Sunday, August 16, 2009

Book on 42 in Fourth Edition

Texas Tech University Press has come out with the fourth edition of Winning 42: Strategy and Lore of the National Game of Texas, first published in 1997.

Written by Dennis Roberson of Fort Worth, a 42 champion himself, the award-winning paperback book ($15.95) offers useful information for the beginner and the veteran 42 player alike.

The new edition is updated with more stories, more strategies, and clearer illustrations and type.

If you don’t know what 42 is, then you must not have lived in Texas very long. It’s a game played with dominoes by two teams of two players each. The teams bid against each other, and the team members work together to try to reach their bid or keep the other team from reaching its bid.

The name “42” reflects the fact that there are 35 points (“count”) in even fives, plus seven hands of four dominoes per hand or “trick.” The 35 points are the six-four, the five-five, the four-one, the three-two, and the five-oh.

In an interview on the Texas Tech Press web site, Roberson says the purpose of his book is to keep the game of 42 alive, and that seems to be happening, given that it is now into its fourth edition.

The game, he says, “was invented by two Texas teenagers in the late 1880s and passed down orally for generations, spreading across Texas like wildfire. It is truly a Texas cultural phenomenon.”

That may well be true, but one of the best 42 players I ever encountered was from Arkansas. We played some wild 42 games at Texas A&M back in the day, and Bill from Arkansas was the most daring bidder I ever played against. He was fun to play with, much more so than the stoic West Texan I was often paired with who wouldn’t offer a bid unless he had a “lay-down” hand. Even then, he would rarely bid more than 30 – the minimum opening bid.

Roberson says 42 “has been played by presidents, governors, singers, writers and astronauts. Once people learn it, they can’t seem to get enough of it.”

I haven’t played in years myself, but it’s good to see that the author is helping to introduce a great game to a new generation of players.