Hearts has been a popular four-player card game for many decades, and most people have played it on a desktop computer at some stage even if they didn’t know the hearts rules.
While it’s a fast-paced game that’s easy to learn, it still leaves plenty of room for strategy. The following guide should provide all the info you need.
How to Play Hearts?
Hearts is played with a standard deck of cards, and the aim is to end the game with the lowest score. It is played until one player surpasses a predetermined score (often 100) that is agreed upon before you start play, which will usually take a few hands.
Before looking at the way to play, it’s important to know the scoring system. At the end of each hand, each player receives,
- 1 point for each Heart that was played.
- 13 points for the Queen of Spades.
In total, then, there are 26 points to play per hand. However, if a player collects all 14 of the scoring cards (known as Shoot the Moon) they will receive 0 points while every other player scores 26 for the hand.
The game is played in tricks. The first trick begins with playing the 2 of Clubs. Next, working clockwise, each player must discard one card. If they can play the suit that started the trick, they must play a card from the suit. Whoever plays the highest card will subsequently take all four cards that were played in the trick. If this means they took a Heart or the Queen of Spades, they will accumulate points.
Player 1 plays the 2 of Clubs, followed by the 7 of clubs (P2), 4 of Clubs (P3), and 11 of Clubs (P4). Player 4 takes the trick and then starts the next trick with any card they hold from their remaining 12.
Hint: In this case, P4 happily played the 11 despite having the 3 because Clubs do not add points.
Each hand will have 13 tricks, with 26 points (unless someone Shoots the Moon) being distributed among the four players. For a game where 100 points is the milestone, you can expect to play around half a dozen hands.
How to Deal Cards in the Game?
Before dealing the cards, each player must draw a card and the person with the lowest-ranked card will be the dealer. They will then deal each player 13 cards (one at a time), moving in a clockwise direction.
Following this, each player can pass three cards on to their opponent. The aim here is to remove the cards you do not want from your hand. Passing is completed through the following steps;
- Hand one – pass three cards to the player to the left,
- Hand two – pass three cards to the player to the right,
- Hand three – pass three cards to the player opposite,
- Hand four – no pass is played.
Then the game can begin, starting with the 2 of Clubs as stated above.
Different variations of the heart game
One of the main ways to differentiate hearts games is whether passing (as detailed above) is included. Some tables allow for passing while others do not. It is something that all players should agree upon before starting the first-hand.
Two-player hearts is a variant where the deck is reduced to 26 cards, with the 3s, 5s, 7s, 9s, Jacks, and Kings are removed. The general rules and scoring remain the same with every other hand including a pass before the first trick.
In omnibus hearts, collecting the 10 of Diamonds will mean that 10 points is subtracted from the player’s score. Meanwhile, Shooting the Moon (with the addition of the 10 of Diamonds) will result in a 36 point reduction of 26 point addition to all other players.
Cancellation hearts is a game where two packs of cards are used and played by 5-11 players. Pairs cancel each other out in a trick but are still counted in the points at the end of the hand.
Cards are added/removed from the deck depending on how many players are present. For example, five players use the addition of a Joker so each player has 21 cards.
The hearts rules are pretty easy to follow once you’ve played a few hands. Before playing for real, why not try it out by using a browser-based game or downloading a free app. It’s simple to play, and difficult to master, making it a game that you can enjoy for years.