The Rules of Texas 42

The game of 42 is a trick-taking card game played by four people divided into 2 teams using a double-six dominoes set. A series of hands are bid and played with marks awarded for winning each hand. Hands are played until one team reaches a score of 7 marks. 42 has some similarities to Spades, Hearts and Bridge.

[Note: use 42 Terminology and Definitions for unfamiliar terms]

Object of the Game

The object of the game is to reach a score of seven (7) marks first.

Start of Play

Setup: Two teams of two people sit at a card table with teammates seated opposite each other. A standard double-six set of dominoes (blanks through sixes, 28 dominoes) is used. Determine who will be score keeper.

Determine First Shaker: Dominoes are placed face down on the table and shaken (shuffled) by any player. Each player draws one domino; the player drawing the domino with the highest total quantity of pips (dots) on both sides (a 6-3 is considered a 9) will be the first shaker. In the event of a tie, those players will repeat drawing until there is a single winner.

Play of Game

The game is played as a series of individual hands – each hand resulting in awarding marks to the hand winner – until one team achieves 7 (or more) marks. Each hand consists of seven individual tricks, with each trick involving the play of one domino by each player in order, with the highest domino winning the trick. A hand is won by either the bid-winning team meeting their bid contract, or by setting – preventing the bid-winning team from meeting their bid contract.

The order of play for each hand is Shake, Draw, Bid, declare Trump, Play, Score.

Shake. The shaker shakes (shuffles) the dominoes face down on the table to sufficiently randomize their position. The player shaking rotates each hand in a clockwise direction.

Draw. Each player draws 7 dominoes. Texas Friendly Method: Opponents of the dealer draw first, followed by the partner of the dealer; the dealer then claims the remaining seven dominoes.

Bid. The total bid points available in any hand is 42:

  • 1 point for each trick won
  • 5 points for each “five-pointer” won: 5/0, 4/1, 3/2
  • 10 points for each “ten-pointer” won: 5/5, 6/4

Bidding Rules:

  • Bidding begins with the player to the left of the Shaker and proceeds clockwise ending with the Shaker
  • Each player may bid only once, in order
  • Highest bidder wins the bid (and declares trump)
  • Each player may either pass (not bid) or bid higher
  • If all players pass, the Shaker must bid at least the minimum bid (aka forced bid)
  • The minimum bid is 30 bid points
  • When bidding reaches 42 (aka one mark), only marks may be bid
  • Any player may bid up to 2 marks when 2 marks has not already been bid; subsequent bids may only be one additional mark
  • Marks bids require capturing (taking) all 7 tricks

Note: Once a bid is announced, that player’s opportunity to bid has passed and bidding continues with the next player, ending with the Shaker. Should a player bid out of order, the opposing team may choose to continue playing the hand or have the hand shaken again (by the same Shaker). If continuing, the player may not change their bid when it’s their turn to bid, and if their bid is no longer available they must pass.

Trumps. The trump suit is declared by the winning bidder prior to playing the first domino. Valid suits are: blanks, ones (aces), twos (deuces), threes (treys), fours, fives, sixes, doubles, or no-trump (aka follow-me). Trumps are a super suit that win over other suits when played per rules below. If a trump suit is not declared before playing the first domino, the suit led in the first trick shall determine Trump.

Play. The winning bidder leads the first trick, followed in a clockwise manner by each player playing one of their dominoes.

For each trick, dominoes are played per the following rules:

  • Suit Order – for any suit, the win order hierarchy is determined by the highest opposite end played, except for the double which is always highest in its own suit
  • Trumps – any domino matching Trump is in the trump suit and never in any other “matching” suit; Trumps beat all other suits
  • Lead Anything – you may lead any domino in your hand
  • Suit Led – unless trump is led, the higher end of the domino led determines the Suit for the duration of that trick
  • Follow Suit – players must, if possible, play a domino in the suit lead; note: except for doubles, every domino matches 2 suits; dominoes with one side matching trump are always in the trump suit
  • Play Off – if void, play any non-trump domino as a loser
  • Play Trump – if void, play a trump, beating any non-trump played
  • Win Trick – a trick is won by playing the highest domino in the suit lead, or highest trump if trump is played

Stacking. Each team shall keep one “stack” of tricks won, arranged in sets of tricks, laid in the order won, always visible to all players, and not re-arranged during the hand. In marks bids, bid winners may opt to stack tricks on top of each other in the center of the table in single- or double-stacking (alternating back and forth). Once played, a domino may not be moved.

The player winning a trick leads the next trick. Play repeats until all seven tricks have been played.

In the interest of expediency, a player may stop the hand for any of the following conditions:

  • the bid-winning team captures the points bid, or
  • the opposing team sets the winning team – captures enough points to prevent the bid-winning team from achieving their bid contract, or
  • the player demonstrates a lay-down

If (for any reason) the hand ends before all tricks are played (e.g., due to a lay-down or set), all dominoes shall be turned face up so that any mistakes or reneges can be identified.

Score. If the team winning the bid captures enough points to reach their bid, they are awarded the winning mark(s). If their opponents capture enough points to prevent them from reaching their bid, the opponents are awarded the winning mark(s).

If neither team has yet won, continue playing further hands, rotating shakers, until someone wins.

Winning the Game

The first team to reach 7 marks, wins. Simple as that.

Now, go play some 42 games. Once you’ve got the mechanics down, go learn some simple and advanced strategies to the game of 42.


There are numerous variations to the game of 42. While we’ll note them here, we’ll explore them at a later time, as warranted. But Austin 42 generally only plays “Straight 42” as noted above. Some of these can be combined.

  • Reshake – instead of forced bid, if all players pass, including the Shaker, the hand is over, no points are scored, and shake passes to the next player.
  • Points – instead of using marks, there is a method of play where the points bid/captured are used instead and a game is played to something like 250 points.
  • Doubles in a Suit of their Own – doubles are in a suit of their own with the 6-6 the highest and the 0-0 the lowest.
  • Double Low – doubles are the lowest in the suit instead of the highest .
  • Doubles High – standard, where doubles are the highest in the suit (noted to contrast with the other variations described).
  • Doubles Reverse – a very rare game where Doubles are in a Suit of their Own but where the 0-0 is high and the 6-6 is low.
  • Follow-Me Low – Follow-me/No-Trump with Doubles Low.
  • Follow-Me Own Suit – Follow-me/No-Trump with Doubles in a Suit of their Own.
  • Follow-Me (High) – The standard version of Follow-me/No-Trump as described above.
  • Nello (High) (aka low, low-boy) – a bid contract where you must lose all the tricks, your teammate doesn’t play and turns their dominoes down on the table; Nello requires bidding a marks contract; played Doubles High unless otherwise noted.
  • Nello Low – Nello played with Doubles Low.
  • Nello Own Suit – Nello played with Doubles in a Suit of their Own; this is the version of Nello most often found played in Texas.
  • Splash – a marks hand requiring 4 doubles in your hand, and upon winning the bid, the first lead is turned over to the teammate; sometimes requires a minimum (or specific) bid.
  • Plunge – similar to Splash, but requiring 3 doubles in your hand.