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42 is the “National Game of Texas” and Popular in Hopkins County

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The popular domino game of 42 originated in the Lone Star State in 1887, and 130 years later, it’s thriving popularity has spread worldwide. Hopkins County, Texas is home to several tournaments. One of these is the George Dorner Memorial 42 Tournament, held since 2014 at the Sulphur Bluff Methodist Church on the second Saturday in July.

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Dorner was an active member there and a contributing part of his home community, serving in the Masonic Lodge for 50 years, in Eastern Star for 27 years, on the school board and as a charter member of the volunteer fire department, and as owner/operator of the Sulphur Bluff “Dorner Store” for 28 years. He  delighted in the students who attended Sulphur Bluff school and saw many of them grow to success as adults. His family felt that a 42 tournament was a fitting memorial for him.

This year, 18 teams entered the Memorial Tournament. Winners (pictured below) by team: First Place David Caldwell and Jim Potts; Second Place Travis and Patsy Patridge; Third Place Ronny Martin and Joey Martin. Each of the winners received a custom metal trophy or plaque custom created by the Sulphur Bluff FFA Department.

Proceeds from the tourney are used to purchase Bibles to be given to graduating Sulphur Bluff students during the class Baccalaureate Service.

First Place Jim Potts/David Caldwell with Patricia Dorner

Second Place Travis and Patsy Patridge

Third Place Joey Martin and Ronny Martin

A History of 42:


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.

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Author: Enola Gay

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