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Hearts

Quick Guide

Proficiency Grade

Beginner

Young Children & 
Elderly Adults

# of Players

Friendly

3-10

Ideal # of Players

4 or 8

Replay-ability

High

Strategy Needed

Medium

Amount of Luck

Medium

Ability to Learn

Easy

How to Play Hearts

The objective of the game is to avoid taking points over the course of the game. Each Heart card is worth 1 point, while the Queen of Spades is worth 13 points.

 

Setup

To play Hearts, you need a standard deck of 52 playing cards (can also play with the Joker, or with two decks - See Variations). The cards are shuffled and then dealt clockwise to the players, with each player receiving 13 cards (in a standard 4 player game, for a different amount of players, See Variations).

 

Start

The player with the 2 of clubs leads the first trick of the game.

Clockwise, players take turns playing one card face-up in the middle of the playing area until all players have a played a card, forming a trick. All players must play the same suit as the card lead. The player who played the highest card of the same suit as the first card played wins the trick and takes the cards face down in front of them. This player then leads the next trick with any card of their choice.

If a player cannot follow suit, they may play any other card in their hand. You cannot play a 'point' card on the first trick of the game.

 

Players are not allowed to lead with a heart card or the Queen of Spades until one of these cards has been played in a previous trick or a player has no other option.

Additional Rules in Hearts:

 

Shooting the Moon: If a player takes all 13 Hearts cards and the Queen of Spades, they "shoot the moon" and this player can choose to either go down 26 points on their own score, or give all other players 26 points while the shooter receives none.

 

Breaking Hearts: In the first trick of a hand, players are not allowed to play a point card (Heart or the Queen of Spades) unless they have no other card to play. On all other tricks, if a player cannot follow suit, they can play a point card and this is known as "breaking Hearts." Once Hearts are 'broken,' anyone may lead a point card.

 

Passing Cards: Before each hand, players pass three cards of their choice to another player. The first hand would be to the player on their left, the second hand would be to the player on the left, and the third hand would be the player across from them, and the fourth hand would be no passing cards (in a Standard 4 Player game - See Variations). This pattern is repeated in subsequent hands, with the direction of passing alternating each time.


Round Scoring

The hand continues until all 13 tricks have been played. After each hand, players count the number of Hearts (1 point each) and the Queen of Spades (13 points) they have collected. Note the scores on the scorecard.

Game Ending

The game continues until someone reaches 100 points (in a single deck game) or 200 (in a double deck game). The player with the least amount of total points is the winner!

Variations / House Rules

3, 5, or 6 players:

You can still play Hearts, even without the standard 4 players. To do this, you deal out all of the cards evenly. Any cards leftover, this becomes the 'Kitty.'

For example:

3 player game = 17 cards each, 1 card Kitty

5 player game = 10 cards each, 2 card Kitty

6 player game = 8 cards each, 4 card Kitty

The Kitty is set aside, and whoever takes the trick with the first Heart (specifically a Heart, and not the Queen of Spades), they then take the Kitty cards, look at them secretly, and then put them face down on their pile. They have the slight advantage of seeing the cards that will not be played, but will also incur any points that were in the Kitty (including the Queen of Spades!). 

7-10 players (double deck):

Hearts can also be played with 7-10 players. With more people, you play with two decks (double-deck), which would be 104 cards. As with single deck, deal out all the cards evenly.

For example:

7 player game = 14 cards each, 6 card Kitty

8 player game = 13 cards each

9 player game = 11 cards each, 5 card Kitty

10 player game = 10 cards each, 4 card Kitty

The Kitty works the same as single deck. The Kitty is set aside, and whoever takes the trick with the first Heart (specifically a Heart, and not the Queen of Spades), they then take the Kitty cards, look at them secretly, and then put them face down on their pile. They have the slight advantage of seeing the cards that will not be played, but will also incur any points that were in the Kitty (including the Queen of Spades!). 

Gameplay is the same for double deck, with the only change is that there is now two of every card. If two of the same card is played, the first of that card is higher than the second one played. For example, if two Ace of Diamonds is played on a diamond trick, whoever played the first Ace of Diamonds clockwise from the leader wins the trick.

Double deck also means everything is doubled. In each hand, there will now be 26 Hearts and 2 Queen of Spades (representing 13 points each for 26 points). If you Shoot The Moon in double deck (very tough, but I have seen it done!), you then get the choice of going down 52 points, or adding 52 to everyone else's score.

Joker

To add an extra dynamic to the game, you can throw in a Joker or two into the game (single deck or double deck). These can also be used to round out the distribution of cards to avoid having a Kitty.

The Joker can be used anytime, even if you need to follow suit! It counts as a "playing off" card. When played, you are guaranteed not to take the trick! This is very helpful if you were going to have to take a trick that you don't want. 

Beware though... if the Joker is led, it automatically takes the trick and everyone can throw any card (there is no suit!). Great for Shooting The Moon, bad for any other time.

On the Nose: Hit 50 / 100 to go back 50 points

A fun way to get players back in the game if they had some rough hands, is to implement the On the Nose rule. If a player's score hits exactly 50 points or exactly 100 points (on the nose!), then 50 points are subtracted from their score.

For example, if I had 47 points and at the end of the hand I have 3 Hearts bringing my score to exactly 50 points, my score would then become 0. The same would be if I hit 100 points exactly, my score would then become 50.

Dealer Determines Card Passing

Instead of using a system to determine who passes what, the dealer can call out the passing scheme at the start of the hand. The dealer must choose before looking at their cards. If they look at their cards before calling where to pass, it becomes a 'hold' hand.

This variation is fun as it adds some competitive spirit as you can choose/target who to pass to. Passing is only 3 cards, but you could choose to the left, right, two people to the right, etc., and everyone would need to pass accordingly.

Thoughts

Wow, have I played this game so many times. With family and with friends. As a you child, high schooler, adult, and even played with my grandfather with late stage dementia. He may not have remembered exactly who he was playing with anymore, but he remembered the game.

Hearts will forever be a classic, but unfortunately many people have only played on phone apps. It's is a terrific gateway game into more intermediate and advanced card games, but is fun for kids and adults alike. Hearts is surprisingly also an extremely malleable game in terms of number of players which is great for large family get togethers. Playing with the different Variations can help keep the game fresh with more and more elements of strategy.

My friends and family have now learned that I'll only play Hearts in extreme conditions where this game makes the most sense (# of people, skill levels). What can I say, I think I have had almost every permutation of hand at this point, so it is not as exciting as it once was for me. But that will be our little secret!

Where to Buy

 

Coming Soon

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