Acquire a domino set. A standard set contains 28 rectangular tiles marked with between 0 and 6 dots on each end of the face side. The back side is blank and smooth. Most domino sets are inexpensive; many also come with a carrying case for easy transport.

  • Thrift stores and yard sales are great places to find cheap domino sets. Dominoes last more or less forever, so don't worry about the age of the set.
  • If you don't have the money to buy dominoes yourself, consider asking friends and relatives if you can borrow a set. Often, someone you know will have an extra set stored away somewhere that they will be glad loan you.
  • There are also larger domino sets with numbers from 0 to 12 or more, all the way up to 18. The game is played more or less the same way regardless of numbering, but this article assumes you have an ordinary 0 to 6 set.


Pick a place. A game of dominoes requires a flat surface with a decent amount of space. Large tables, such as those found in cafeterias and libraries, are usually a safe choice.

  • Make sure that you pick somewhere that allows at least a moderate level of noise; dominoes clack when they're set down.
  • A kitchen table is a fine choice if you are playing with friends. Clear off any centerpieces or dishes first.


Shuffle the dominoes. Turn the tiles face down on the table, then move them around with your hands, being careful not to flip any over. Once the tiles have been sufficiently mixed, scoot the pile to one side so that your play area is clear.

  • The collection of shuffled tiles is often called the "bone yard," since one of the most common nicknames for dominoes is “bones.”



Draw an opening hand. Take seven dominoes from the bone yard and stand them on the table so that your opponent can't see their faces.


Decide the order of play. There are a few ways to do this; choose whatever method you and your partner can both agree on. The most common methods are as follows:

  • Each player picks one extra tile from the bone yard. The player who draws the tile with the highest total value goes first.
  • Each player reviews his or her hand and reveals the tile with the highest total value. Whoever has the highest number goes first.
  • Each player reveals a double (a tile with the same number on either end) from his or her hand, and the player with the highest double goes first.
  • One player flips a coin and the other player calls it. Whoever wins the flip goes first.


Lay the first domino. It is customary for the first domino to be a double tile (a tile with the same number on both ends), if possible; otherwise, any tile may be used. The orientation of the domino doesn't matter.


Take turns adding dominoes. Using your hand of seven tiles, add one domino to either narrow end of the first domino. You can only add a domino to the board if it has a number that matches a number on one open end of the domino board. For example, if the first tile is a pair of 4s, you can only play a domino that has one end marked with a 4. Place the dominoes together end on end to show that they are matched.

  • Once the end of a domino has been placed on the end of another domino, those ends are closed and no further dominoes can be attached to them.
  • There are never more than two ends open anywhere on the board. These are always the outside ends of the domino chain.
  • If you can't play onto either end of the board, you must pass your turn.
  • If you are placing a double tile, it is customary (but not necessary) to set the tile perpendicular to the tile you are playing onto. Regardless of orientation, only one side of the double tile (the side opposite the touching side) is considered free.
  • If you run out of space, it is acceptable to play a domino onto the appropriate side of the open tile so that the line of dominoes turns. This has no strategic value, and is only done to save space.


End the round and award points. Whoever plays all 7 of his or her dominoes first wins the round, and receives points equal to the total of all the dots on the opponent's remaining tiles.

  • If neither player is able to finish, both players reveal their hands and add up the total of tiles in each one. Whoever has the lowest total wins the round, and receives points equal to the difference between his or her total and the opponent's total.
    • In the case of a tie, the victory goes to whichever player has the tile with the smallest sum total.
  • Whenever a set number of total points (usually 100 or 200) is reached, the game is over.






Sometimes called the national game of Texas, 42 is one of the truly great trick-taking games. Texas family gatherings often involve day-long 42 games, and it’s no wonder as you’ll find once you try it. The game is addictive. Somehow it seems that a trick-taking game with only 28 playing pieces should be easier to master!




The goal is to win the bid for a hand, then fulfill the bid by scoring at least the number of points stated in the bid. The first partnership to win at least 250 points across hands wins the sitting.

The Deck and Deal--

Four players pair off into two opposing partnerships. Use a standard 6-6 set of dominoes. See our dominoes background page if you’re not familiar with the tiles in a domino set.

After shuffling all tiles face-down, each player takes 7. Thus all dominoes are in the players’ hands and none are left over.

Since 42 is a “card game played with dominoes,” it requires a suit system. There are 7 suits in 42.   Each tile is a member of the two suits on its face, except for the doubles, which are only members of the single suit number on their face.   The doublets rank highest in each suit--


<--Highest             Members                 Lowest-->


   6-6       6-5       6-4       6-3       6-2       6-1       6-0


   5-5       5-6       5-4       5-3       5-2       5-1       5-0


   4-4       4-6       4-5       4-3       4-2       4-1       4-0


   3-3       3-6       3-5       3-4       3-2       3-1       3-0


   2-2       2-6       2-5       2-4       2-3       2-1       2-0


   1-1       1-6       1-5       1-4       1-3       1-2       1-0


   0-0       0-6       0-5       0-4       0-3       0-2       0-1


Each player has 7 tiles in hand, so 7 tricks are played in a 42 hand.  Each trick is worth one point.  Five special tiles called counters are worth extra points when won in tricks-- 

----Counters---                                           ---Point Value---

0-51-4       2-3                                                 5

5-54-6                                                           10


So the two tiles whose spots total 5 are worth 5 points each when won in tricks. The two tiles whose spots total 10 are worth 10 points each when won in tricks.

The game is called “42” because there are 42 points to win in each hand -- 7 points for the tricks, 15 points for the three 5-point tiles, and 20 points for the two 10-point tiles.


After all players have their tiles, bidding begins.  The person to the left of the shuffler or “dealer” bids first.  Bidding then proceeds clockwise around the table.

Each person has only one chance to bid.  So you’ll go around the table clockwise, and each person in turn will either make a single bid or pass.   The minimum bid is 30 points. After a bid is made, the person(s) following the bidder must either (1) make a higher bid or (2) pass.  

If no one bids, the hand is thrown in and the role of shuffler or “dealer” goes clockwise to the next person.

If there is a bid winner, this person announces the trump suit.  The trump suit may be any of the suits in the first table above: 6’s, 5’s, 4’s, 3’s, 2’s, 1’s, or blanks.   

The bid winner may also declare that there will be no trump suit.  This is called a no trump or follow-me bid.   In this case there is no trump suit for this hand as the tricks are played.

Finally, the bid winner may declare that doubles are trump.  This means that all doublets are a suit of their own, and that this suit is trump.  The doubles in the doubles suit rank in this order, from highest to lowest: 6-6,   5-5,  4-4,   3-3,  2-2,   1-1,  0-0.

Every domino that has the trump suit number on its face is a member of the trump suit for this hand -- and not a member of any other suit. For example, if 4’s are trump, the rank of all tiles in the trump suit is: 4-4,   4-6,  4-5,   4-3,  4-2,   4-1,  4-0.  These tiles are only members of the trump suit for this hand.


The bid winner leads any tile he likes to the first trick.   If the tile is a member of the trump suit, then all others must play a trump to the trick if possible.  Otherwise, they can play any tile.

If the tile led is not a trump, then the higher number on the tile dictates the suit of the lead.  So leading a 6-4 domino, for example, means leading the third highest 6-suit tile (ranking after the 6-6 and 6-5, assuming none of these are trump suit tiles).

Unless the doubles suit is trump, leading a double is a lead of the suit number shown on the doublet.    If the doubles suit is trump, then leading a doublet means leading a trump suit tile.

Each trick is won by the highest-ranking trump tile played, if any.  If no trump is played to the trick, the trick is won by the highest tile of the suit led.

If a player can not follow suit to the lead, he may play any tile.

As tricks are won, they are moved to the side of the player who won them. Unlike many card and domino games, these tiles are all left face-up.

Scoring the Hand--

Each side totals the number of tricks they won (at 1 point per trick), plus their 5 and 10 point counter tiles. If the bidding team made at least the number of points they bid, they score those points. Their opponents score whatever points they have won.

If the bidding team does not make their bid, they get no points for the hand.  Their opponents score both the value of the original bid plus the points they scored in the hand.

The first team to attain at least 250 points across hands wins the sitting.  

More on Bidding--

If you think you can win every trick, you can bid 84 (instead of 42).  This gives you 84 points if you win every trick in the hand, but doubles your opponent’s score -- and your loss -- if they win even a single trick in that hand.

If someone bids 84, others are allowed to follow with bids of 126, 168, and Game.  For the bid of Game, the entire game rides on this single hand.  

Instead of totaling points, some players prefer to score 1 mark for each hand won.   The first team to 7 marks across hands wins the sitting.  An 84 bid would be 2 marks, a 126 bid is 3 marks, and a 168 bid is 4 marks.


In bidding, identify your potential trump suit simply by looking for the suit number that appears on the most tiles in your hand.  Doublets are like Aces in card games -- high tiles that typically win tricks if led early in the hand. 

Carefully analyze whether you can expect to win each of the counter tiles: 
the 6-4, 5-5, 0-5, 1-4, and 3-2.   

You have only one chance to bid. You must acquire the skill to make a single, accurate bid. Winning the bid but not the hand is a disaster, as the penalty for missing a bid is severe.  On the other hand, if you don’t win some bids you won’t win the Game

During play, your goals are straightforward:

         *  Try to win a trick to get the lead
         *  Play your doubles or high trumps when you have the lead
         *  Feed your count dominoes to your partner whenever it
             appears certain he will win the trick

Enhanced Rules-- 

None.  These rules conform to those given in the standard reference book on the game, Winning 42 by Dennis Roberson.  Some 42 rules state that the bid winner must lead a trump suit tile to the first trick. This is incorrect and artificially restricts play. You may also hear of special bids(bidding variations) such as Nell-o, Sevens, Plunge, and others.  These degenerate the game, though experienced players sometimes enjoy them for variety. We recommend The Big Game instead, described below.

More Information-- 

See the book Winning 42: Strategy and Lore of the National Game of Texas by Dennis Roberson. It’s got strategy and fascinating historical trivia, in addition to authoritative game rules. Also visit