Dominoes championships draw contestants to Texico

Freedom New Mexico: Liliana Castillo Faye Keener of Portales grabs the dominoes to shuffle with a smile after she and her teammate Beverly Winn won a game of 42 during Friday’s warm-up for Saturday’s tournament at the Texico Senior Center.

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

Plenty of versions of dominoes may exist around the world as evidenced by the 25 kinds of games listed on one Web site. But in the corner occupied by states such as New Mexico and Texas, the variety often favored resembles a card game.

It’s called 42, or Texas 42, and players from both states have arrived in Texico to play in the New Mexico State Championships today. In this brand of dominoes, which features the participants competing in teams of two, the pieces are shuffled face-down on a table before being dealt to the players.

Play begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Texico Community Activities Center — which was the site of a warm-up tournament Friday for 18 of the teams who arrived early.

“It’s a little intimidating. Those guys have been playing a long time and I’m pretty new to it,” said Shirley Bowen, who traveled from Glenwood, Colo., to play in her first in-person 42 tourney.

Bowen may be new to this kind of tournament, but she’s not new to the brand of game she was playing.

“I learned as a kid, but I didn’t play for many years because, up in Colorado, there aren’t that many people who play (42),” said Bowen, who teamed with Clovis’ Jim Craven — who she met playing on-line.

“I’ve only started back for about three years. When I retired, I wintered in Texas and that’s where the game got started,” she said. “Everybody plays. You either play or you’re kind of the social outcast. I love the game; you kind of get addicted to it. It seems simple, but there’s so much to it.”

Most of the early entries for this year’s state tournament, the second championship to be staged in Texico, were over 50 and were evenly split between men and women.

Like Bowen, almost everyone had initially learned the game when they were much younger.

“We all learned at home. I think they call it Kitchen Table 42 — that’s where we learned,” said Beverly Wynn of Amarillo, who was teaming with sister Faye Keener of Portales.

“You have to learn it when you’re younger, because it’s so hard to learn when you get older,” Keener said. “For some reason, it’s harder for older ones to understand. We tried, at the senior citizens center in Portales, to teach senior adults. It’s hard.”

Both women were at a loss to explain why children could become more focused and less impatient in the Texas 42 learning process. Tournament organizer Jerry Whitney, however, said that the game was easy enough to pick up through the Internet.

Whitney picked up a valuable prize in the 42 community by winning, with partner Ronnie Nolte of Hardin, Texas, the Texas State 42 Championship in March.

“You can go to ccdominoes.com, download the game and you can teach yourself,” Whitney said.

Buyer beware, however. If the 42 game is learned, it’s possible it could be embraced, because Bowen wasn’t kidding when she said it had an addictive quality.

“I decided I really liked to play, so I got on-line and started playing it,” Bowen said. “There’s a tournament (on the Web) starting almost every hour, almost 24 hours a day. I start at five-thirty with Jim and I usually finish up about midnight.”

Bowen does take breaks throughout, but that’s 5:30 in the morning when she gets started.