‘National game of Texas’ has its own
Those who know 42 inside out — and those who have never
heard of it — may be surprised to know there is a book of
rules for 42, which also includes history and reminiscences
about the game.
July 06, 2003
Dennis Roberson, author of “Winning 42:
Strategy and Lore of the National Game of Texas,” credits an
article by Christopher Evans published in August 1985 in the
Fort Worth Star-Telegram for information on the history of
According to Evans’ research, 42 was the creation of
two boys in Trappe Spring, Texas in 1887. Trappe Spring, now
called Garner, is about 45 miles west of Fort Worth.
story goes that 12-year-old William Thomas and 14-year-old
Walter Earl, both avid card players, were punished for playing
cards, which some people thought was sinful.
was an acceptable pastime, the two worked out a domino game
resembling the English card game whist, also known as
The boys taught the game to their families and the
town. When Thomas delivered fruit from his father’s orchard to
Mineral Wells, Texas, he taught interested bystanders the
Later, the two families moved to Fannin County in
northeast Texas, and 42 apparently took on a life of its
It was a game, Roberson writes, “that could be played
on rural front porches after church services, after Sunday
dinner, with neither shame or sin.”
The game gets its name
from the 42 points that can be won in each hand. Using a
standard 28-piece set of dominoes, the ones that “count” — the
double-five, the six-four, the four-ace, the three-two and the
five-blank — add up to 35 points.
Four players divide into
two teams, and each player draws seven dominoes. When these
dominoes are played, they form “tricks.” The seven tricks are
each worth one point, providing the seven additional points
that, when added to the 35 dominoes that “count,” tally up to
After drawing their dominoes, players bid for
the right to declare which dominoes will be trumps. The person
who wins the bid leads the play, and whoever catches each
trick leads the next domino.
The lowest bid is 30, and in
order to win a hand, partners must get enough of the dominoes
with count — and capture enough tricks — to total 30 points.
Otherwise, they are “set,” and their opponents get the winning
mark for that hand. The winners are the first to accumulate
If you’re completely confused, consider
yourself normal because watching people play 42 is the easiest
way to learn the game.
Of course, the best way to learn 42
is to be a kid sitting in your granddaddy’s lap, watching him
play and listening to him explain some of the finer points as
he goes along.
If you’re lucky, he may let you have a go at
scrambling the dominoes when it’s his turn to shuffle. But
don’t squirm and kick the cardtable leg because you might
knock over someone’s dominoes.
This is when you learn that
when it comes to patience, sometimes even grandfathers have
Incidentally, Puremco Manufacturing Company,
the only company in the United States that still makes
dominoes, is in Waco, Texas.*
Above reprinted with permission, 17 June 2007
*According to Scott Pitzer, former general manager (retired), Puremco was sold to its Canadian distributor, Alary Games in Quebec, Canada in Oct 2007. Puremco is still in Waco, TX and they switched their domino molds and production to China circa 2000. They still package, sell, distribute and imprint the dominoes in Waco. They are still the only company that permanently imprints designs and personalization on dominoes. - Posted by webmaster, 30 Apr 09