Winning 42: Strategy & Lore of the National Game of Texas
San Antonio Conservation Society Award Winner A perennial bestseller and a must for beginners and strategists alike There are two types of people in Texas: those who play 42 and those who need to learn. Winning 42 is written for both. A team game that no one tires of playing, 42 relies on neither luck nor memory. Skill and strategy definitely separate the best from the rest. Yet those who think they’ve mastered the game will find challenge in the advanced strategy chapters and fascination in the history and lore. Many who’ve grown up with 42 are nonetheless surprised by its uniquely Texan history, reaching back nearly a century and a quarter. Beginners will find easy instruction in all the fundamentals, from the intricacies of bidding a hand, or setting an opponent, to the challenge of the exciting 84 hand, and can proceed to advanced strategies at their own pace. Replete with championship statistics and stories gathered from veteran players and strategists—including many celebrities from astronauts to presidents—Winning 42 illumines a cherished tradition that links Texans from all walks of life. Played casually by those who enjoy socializing or intently by those who relish the logic of each domino played, 42 is perhaps the most widely acknowledged cultural expression in Texas.
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I'm a native Texan and both my parents are native Texans from the east part of the state. So this means that the 42 tradition runs deep in my family. This is the game that I watched "the elders" play at family reunions, weddings, birthdays, and probably even a funeral or two when I was growing up. When I was about 32, I was finally invited to to play with the "big boys". My dad and his brother were partners and me and one of my other uncles were partners. I was paired with this particular uncle because he is known as "the best damn 42 player in Texas" among my family and I was but a lowly rookie. Despite their generosity in pairing me with a known 42 shark, my dad and his brother proceeded to skunk us seven hands to zero twice in a row. Even though I had been taught to play years ago, am a fairly good spades player, and have a natural talent for math and statistics, I could not even come close to pulling my own weight at this game when it came to real competition with veteran players. How was I to find the skill required to compete with the hard-core 42 players in my family?
Enter "Winning 42" by Dennis Roberson. In "Winning 42", Mr. Roberson lays it all on the table. He begins with a brief introduction to the rules and terminology of the game. He then jumps into one of the most difficult aspects of the game, bidding, and handles it with an ease and clarity that belie the difficulty of the topic. If you master this 14 page chapter alone, your game will take a quantum leap. He then spends a chapter discussing basic strategies for playing out your dominoes once you have won the bid. He then devotes two chapters to helping your partner and setting the bidder. In these 45 pages (five chapters) Roberson gives you the essentials for becoming a solid 42 player who will seldom make a glaring mistake at a 42 table and who would be a respectable 4th among a table of veterans.
These five chapters also demonstrate one of the fantastic features of this book, namely that each chapter builds perfectly upon the preceding material and gives the reader information that will be immediately useful in 42. Reading this book in order, one could easily finish a chapter, put down Roberson's book, and be a better 42 player from that point on. Roberson's systematic approach to the basics of the game free one from the necessity to master the entire book before reaping it benefits and make its first five chapters alone easily worth the price.
The next six chapters cover several intermediate topics. Two of the most essential of these chapters teach one how to recognize and play an 84 hand, how to help your partner make an 84 bid, and how one sets an 84 hand. The other essential chapter teaches one how to recognize, bid, play, partner, and set "doubles as trumps" hands and "follow me" hands. Though the above numerous topics are presented in only three chapters, the topics are covered sufficiently to enable one to play confidently and correctly in these situations.
Chapter 12 covers "Advanced Bidding and Playing" and is what I consider the third major part of the book. The hands and play discussed in this chapter are illustrative of key points Mr. Roberson feels are critically important. Because these hands are illustrative, they do not appear to be typical hands and so may not be terribly engaging to the average 42 player. But if you have grasped the material of the preceding 11 chapters, you will easily understand the importance of chapter 12. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, in chapter 12, Mr. Roberson demonstrates his masterful ability at 42 analysis. Anyone who has observed veteran 42 players analyze hands after they are played will know that analysis is one of the cardinal components of 42 culture.
Chapter 13 covers the "optional" topics of nel-o, sevens, and plunge. This material may help one depending on who he finds himself in a game with. Mr. Roberson is not fond of these variations, so he presents them in a cursory
IN A NUTSHELL THE RULES AND TERMS OF 42
HOW TO PLAY YOUR HAND AFTER WINNING THE BID
HELPING YOUR PARTNER MAKE A BID
HOW TO SET THE BIDDER
CONCENTRATION AND STYLE
TAKING EVERY TRICK THE 84 BID
SETTING THE 84 BID
TALKING ACROSS THE BOARD
ADVANCED BIDDING AND PLAYING
OPTIONAL VARIATIONS NELO SEVENS AND PLUNGE
LONE STAR DOMINO PHENOMENON A CENTURY OF 42 PLAYERS
42PLAYIN TEXAS CELEBRITIES
DOUBLES AS TRUMPS AND NO TRUMPS