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Forty-Two (Domino Game)

Dennis Roberson General Entry

The inauspicious beginning of the domino game 42 occurred in 1887 in the tiny Texas school community of Trapp Spring (now a part of Garner), located in Parker County about forty-five miles west of Fort Worth. Two Trapp Spring boys, William Thomas, age twelve, and Walter Earl, age fourteen, really liked to play cards but were forbidden to do so by the cultural mores of the time. They turned to dominoes, which was not deemed to be sinful. The two boys devised and fine-tuned the rules for a new card game with dominoes called 42. It is a bidding game, with trumps, where two teams of two players each face off against each other in an attempt to win the most points. A standard twenty-eight piece (double-six) domino set is used. The game's name comes from the fact that forty-two points are available each hand. The first team to accumulate 250 points wins the game.

Thomas and Earl introduced the game to their families, and they taught it to their small community. Thomas delivered fruit from his father's orchard to nearby Mineral Wells, and he also taught those townspeople to play 42. Later the Thomases and Earls moved to Fannin County in Northeast Texas, again introducing 42 to the locals. The game quickly spread throughout the state, and by 1940 folks were learning and playing 42 in every corner of Texas. Participants heralded 42 as a fun game that promoted good, clean fellowship. During World War II Texas military men even took the game overseas and taught it to their fellow countrymen.

The game of 42 quickly wove itself into the fabric of Texas communities and families and was passed down orally from generation to generation. Only in the 1990s were the rules, strategy, and history of the game finally published in book form, with Winning 42: Strategy & Lore of the National Game of Texas. The book also contains a chapter on famous Texans from all walks of life who grew up playing 42.

More than 120 years later, the game is still quite popular in Texas, where it's played in homes, churches, and clubs, as well as at impromptu neighborly get-togethers. Weekend 42 tournaments, many associated with local festivals, are held in communities throughout the state during the year. Hallettsville hosts an annual state championship, and the Texas Senior Games crowns 42 champions each year. Enthusiasts have also established websites where players of 42 from all over the state or the world can compete against each other anytime, twenty-four hours a day. The game is still being passed on to the future generations of Texans. On June 17, 2011 the game of 42 was designated the official State Domino Game of Texas.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 3, 1985. Parker County Historical Commission, History of Parker County (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). Dennis Roberson, Winning 42: Strategy & Lore of the National Game of Texas (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1997, 4th rev. ed., 2009).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Dennis Roberson, “Forty-Two (Domino Game),” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 14, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 4, 2009
January 5, 2012