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# Hearts!

Hearts is a fun trick-taking card game played by millions of people for far too many hours in any given day. There exist many variations of the game. The basic object is to take as few points as possible, vwhere Hearts and the Queen of Spades add points to your score.

This page serves multiple purposes. It lists the rules to my favorite version of the game, it lists many variations on the rules of hearts, it provides links to other hearts sites, it links to various places to play on-line, it gives cursory reviews of several downloadable hearts computer games, and mentions any other resources on- or off-line I have found. If you know of a resource I have missed, please email me at <hearts@alanhoyle.com>.

Rather than thinking of this page as being prescriptive of how hearts should be played, think of this as descriptive of many different ways that it can be played. I've made an attempt to document and/or link to as many different hearts variations as I can find. A lot of people email me asking for advice on rules, etc. I can't answer this sort of question "officially" or definitively. I can only offer suggestions as to what I prefer. Unless you're playing in tournaments, I recommend that you find a variation you like and use that in your play group.

Use these links to jump directly to: rules, rule variations, strategy hints, hearts-specific links, general card game links, playing on the internet, software for home computers, and books and other off-line resources.

Special info for WebTV users

## Rules for my favorite version of Hearts

(an Omnibus Hearts variant.)

### the Players:

Four is optimal, but three and five are acceptable.

### the Deck:

A standard 52 card deck of cards without jokers. Aces are high, twos are low with the standard order (i.e. A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2).

### the Goal:

To have the lowest point total when someone else exceeds the predefined point total. Most games are played to 100 points.

### the Deal:

A player is selected to deal. This person deals out all the cards in the deck evenly to all the players. In subsequent hands, the deal rotates to the left.In a four player game, each player should have 13 cards. In three and 5 player games, you may use the "Kitty" rules listed in the Variations or remove a card or two (typically low clubs or diamonds) to make the deal come out evenly.

### the Pass:

After every hand is dealt, the players must pass three cards from their hand to another player. In 4 player Hearts, after the first deal, the players pass to the left. After the second deal, they pass to the right. On the third deal, they pass to the player across. After the fourth deal, the players do not pass any cards from their hands (the "Hold" hand). On subsequent deals, the deal continues in this pattern (e.g. left, right, across, hold, left, right, ...). In more mathematical terminology:

 Pass (n = current deal) := { left if (n mod 4) = 1, right if (n mod 4) = 2, across if (n mod 4) = 3, no pass if (n mod 4) = 0 }

Passing algorithms for three and five player games are left as an exercise for the reader.

### the Play:

The first card played in the first trick is the two of clubs. Play continues clockwise until everyone has played a card (this is a "trick"). The highest ranked card in the initially lead suit wins the trick. Unlike Spades, there is no trump suit in Hearts. Everyone must follow suit if possible. If a player is out of cards in that suit when her turn comes, she may play any card out of her hand. Hearts may not be lead until a heart was played in a previous trick. This is called "Breaking Hearts." However, if a player has the lead and nothing but Hearts in hand, she may lead and break Hearts. The player who won the last trick, leads the first card in the next one. Once a trick has been played, anyone may look at the cards until cards are played for the next trick, so pay attention. Play continues until all players are out of cards. In a 4 player game, this means there are 13 tricks in a standard hand.

### the Score:

Under most circumstances, each heart taken adds 1 point to a player's score. Also the Queen of Spades (often called the "Black Lady") adds 13 points to a player's score. The Jack of Diamonds gives the person who takes it -10 points. However, if a player takes all 13 Hearts and the Queen of Spades, that player has "Shot the Moon," and may either subtract 26 points from her score or add 26 to all opposing players' scores.

The Jack of Diamonds is not required to Shoot the Moon. However, many groups play a different variant and require the Jack to shoot

### the Significant Cards:

Card(s)Significance
First card lead on the first trick.
Each adds one point to your score.
Subtracts 10 points from your score.

That's it for the rules I prefer to use. Now let's move on to:

## some Variations:

• Individual card variants:
• The 10 of Clubs doubles the value of the current hand for whoever takes it, e.g. if you took the 10 of clubs and 4 Hearts, you'd get 8 added to your score.
• The Ace of Hearts counts 5 points, not 1.
• The Ten of Diamonds counts -10 instead of the Jack.
• The Jack (or Ten) of Diamonds is required to Shoot the Moon.
• Neither the Jack nor the Ten of Diamonds have special properties. Note: I personally prefer the Jack of diamonds rule. It gives every suit should have a special property. Clubs are always played first, Hearts give points, Spades have the Queen, so Diamonds should have the Jack. Some disagree on this issue. Tournaments tend to play without the Jack. Games that do use the Jack (or 10) of Diamonds rule are called Omnibus hearts.
• The Queen of Spades counts 5 points, not 13.
• The Queen of Spades has no special properties at all. Games that do use the Queen are called Black Lady hearts.
• Add a blank card to the deck and whomever is dealt it can play it at any time. It counts no points, but the player who plays it cannot win that trick. If it is the initial lead in the trick, the next player's card would determine the suit for that trick. See Pete's National Guard variant for more information. If you don't have any blank cards, a Joker would suffice.
• Spot hearts: the points given by each heart are based on the value of the card. e.g. the 2 gives two points, 10 gives 10, etc. Ace, King, Queen, and Jack give 1, 13, 12, and 11 points respectively.

• Play variants:
• Players are not allow point cards to be played on the first trick (i.e. no "bleeding" on the first trick).
• Playing the Queen of Spades also breaks Hearts.
• If hearts have not been broken and the player with the lead has only the Queen of Spades and Hearts remaining in hand, that player may announce this fact and play any card from their hand.
• On the first trick, the player to the left of the dealer may lead any card. (Except any Hearts, unless they have all 13 of them)

• "Kitty" variants:
• If the cards do not come out evenly (e.g. with three or five players) the remaining cards are placed face down in the middle of the table as a "kitty." Any points in the kitty count in the player who takes final tally at the end of the hand. The kitty is taken by the person who takes the first trick.
• There are several ways to handle who can look at the kitty. It may be placed face up so everyone can see the contents before it gets taken, the contents may be revealed to everyone after the first trick, the contents may only be viewed by the person who takes it (to give incentive for taking the first trick), or the contents may be secret for the entire hand.
• If people want a kitty in a four player game, a four card kitty and 12 card hands may be used instead of having 13 card hands.

• Alternatives to the "Kitty" in 3 or 5 player games:

In 3 and 5 player games, the number of cards dealt won't deal out evenly so you nead to deal with this..

• In a 3 player game remove the 3 of Clubs to give a 51 card deck.
• In a 5 player game, remove the 3 of Clubs and the 2 of Diamonds to give a 50 card deck.
• Deal out the extra cards to players and allow the player with them to play an additional card on the first trick. Most often, this will be an additional Club.

• Hand scoring variants:
• If a player ends a hand at exactly 100 (or whatever the preset limit for losing is) they divide their score in half.
• Players who take no tricks in a round get -5 points (for doing so well).
• Players who take no tricks in a round get +10 points (for being such a wimp).
• "Shooting the Sun" is taking all the tricks. The scoring is treated the same as "Shooting the Moon" except 52 points are distributed.

• Passing variants:
• The "scatter" pass where you pass 1 card to each other player. This is typically played after the "across" pass.
• The "smoosh" or "shuffle" pass where each player puts 3 cards into the middle of the table, these cards are shuffled, and redealt to the players.
• Richard Tinkelenberg's "House Rules" allows the dealer to call the pass and has some pretty fancy passing rules.

• More complete variants:
• Dirty Nasty Filthy Hearts (pronounced: dut-ty nah-tay fil-thay) thanks to Shiva Ctylyctyc <richardb@pcdocs.com>. This game has a complete vocabulary associated with it, see the original email that describes it.
• Black Maria is a hearts variant contributed by Chris Simmons <cps102@york.ac.uk>
• The Ricketts Hovse variant. (Culled from the Google cache after it dissappeared from the web.)
• Gongzhu is a Chinese variant. The name means "Reveal the Pig" in english.
• Pete's National Guard variant is straightforward, but also interesting.
• White Boy Bob, a 3 player/4 hand variant.
• Hearts++ makes diamonds a point-suit, significantly modifies passing, and adds several additional "shoot the moon" possibilities.
• There are many other variations of hearts, including two deck versions like Cancelation Hearts and other scoring systems like Spot Hearts. Check out some of the other hearts sites linked to below for more information.
• Renegs and Misdeals

I asked people who read this page to contribute their rules for how to handle misdeals and reneging. These rules seem to vary wildly depending on the seriousness of the game. Here are some of their suggestions:

• Misdeals in hearts aren't like those in Spades: where a player can declare a misdeal because of an unplayable hand. They're typically the result of sloppy dealing (cards flipping accidently/etc.) or similar problems. In casual games reshuffling and redeal the cards is the normal course of action. In more serious games, the deal may rotate.
• The most common punishment for a renegs in more serious games seems to be assigning all 26 points to the offending player. (I.e. opposite of Shooting the Moon).
• In Scarne on Cards, he suggests the penalty of 10 points per opponent in the game. In a standard 4 player game, this would mean the offending player gets 30 points, while others take zero.
• The most interesting suggested punishment for renegs I heard was: "...Anything from a slammed drink to a naked run around campus...."

## some Strategy:

There is are not many sites which helpful give strategic advice. Right now, the best advice I can give is to play, play, play. If you're looking for "expert" advice, there is little information on the web at present, but it is increasing. This page had the most I'm aware of, but is now defunct. I managed to save a copy of it from the WayBack machine. Also, Comment gagnerà la Dame de Pique has advice if you can read French. Other than than, the best source for info is below. The only other resources I'm aware of are the books listed below, in particular the Andrews one.

I used to have this information stored in a page on a wiki I controlled, but I have grown impatient with all of the spammers flooding it with links and disabled the whole thing.

• Try to remember all the cards that have been played. With practice this becomes automatic and you won't have to think about it.
• Think about what you pass people. Are you vulnerable to taking the Queen? Do you have anything to stop someone from Shooting the Moon? Can you void yourself in a suit and protect yourself from taking too many point cards?
• Probably the thing most overlooked by beginners is to pay attention to what your opponents pass you. You can infer much about their hand and about what their strategy for this round is going to be. Something else that many beginners overlook is trying to go void in suits to enable playing point cards easier and sooner.
• Long suits make it much easier to Shoot the Moon.
• The following advice was contributed by jaysinaz@earthlink.net: (paraphrased) Cover your pass.
"I've always been taught that covering your pass is the FIRST rule of hearts. If you don't have a heart to pass then you're responsible to "hit" another player (not the player you passed to) with a heart. Once you do, the responsibility now changes hands to the guy that passed to the man you just gave a heart to...get the idea? Now if you didn't pass a heart and were not passed a heart then there isn't much you can do. If I had the 2 5 9 and Jack of hearts I would pass the 9. That way if hearts get broken on the guy I passed to, I know he isn't going to run them (shoot the moon) because I passed him the 9, and I can cover it with my Jack. Now if Hearts aren't broken on my man, then I don't have to cover the heart I just passed."

"As far as strategy goes, my theory is pray for good cards, know how to count (all the suits) and take a point or two early to avoid taking a [explitive deleted] load later!"

Mike Bolan had this comment about jaysinaz's hint.

## my Favorite Hand Ever:

After the pass, my hand consisted of: King and Queen of Hearts with Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 5, 3, and 2 of Spades. I sloughed low spades until the person across from me led the 4 of spades. The person to my right played the Ace of Hearts, I took every remaining trick, and shot the moon.

## Other sites of interest to Hearts players.

All of these worked at some point in the past, but may be out of date at present.
• Other Hearts specific sites:
• Dave Barker's Hearts Page is another good rules and variants page.
• Hearts - Strategy Guide by Bavo Bruylandt was the first page I've seen with strategic advice. It was a pretty good resource if you could stand all the banner ads. Unfortunately, it appears not to exist anymore. I saved a copy of it from the WayBack machine.
• Comment gagnerà la Dame de Pique (Trans: How to win in Hearts) is a site in French with what seems to be good advice on hearts strategy. (As much as I can gather with my limited ability in French.)
• Mindzine - Hearts gives the most common tournament rules for Hearts. This page was written by Joe Andrews of Win At Hearts fame (see the non-web resources for more details on that book).
• Hearts - Tips and Strategies by Joe Andrews is on the MSN gaming zone. It's a good resource, but it has a serious shortcoming in that (as of 12 July 2002) you can only access it by using one of an extremely short list of Microsoft-approved browsers. Since I don't use any of them by habit, I can't make it to this site on a regular basis.
• This Caltech Hearts variant adds a couple rules to the game and expands on a few themes in Hearts. The original url: http://www.gg.caltech.edu/~presto/hearts.html appears to be broken.
• mgoodnight's hearts page is another page with basic rules and variations.
• White Boy Bob, a 3 player/4 hand variant.
• Half Hour Hearts describes a variation for a "half-hour lunchtime Hearts game."
• Valentine Hearts is another interesting variation.
• Dirty Nasty Filthy Hearts as described above.
• Black Maria is a hearts variant contributed by Chris Simmons <cps102@york.ac.uk>
• Hearts++ makes diamonds a point-suit, significantly modifies passing, and adds several additional "shoot the moon" possibilities.
• IncreduHearts is a hearts variation documented by Charlie Register <charlie@duke.edu>. It's a Omnibus Hearts variant which uses two decks and is designed for larger groups of people. Another noteworthy aspect is that only a fraction of the total number of hearts is required to shoot the moon instead of all of them. (18 of 26).
• Gongzhu is a Chinese variation on Hearts. The page is in Chinese and I've had little success with running it through Babelfish. Here is a link to the main home page of Zhang Zhengzheng <zzz_cfcc@sina.com>. Another version of the rules can be found at John Pagat's Card Games site. Someone else sent me an english version of the rules.
• !BlackjackGambling.com has a section about hearts strategy.
• Hearts Variations Checklist by Steffan O'Sullivan is a good resource and has something that I've tried to do: A checklist of what you need to know before you play hearts with a new gaming group.
• Uno Hearts® by Mattel is a hearts-derivitive game by the people who brought you Uno® and Barbie®. The Rules of Uno Hearts were available at the link in this sentence, but Mattel forced them offline. Rumor has it that the game is currently out of print.

• General Card info sites which mention Hearts
• Card Games by John Pagat has information and rules for many card games from around the world. It is a tremendous resource for any card player.
• The United States Playing Card Company, a playing card manufacturer, lists rules to many card games. Here is a direct link to their Hearts and Other Trick-Taking Games rules page.
• rec.games.playing-cards is a good place to find out info about card games in general. I read often and occasionally post.
• Hay's Rule Book John Hay's "general rules" of some card games.
• Classic Tourneys is "dedicated to hosting live events based on the classic games we all love." They claim to serve as a replacement for the now defunct International Hearts & Spades Players' Association.
• Classic Hearts had the "First Annual Classic Hearts International Convention" in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA on the first through fourth of March 2001.
• The House of Cards - Hearts Info is another good site to find hearts links.
• cardgames.start4all.com is a page with links to many card game sites. It does not add content of its own, but might provide utility as a starting point for other research.
• WannaLearn.com is a portal which purports to link to "The best free, family-safe, online tutorials, guides and instructionally oriented Websites on the Net!" I include them because they include me. They don't link to any hearts site that I don't already link to, but if you're looking for other resources....

• Playing Hearts on the Internet

Note for WebTV TM users: At present, most of the hearts sites where people play online require Java or a platform specific software download. Until WebTV supports Java or another site uses a "server-side" implementation of Hearts, it is not possible to play hearts with your internet connection. The only exception I've ever been aware of was Epsylon Games which does not exist anymore (the old URI now links to an adult site).

(listed in alphabetical order)

• E-HeartsMaster.com is an online hearts site. It appears to be an extension of a bridge site. I have not tried it as they limit their service to certain operating systems.
[Microsoft Windows required]
• GameDesire is another place to play Hearts. I haven't tested it out as it requires creating a login.
[Login required, other requirements unknown]
• Microsoft's Internet Gaming Zone has software to play Hearts online. I haven't tried it yet. Their lack of support for other operating systems is quite disappointing.
[Microsoft Windows required]
• IPLAY.NET has several card games on its site, Hearts being one of them. It looks OK, but I haven't tried it yet.
[Software download required] [Windows 95 or NT required]
• Mystic Island Gaming park is a "friendly family" site with regularly scheduled tournaments.
[Software download required] [Windows 95 or NT required]
• Nova Hearts is a basic java implementation of hearts. Coincidently, it uses the same card images I use. as far as I can tell, this is a purely non-commercial site.
[Browser with Java required]
• Pogo is another internet games site.
[Browser with Java required]
• 4v4.se/spel is a hearts site in Swedish. Hearts is "Hjärter" and you start playing at "nybörjare" (beginner) level. You have to register for a free account to keep track of your score. Every player has a ranking number.
• Yahoo Games is a popular site which has player rankings and fairly competitive play.
[Browser with Java required]
• Freeware, Shareware, and Commercial Hearts programs
(listed in alphabetical order)
• Championship Hearts by DreamQuest Software is the most cross platform game I've found, with versions available for most PCs and PDAs. I've tried the Palm OS version of it. It supports many options and variations, has good graphics and decent animation, and on-line play. Unfortunately, play is quite slow on my Palm, and it has a relatively large memory footprint (366K for the application, 60K for a shared library). I haven't had a chance to play it on a PC yet.
[Palm OS, PocketPC, Macintosh, or Win95/NT/ME/XP required]
• Hardwood Hearts is a commercial hearts program from Silvercreek Interactive. You can download a demo version from their site. I helped a little with beta testing the product a long time ago. It has the best interface I've seen in a hearts program to date, and the graphics and animation are superb, It also allows networked play via the internet. It seems to be an excellent program.
[Win95 or WinNT required]
• 3d Hearts Deluxe by Freeverse Software is a Macintosh and Windows version of Hearts. It is graphically and sonicly impressive with animated and talking characters. The user interface was is intuitive, if a bit cartoony, and the play was pretty good. It also allows you to select many different rules variations and the registered version has many different characters to play against. The unregistered version opponents are pretty easy to beat, but it gives you a good impression of the game.
[Win95, WinNT, or Macintosh]
• Hearts for PalmPilot by Dave Mayes is a freeware version of Hearts for the Palm OS devices. It uses a fairly standard version of the rules, with relatively few options for variants. The opponents occasionally make strategic errors, and it doesn't have many options for rules variations, but it is a good program, if only for the fact that it allows you play hearts anywhere and at any time. One nice feature is that it keeps track of both the score for the current round and the number of games each of your opponents have won. This program conflicts with both the StandAlone and LeoSolutions hearts programs and cannot be installed simultaneously with them.
[Palm OS compatible device]
• Hearts by Leo Singleton is a freeware version of Hearts for the Palm OS devices. It uses a fairly standard version of the rules, but has no options for rules variations. It plays an OK game and has good animations, graphics, and is the only freeware color hearts game I'm aware of. It doesn't keep track of games won and cannot be installed simultaneously with David Mayes' program.
[Palm OS compatible device]
• Hearts for Palm OS by Stand Alone is a shareware hearts program for Palm OS devices. It supports more variations than Dave Mayes's GPL/free program, and has support for color devices. It has a serious problem in that it conflicts with Dave Mayes program at installation (i.e. it replaces it by default). It also has an annoyingly short 30 day evaluation period which cannot be restarted by reinstalling the software. I can't comment on its playing ability, as I am no longer able to play it on my Palm. Also, it's rather expensive at \$15 for a single game, but it might be worth it to some.
[Palm OS compatible device]
• Magic Dogs Hearts by Handmark is a version of Hearts for the Palm OS devices. A version of it comes on the Palm Essentials CD packed with the Palm Tungsten T. It supports 8 different versions of the rules, plays an OK game and has excellent animation and supports hires graphics. It also supports multiplayer games either through the network or via Bluetooth. It's got a pretty big memory footprint: ~200Kb for the MagicDogs launcher and another 130K for the Hearts application itself.
[Palm OS compatible device]
• MVP Hearts for Windows by MVP Software is a shareware version of hearts.
[Win95 or WinNT required]
• TurboHearts is a commercial hearts program from Interactive Systems Inc. They were kind enough to provide me with a copy to evaluate. You can see the basic interface on their web site and it works well. While they don't provide much in the way of rules variations, they provide much help for players. You can get hints almost anytime, including a "value" for passing or playing cards, sort of like "hints" that chess programs often give. I presume the reason for lack of rules variations is to make those hints more accurate. Two especially interesting features are the "replay" feature which allows you to redeal the same hand and the "setup" which allows you to deal whatever hand you want. It plays a pretty good game and would probably be very good for practicing for tournaments.
[Win95 or WinNT required]
• Note: there is also a version of hearts that ships with some versions of Microsoft Windows. In my opinion, any of these other programs are superior to that one.

• Non-web resources
• Win At Hearts by Joseph Andrews is a recent book about hearts. I own it and it seemed pretty good, but I haven't give it more than a cursory read. It is still in print, so most bookstores should be able to order it for you. I got my copy from Amazon.
ISBN 1566251109

• Out of print books:
Foster: Foster on Hearts. New York: F.A. Stokes, 1895.
Phillips, B.: The Game of Hearts. New York Excelsior, 1886.
Cady, A.: Hearts. New York: American Sports, 1896.

(Thanks to Kurt Klappenbach <amibach@worldnet.att.net> for this info)

• Hearts hand-held game:

Several manufacturers have produced hand-held LCD hearts games in the past. These days, however, they are nigh impossible to find and I am unaware of any current sources for the devices. To reiterate: I do not know where any are available for purchase. I cannot help you find one for purchase.

As an alternative to a dedicated, hearts-only device, I highly recommend purchasing an inexpensive Palm and downloading one of the Palm OS programs. Palms are smaller, more functional, and useful than the dedicated games. In addition, the user interface for the Palm hearts programs are far superior and there are thousands of other programs (games, utilities, etc.) available for the Palm, many of them free or for a nominal fee.

For a specific example, according to the rec.games.video.classic Handheld Games FAQ (© Clinton R. Dyer, version 12.5, 4 Jan 1998) Radica Games made one at some point in the past.

Here is the relevant entry:

Hearts (19??, Radica) #3661; ??; lcd; 1P ; CS
This means:
Game name: Hearts
First manufactured in 19?? by Radica
product #3661
batteries required: Unknown
Screen type: LCD
Number of players: 1
Availability: Currently Selling

It is not listed in Radica's on-line catalog, and until June 2001, I had never seen one, and I have not been able to find one for sale anywhere. I tried contacting Radica about it, but they never responded to provide me with information. In 2001, someone sent me a link to a company that still had them in stock and I own one. I've checked back and they were no longer in stock a long while ago.

Other companies also made hand-held hearts games. They are apparently no longer being made. My parents bought me one at a discount/remainder store.

## Credits

• To CTY where I first learned to play Hearts. (Lancaster '88, 2nd session, Bleem college, Geometry class )
• To Ms. Zinkam's Precalculus class where we played many days. (Lafayette HS in Williamsburg, VA 1989-1990)
• To John Hay <jahay@hcc-uky.campus.mci.net> who contributed some Hearts variations and is writing a book about card games.
• To Oxymoron <oxymoron@waste.org> for the card images. Check out Oxy's Egyptian RatScrew page, another of my favorite card games.
• To everyone else who has asked me a question or contributed to this page.

Rules, rule variations, limited strategy hints, hearts-specific links, general card game links, playing on the internet, WebTV specific info, software for home computers, and books and other off-line resources.

© Alan Hoyle <hearts@alanhoyle.com>
Problems? Omissions? Suggestions? Stupidly grammatical errors? Tyops? ;-) Please let me know.

Last update: \$Id: hearts.html,v 1.16 2009/05/28 14:48:43 alanhoyle Exp alanhoyle \$
Originally created: Fall 1994.