Introduction: How You Play Hearts - and Win!
This tutorial is for those who have a very basic understanding of the card-playing game Hearts. Ideally, if you are using this tutorial you have played Hearts at least once. This tutorial will begin by providing basic rules intended to be used as a refresher, which will be followed by a few strategies that can be used to make someone of any level of experience in a competitive hearts player.
Step 1: Card Rankings
Before playing a game of hearts one must have a complete understanding of the cards and their rankings. The game is played using all 52 cards of a deck with traditional card face values in effect. In other words, in a suit of cards (clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades) the cards are ranked as highest to lowest as follows: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8… These ranks are the main determinant of which player wins a hand.
In hearts, the cards that score points are: hearts! Each heart has a value of 1 point. The only other card that scores points is the queen of spades, which scores 13 points. The sum of the hearts and the queen of spades is 26 points. This is the maximum number of points that can be scored by all players for a round.
Step 2: Dealing
A the beginning of each round, the dealer shuffles and then distributes the cards to each of the 4 players, starting with the player to their left. At the end of the deal, each player should have 13 cards.
Shown above is the 13 card hand that each player will have after dealing; on the right the card are flipped for example but of course players will not share the contents of their hand
Step 3: Passing
Passing is done immediately after the deal and means that each player must discard 3 cards from there hand and pass them to a different player. This is an opportunity for each player to remove cards that don’t fit their hand well. Passing alternates each round from the player to your left and right and to the player across from you.
The picture above shows an example of a player removing some high scoring cards from their initial hand.
Step 4: Playing a Round
Every round must begin with the 2 of clubs; this is shown in the first picture above. This means that whoever has this card in their hand must play it to start the round. Once this card has been played, the remaining players play a card going clockwise.
Each player must play a card of the suit that was led. Therefore, after the 2 of clubs have been played the remaining players must play a club. If a player does not have any clubs then they may play a card of another suit. For the first hand, however, a player cannot play a scoring card. Scoring cards can only be played after the first round.
The player who has played the highest ranked card of the suit that was led (in the case of the first round – clubs), takes the 4 cards that were played and places them in a pile separate from their hand. This player then plays any card that they choose except a scoring card. Scoring cards can only be played as the lead card after someone has played a heart or the queen of spades during a hand in which they must play a card out of suit.
After the first round, players proceed to play rounds in the same manner until all players run out of cards. The goal of each round is to collect the fewest amount of scoring cards as possible. This accomplished by playing the lowest card of the lead suit or by playing a card out of suit. The bottom picture above shows the final round of a hand; at this point each player totals up the number of scoring card received that round and adds them to their overall score.
Step 5: Scoring
At the end of a round, each player counts up the amount of hearts that they have, and adds 13 points if they have the queen of spades, to get their total score for that round. For example, if a player collects 3 hearts and the queen of spades in a round, they will have scored 16 points (3 hearts + queen of spades (13) = 16). The game is played until one of the players collects over 100 points. Once this occurs, the player who has the lowest amount of total points wins the game.
In the hand above, diamonds were led; therefore the player who played the ace of diamonds loses the hand and picks up the jack of hearts. This player adds one to their total score for that round and overall score.
Step 6: "Shooting the Moon"
If a player is dealt a hand with cards ranked very high or with a large amount of hearts, then they might want to try and “shoot the moon”. Shooting the moon is when a player wins all 26 points in a round or collects all hearts and the queen of spades. If this is done successfully, the player with all scoring cards is given a score of 0 for that round and all other players are given a score of 26. This is a good approach if the hand you were dealt is not initially favorable. It is generally only a good idea though if you can be sure to obtain all scoring cards. If you lose one heart to another player, you could end up taking 25 points that round.
The picture above shows an example of the passing round for a player who has a hand that is favorable for "shooting the moon". As you can see, they are passing their lower cards of a non-scoring suit. This will allow them to take the scoring cards from each round and continue to lead each round. If they play their cards correctly they can maybe taking all scoring cards.
Step 7: "Scoring Exactly 100"
Another way to cope with many different high scoring rounds is to try and get a score of exactly 100. If a player goes over 100 then the game ends, but if a player gets exactly 100 points after a round then their score is reset to 0. This is a good strategy if a player has many high scoring rounds and has far more points than the other players. It can difficult to do because it means that you must score a very specific score during a round. If you have a score of 98 then you will need 2 collect exactly 2 hearts in a round to obtain the score of 100. Anything more than two and you lose.
Step 8: A Few Winning Strategies
This isn’t so much of a step but more a collection of a few strategies that experienced Hearts players commonly use. Decisions and moves made based on the steps described above can be used to be more competitive during each hand and throughout an entire game. Listed below are a few suggested strategies for those who want to win a game of Hearts:
Use the passing round to your advantage – passing should be used to your advantage at the beginning of every hand. Remember this is your chance to adjust a potentially undesirable hand to be more suited to the type of game you are playing.
In the second picture, all hands shown could try a different approach when passing. Passing high cards is usually never a bad bet. Passing away all cards in a suit that you have few cards is also sometimes a good idea.
Lose the risky cards early – once cards have been passed your hand may still contain some dangerous cards. If you are not trying to collect points then it is best to get rid of cards that in your hand that could cause you to get points as soon as possible. Cards such as the king of spades could easily cause you to take the queen of spades especially during a later round when people are running low on cards.
This shown in the top picture above. It is smart to play high clubs in the first round because there is no chance that a scoring card could be played.
Shoot the Moon! – shooting the moon was highlighted above but should be emphasized again as it is powerful strategy in hearts. Remember, if successful, this can cause all other players to be given 26 points each. This is best only attempted however if the hand you are dealt will cater to it. If unsuccessful you could end up hurting your own score significantly.
The top set of cards in the bottom picture might want to consider shooting the moon because their initial hand has a large amount of hearts.
Rake up your opponents score – if another player is sitting with a low score or if you see a player’s score is close to reaching 100, then it might be a good strategy to target that player. This can help you either balance the scores or win the game for you if you have the lowest score.
The top hand in the second picture has no diamonds; this is a good opportunity for this player to give other players points when a diamond is played.