How to Play Hearts

By - 03/29/2021

Hearts is an evasion-based trick-taking card game. To play it, you will need 3 to 6 players, although 4 is ideal. The game is played with a standard deck of 52 cards and goes on till someone reaches 100 points. At that moment, the player who has the lowest score wins.

1. Scoring System

The player will get 1 point for each hearts card he acquires in a round or trick. Despite the name, the most dangerous card in the deck is the Queen of Spades, or Black Maria, which will cost you 13 points. In each trick, a player can get a maximum of 26 points.

2. Dealing & Passing the Cards

The cards are dealt 1-by-1 in a clockwise direction until all 4 players have 13 cards. In a 5 player game, you will eliminate 2 of Clubs as well, and deal 10 cards to everyone.

At this point, you should pick 3 cards that you will pass to your opponent. If possible, it’s best to switch a high ranking (Jack, Queen, King, or Ace) hearts cards. Black Maria could be saved as a devastating weapon, although this is quite risky.

With each new round, cards are passed to a different player. The only exception is every 4th round, where you keep the whole hand.

3. Starting the Game

The player who has 2 of Clubs has to initiate the round with it. Other players follow in a clockwise fashion.

Note: If it’s a 5-player game, the player who has 3 of Clubs starts the round.

The suit has to be followed whenever possible. The player who drops the highest-ranked card of the same suit wins the trick.

4. Breaking the Suit

In case you don’t have cards of the same suit, any other card can be played. The only exception is the first trick, in which you can’t use hearts or the Queen of Spades. Hearts can lead only once you play it on another suit.

Tips and Tricks

Hearts is easy to learn, but difficult to master. However, with these few good tricks, you will be well on your way. Keep in mind that there is no one true and tested method, but that the best strategy will change depending on the hand you are dealt with.

1. Lose High Ranked Cards Quickly

Since all players need to follow the suit, focus on removing Aces, Kings, Jacks, and Queens from the get-go. This way, you minimize the chance of accumulating points.

2. Bleed Spades

This trick will work best if you have plenty of low-ranking Spades. If you keep leading with them, other players will eventually be forced to play Ace and King of Spades, and maybe even Black Maria. This has to be done quickly, otherwise, the player with Black Maria might create a void and mess your plans.

3. Voids

If you got only 1 or 2 cards of the same suit, drop the asap. This will make a void, so the next time the suit is led, you can start bleeding your worst cards. Creating a void is very powerful, and can easily turn the game in your favor.

4. Track Cards

Learning to count cards will give you an advantage, as you will know how many cards of a given suit are left in the game. You can use this information to predict when other players might get voids, which is very useful.

5. Shooting the Moon

The last trick is pretty hard to pull-of, even by experienced players. By getting all penalty cards in 1 round and the Queen of Sapdes, you will actually get 0 points. Furthermore, all your opponents will get 26. Shooting the Moon is risky, but it may get you out of a bad situation.

British Hearts

There are many variants of Hearts, and one of the most popular is Black Maria. It is usually played by 3 players, and each gets 17 cards. Also, 2 more cards are added to the penalty system: the King (10 points) and Ace of Spades (7 points). Everything else remains identical.

Origin of Hearts

Hearts was likely inspired by a card game called Reversis, which was created in Spain in the 1750s. Throughout the next century, new penalties were introduced, and Hearts slowly took shape. The game quickly rose in prominence and by the 1880s made its way to the US.

A big change took place in 1909 when Queen of Spades took the place of the highest penalty card. This is also when players started passing unwanted cards at the beginning of each trick. It was at this time that Hearts also became known as Black Lady. Shooting the moon, which is another important feature, was created in Britain in the 1930s.

Today, Hearts is more popular than ever and is included with every Windows operating system.

If you like Hearts, you might like Classic Solitaire, FreeCell, or Spider Solitaire.

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