Bidding is the process of communicating to the table information about your hand and collectively choosing a bid. You should consider all of the known bids collectively when it’s your turn to make your bid. Additionally, consider your position relative to the dealer, the score, and the style of play of your opponents (aggressive/defensive). Ultimately you want your bid to reflect a decision to take control of the contract, indicate a strength of helping hand (SOH), or to bluff your opponents.

Family Style 42

Most people begin playing 42 in the “Family Style” manner of bidding. Family Style 42 is typically the kind of 42 you’ve remembered from your grandparents’ house. Bidding is simplified to indicate the number of points you think your hand can win, period. You rarely consider the score, your position, your partner’s bid, or overbidding. Partners do not make any concerted efforts to work together through indications (bidding or otherwise) and typically push points in an effort to make the bid as quickly as possible. This style is 42 in its simplest form and it’s great for beginners!

Competitive 42

In competitive 42, you want to employ a combination of strategies to best communicate the dominoes in your hand to your partner; bidding is the first, best strategy you should use to communicate your dominoes.

Strength of Helping Hand (SOH)

Strength of helping hand bids (also known as indication or prompt bids) inform the table about a value judgment you’re placing on your hand. The value should be on the perceived percent chance your partner can get into your hand (they lead an off that you can catch) or the value of protected count dominoes in your possession. Typical SOH bids are 32-34 and 37-39. These bids set the minimum bet for your team, so clearly higher bids indicate a stronger helping hand. These bids can only be placed when the bid values are available and the bidder is before their partner. There is a general expectation that a partner will overbid a SOH bid if it hasn’t already been overbid, however it’s not required and you should consider what you’ll do if you are forced to play your SOH bid.

The culture of competitive 42 players has established that 30, 31, 35, and 36 are bids that indicate individual interest in the hand. These bids set thresholds that force action on the table.

  • 30 – starts the bidding, it’s the cheapest bid out there, and it can lose one 10 count domino and one more trick.
  • 31 – allows you to lose only one 10 count domino.
  • 35 – allows you to lose a 5 count domino and one more trick.
  • 36 – allows you to lose only one 5 count domino.

Position Bidding

Position is a vital component of bidding and one of your strongest assets in 42. For all the reasons position is so important, it’s equally important to not lose the opportunity to bid in your position.  The first one to bid sets the minimum for the table. You can set the threshold bids or bid any of the SOH bids as they are all available. Pushing the bid up early reduces your opponents ability to communicate with the table about their hands. The last one to bid, the dealer, is often referred to as “having the hammer.” The dealer can overbid anyone at the table and should consider everyone else’s bids when determining their own.


Bluffing your opponents is an important factor often overlooked. Your cultural habits of playing 42 will eventually give a seasoned player plenty of information to work around you. Change up your habits to keep your opponents off guard. Bid threshold bids to push the bid up. Force higher bids to the table when you are up on the score, even if you have a terrible hand. If you are up on the score, you’ll have a few chances to “roll the dice” on a few hands. Lastly you should consider passing on SOH bid-able hands on occasion. It will keep your opponents guessing, as much as your partner.