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Hearts!

2 h3 h4 h5 h6 h7 h8 h9 h10 hJ hQ hK hA hQ s

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

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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
Two of Clubs First card lead on the first trick.
Two of HeartsThree of HeartsFour of HeartsFive of HeartsSix of HeartsSeven of HeartsEight of HeartsNine of HeartsTen of HeartsJack of HeartsQueen of HeartsKing of HeartsAce of Hearts Each adds one point to your score.
Queen of Spades Adds 13 points to your score.
Jack of Diamonds Subtracts 10 points from your score.

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

some Variations:

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.

my Favorite Hand Ever:

QhKh2s3s5s7s8s9s10sJsQsKsAs
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.

Credits


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's Home Page... Alan Hoyle's 6 7 8 9 10 Page...

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

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Originally created: Fall 1994.

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