Want to learn how to play Hearts while picking up tactics and terminology along the way?
You’ve come to the right spot!

THE ORIGIN

Hearts is a popular card game played with a standard set of 52 playing cards and is closely related to other trick-taking games like Bridge and Spades. Usually, it’s played with 4 players but can also be played with 3 or 5 people (see below for different variations).

WHAT IS THE OBJECT OF HEARTS?

The object of Hearts is to avoid scoring points. You earn points for every heart you take and if you end up with the Queen of Spades you are stuck with 13 points. The game ends when someone reaches or goes over 100 points and whoever has the lowest score at that point wins. If there is a tie for a low score when someone hits or exceeds 100 points, additional hands may be played until someone wins.

HOW TO DEAL THE CARDS

Shuffle and deal the entire card deck so that each person has 13 cards.

HOW TO PLAY A HAND

Whoever has the 2 of Clubs must start the game. The game will continue in a clockwise order, with the next player having to play a card in the same suit, if possible. If not, they can play any card. The person who plays the highest card of the suit wins the trick and will lead the next one.

You may not lead with a heart until after a heart has been played as a discard. When you discard a heart it is called Breaking Hearts.

BASIC TACTICS

A normal tactic when you play Hearts is to lead with a lower spade to try to drive out the Queen of Spades, which is known as Smoking Out The Queen. 

Another tactic is to lead with the suit in your hand that you have the least amount of. That way you can get rid of the suit and start playing your hearts.

SCORING

You earn 1 point for every heart you take in the trick. If you take the Queen of Spades then you earn 13 points. The person with the lowest points wins and when someone reaches 100 points, the game is over.

However, if a player manages to win all the hearts cards including the Queen of Spades, they can choose to either reduce their score by 26 points or have all other players’ scores increase by 26 points. This is known as a Slam or Shooting The Moon.

Another variation is to make the Jack of Diamonds (or in some cases the Ten of Diamonds) a bonus card, subtracting 10 points for the person taking it. If it’s decided to play with this rule, you must agree whether or not you have to take the Jack (or Ten) of Diamonds in order to shoot the moon. If a player does shoot the moon, scoring will be normal (the player who took the card has 10 points deducted).

Shooting The Sun is taking all the tricks. Some score this as 52 points with the scoring handled in the same way as shooting the moon.

Some people play that when reaching a certain score it has a special effect. One is that if at the end of a hand your score is 100, it is reduced to 50 or sometimes 0.

PLAYING IN PARTNERS

There are a couple of ways that 4 players can play Hearts while sitting across from each other:

  1. Keep tricks together. If one team takes all 14 penalty cards in a hand, this is called a Slam and you can choose to give the other team 26 penalty points or subtract the same amount from your team.
  2. Keep scores individual until a player reaches 100 points, then tally the scores of the partners. The partnership with fewer points wins.

EXTRA STUFF

VARIATIONS FOR PASSING

There are a few other passing variations that can be done:

  • Pass left, pass right, pass across, then repeat
  • Scatter (pass one card to every other player)
  • No passing (pass on the cards passed to them without looking at them)

OTHER NUMBERS OF PLAYERS

Hearts can be played with either 3 or 5 players. There are different ways to deal the cards out equally with an uneven amount of players:

  1. Deal out the cards evenly as far as they’ll go until there are 1 or 2 cards left over. These cards are The Kitty and will be placed face down in the middle of the table. Whoever takes the first trick takes these cards (yes, they can look at them) and places them with their captured cards. If the 2 of Clubs happens to be in the kitty, the person who holds the next lowest club must lead.
  2. Deal out the cards the same way as above but whoever takes the first point or trick must add them to their hand and discard the equal number of cards face down.
  3. With 3 or 5 players, remove the 2 of Clubs from the deck, allowing the person holding the 3 of Clubs to lead.

TERMINOLOGY

Still haven’t picked up on the slang yet? Here’s a cheat sheet so you can keep up with the pros while you play Hearts.

Shoot The Moon: When you win all the hearts and the Queen of Spades you gain no points yet every other player gains 26 points. In some versions, you have the option to take 26 points off your score.

Shoot The Sun: Taking all the tricks. Some score this as 52 points with the scoring handled in the same way as shooting the moon.

Painting The Trick: Playing a heart when void of the lead suit.

Breaking Hearts: The first heart played in a round.

Smoking Out The Queen: Leading a trick with a lower spade to try to drive out the Queen of Spades.

Heart Attack: When a player claims 4 hearts in one trick.

Slippery Annie: AKA The Queen of Spades.

 

Now that you’re a Hearts pro it’s time to test our your newly acquired skills on Simple Hearts!