low-scoring hand to bid. All players must agree to allow nello bidding before the game begins.

A player may choose to bid nello, instead of bidding a number or passing, if they have particularly low dominoes in a hand (the -blanks and -ones of several suits). This means they intend to win the hand by not catching any tricks at all. Their partner then turns their dominoes face down, and does not participate in that hand. The opposing team will play their lowest dominoes, trying to force the nello bidder into catching a trick.

The nello bidder's team scores a mark if they catch no tricks. If the nello bidder catches even one trick, the hand is immediately over, and the opposing team scores a mark.

Other variations of nello treat doubles in a special way. Doubles may be weighted either as the high of their suit, as a suit of their own, or least commonly as the low of their suit. If any of these variants are used, a declaration is required and all players must agree to allow them before play begins.

Nello rules may also be used in the domino game "Shoot the Moon."


Also called Crash, this variation is exactly like Splash, except four (or in some variants, three) marks are bid and the bidder must have four doubles. Jump bids are allowed for Splash and Plunge.


The bidder bids three marks, and their partner calls trump without discussion with the bidder. The bidder must have three doubles to do this. Some variants have a "Splash" worth two marks.


Another, less common, rule is to allow a player to bid Sevens. Instead of the highest domino winning each trick, the domino whose sum is closest to seven wins. Dominoes are classified as "sevens" (the 4-3, 5-2, and 6-1), "one away" (dominoes adding to six or eight), "two away" (adding to five or nine), etc. When more than one domino of the same distance from seven is played, the first domino played is considered the winner. A player must bid at least 42 (one mark) to go in sevens, and losing even one trick will set the bidder. When a bid of "sevens" wins the contract, all players reveal their dominoes face-up and order them from sevens to maximum-away. Dominoes must be played in this order by all players.


Bid and played exactly like "Sevens", each player plays their domino whose sum is closest to six to win each trick.

Fives, Eights, Nines, etc.

Each variation of the original "Sevens" allows for the bidder to determine the starting value for each player to play closest to. In all cases, a player must bid at least 42 (one mark) to bid in this way, and losing even one trick will set the bidder.


In some houses of play, no stacking of dominoes is allowed regardless of the winning bid. In others, a bid of one mark entitles the contract-winning team to stack the won tricks in two stacks of equal height, where a bid of two or more marks entitles them to stack the won tricks in a single stack.