If you remember good, old PCs featuring Windows XP, you probably remember the game of hearts as well. It was one of several games that came with the operating system, and it was the one that the fewest people knew how to play.
I decided to learn how to play hearts after I got tired of trying to figure it out on my own and kept losing to the computer.
When you actually learn hearts rules and know what’s going on, it’s a very entertaining game that you can spend hours playing. The game of hearts is fast-paced and quite exciting once you figure it out.
While new Windows no longer have hearts, which is a real shame, I might add, you can still learn the game and play it with your friends.
If you happen to have a group of poker buddies and want to add some variety to your game nights, try including a few rounds of hearts now and then.
In this article, you’ll find all the information on hearts rules and even some tips and tricks to give you a solid start with the game.
- Queen of Spade – the key card in hearts, worth 13 points
- Tricks – sets of four cards won by the player playing the highest-ranking card of the led suit
- Shooting the moon – winning all 13 hearts and the Queen of Spades in a single round
- Voids – having no cards in a particular suit (i.e., void in spades means you have no spades)
Game Of Hearts Preparation
To play hearts, the first thing you need is the standard deck of 52 playing cards, with jokers removed. Secondly, you’ll need three more willing players.
The game of hearts is usually played by four people, although there is a way to play with three or five players as well.
It may take a little while to gather a group of friends you can play with regularly, but you can use that time to brush up your hearts game skills playing online.
The one final piece of inventory you’ll need a simple piece of paper and a pen to keep score. Since there are four players involved, it would be hard to memorize all the numbers.
Hearts Rules – Master The Game Of Hearts And Have Fun
The hearts card game rules aren’t particularly complicated. Once you’ve played a few hands, you’ll probably have it all figured out.
That said, do give yourself a bit of time, and don't get annoyed if you make some mistakes when first starting. While the hearts game is fairly straightforward, it is still more complicated than a war game, for example.
The Objective of Hearts
You’ll receive points for any hearts you have won during the round as well as for the Queen of Spades.
The main goal of any individual round of the game of hearts is to have as few points as possible.
The game is usually played for several rounds until one player reaches 100 points. When one of the four players gets to 100 or over, the game stops, and the winner is the player with the smallest number of points at that time.
Dealing in Card Game Hearts
At the start of the round, the entire deck is dealt out. Dealing starts with the first player to the left of the dealer and continues clockwise.
Players are dealt one face down card at a time until the entire deck is dealt, and every player has 13 cards in their hand.
Card Values in Hearts
Cards in hearts are ranked the same way they're ranked in standard poker hands. Deuces are low; aces are high.
Although hearts is a tricks' game, there are no trump suits, so the highest-ranking card of the suit that's been led wins the trick.
Hearts Game Scoring
Understanding the scoring system is the most important thing in learning how to play hearts. As mentioned, your goal is to have the fewest points possible, which may seem counterintuitive at first and may take a little while to adjust to.
In hearts, the only point cards are hearts and the Queen of Spades.
As you play, you’ll win tricks, and some of them will contain hearts. When the round is over, all tricks are counted, and your points are added up as follows.
- For every heart won, you'll get one point.
- If you won Queen of Spades, you'll get 13 points.
Since you want to keep your points’ total as low as possible, one of the main goals for a game of hearts is to avoid winning the trick containing the Queen of Spades. However, there is one exception to this rule.
Shooting the Moon in Hearts
If you manage to win all the hearts as well as the Queen of Spades during any individual round, you will achieve what’s known as “shooting the moon.”
You'll receive zero (0) points in this scenario, while the other three opponents will get 26 points each.
How to Play Hearts
With the main hearts rules and the scoring system out of the way, it’s time to move on to the fun part and actually learn how to play hearts.
As long as you’ve understood everything up to this point, the gameplay itself should give you no trouble.
Playing a Hand of Hearts
Before the actual play can start, all players get to pick three cards from their hand and pass them on to the player to their immediate left, face down.
So, you give three cards to the player next to you; they pass three cards to the player next to them, etc.
Usually, you'll want to pass your high cards unless you're planning to shoot the moon.
The play begins with the player holding the two of clubs (2c), regardless of their position at the table. Whoever has this particular card starts the action by placing it in the middle of the table, face up.
So, as long as you have any clubs in your hand, you have to play one of them. The highest-ranking club wins the trick, and the winner leads the next card.
There are a few important hearts rules pertaining to the gameplay that you need to remember:
- If you don't have any clubs in the first round, you can play spades or diamonds. You can't play hearts in the first round.
- You can always play the Queen of Spades, even in the first round.
- If you win a trick, you can’t lead with the heart suit unless hearts have already been broken (someone already player hearts card before).
Keep in mind that the highest-ranking card of the led suit wins the trick. For example, a player leads with 3s. The next two players don't have any spades, so they play a Jc and Kd, respectively. You have a 4s in your hand, so you have to follow suit, and you’ll win the trick because you have the highest spade.
What you do with hearts in your hand is very important in this game. Usually, you want to get rid of them as soon as possible, but you can only do so by following specific rules.
You can only play a heart if you can’t follow suit on the second and any subsequent rounds.
You are only allowed to lead with a heart if hearts have already been “broken.” Hearts are considered broken if someone has already played a heart in one of the tricks.
If no hearts have been tabled, you can’t lead with a heart.
When Does the Hearts Hand Finish?
When all players have played all the cards from their hands, the round is over, and tricks are counted. You will record the points according to the rules described earlier, after which cards are reshuffled and the new hand can begin.
How to Play Hearts with Three or Five Players?
If you are short one player, you can also play three-handed.
In this case, the two of diamonds is removed from the deck, and all players are dealt 17 cards each.
Other hearts card game rules remain unchanged.
If you have one extra player and want to include them, you can remove the two of clubs and the two of diamonds so that everyone gets 10 cards to start with.
Since the 2c is no longer in play, the player holding the 3c will go first.
Strategy for the Game of Hearts
One of the things that make the game of hearts so fun to play is that it isn't just about luck. By learning a few simple but effective tricks, you'll likely do much better and win way more often than players trying to wing it.
Game Of Hearts Tip #1: Passing Cards
The first order of business in a round of hearts is figuring out what cards to pass to your neighbor. There are a few simple rules that should help you stay out of trouble:
- Pass your high spades (A, K, Q) as these are dangerous cards. You don’t want to get stuck with the Qs.
- Pass your high hearts (Jacks or better) but hold on to your lower hearts.
- If you can get rid of high cards in the other two suits to create a void, you should at least consider it.
Game Of Hearts Tip #2: Creating Voids
The concept of creating voids is nothing new for games with tricks. The principle is quite simple. If you are “short” in one suit, i.e., you only have one or two cards of the particular suit, you should usually try to get rid of them as soon as possible.
The idea behind this is that the next time someone leads that suit, you’ll have the opportunity to get rid of one of your worst cards in a different suit.
This is especially important if you get stuck with the Queen of Spades as you want to get rid of that one as soon as possible.
Game Of Hearts Tip #3: Forcing Spades
If you have a few spades in your hand lower than the queen, you’ll want to play them early if you get a chance to lead. By doing this, you’re trying to force the player with the Queen of Spades to play it and either win the trick or send it across to someone else.
It doesn’t really matter as long as you’re not on the receiving end.
If you can’t do this early, you’re running the risk of allowing the player with the queen to create a void in a different suit and discard the danger card when that suit is led, which can be hard to anticipate, especially if you’re new to hearts.
Game Of Hearts Tip #4: Keep Count of the Cards
While it may take you a little while to become good at this, you’ll want to keep track of how many cards of any particular suit have been played. This will help prevent you from leading a suit other players no longer have, allowing them to dump point cards on you.
Have a Blast Playing Hearts
This is pretty much everything you need to know to play the hearts card game. While rules may seem a bit confusing when you’re first reading them, everything will become much clearer after you play a few hands.
This game is definitely worth your time as you’re likely to fall in love with it if you enjoy card games in general.
Much like rummy, the game of hearts has it all: you’ll need some luck to win, but it’s really important for you to keep track of the cards and know a bit of strategy to do well.
If you’re still uncertain, try searching for hearts game online and play a few rounds. You’ll soon figure out if this game is your cup of tea or not.