While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Dennis Roberson

FORTY-TWO (DOMINO GAME). 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).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, Dennis Roberson, "FORTY-TWO (DOMINO GAME)," accessed August 07, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xtf01.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on January 11, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...