Hearts is a popular trick-taking game, but unlike most games, the the object is to avoid winning hands - or at least to avoid winning hands containing hearts, and most especially, to avoid taking the queen of spades (known as the "Black Lady"). Conversely, if you manage to win all the points - that is, all 13 hearts plus the queen of spades - then you have "shot the moon". and can either subtract 26 points from your score, or add 26 point to all your opponents scores.
The Basics of Hearts
Hearts is a card game best played with 4 players (though some variations support from 3 to 7 players). The game is played with a standard 52-card deck (no jokers), with Ace ranking high and 2 low.
The thirteen hearts and the Queen of Spades (known colloquially under such names as the Black Lady, Black Maria, Calamity Jane, and the Slippery Bitch) hold special status. If, during the course of play, you acquire a heart, it counts as one point against you, while the Queen of Spades counts as 13 points. The object of the game, therefore, is to avoid these cards.
Unless, that is, you manage to acquire all those cards, which is referred to as "Shooting the Moon", and allows you the privilege of either subtracting 26 points from your score, or adding 26 points to each of your opponents.
The game is begun by dealing 13 cards to each player. Each player then examines their cards and chooses three of them to pass to the player on his left. On the next deal, three cards are passed to the right. On the third deal, the three cards are passed across the table. On the fourth deal, no cards are passed. Subsequent hands repeat the same sequence.
Whichever player holds the 2 of clubs leads the first trick. The other players must follow in suit if they can. If they have no cards of the lead suit, then they may play any card.
The winner of each trick leads the next, until all thirteen tricks have been played, at which time the scores are tallied. The game ends when one player reaches 100 points, and the winner is the player with the lowest cumulative score.
In spite of the apparent simplicity of the rules, the game allows ample opportunity for skillful play, and according to some commentators, "is almost unsurpassed for opportunities to apply skill and deduction in analyzing the meanings of your opponents' play and in planning your own strategy so as to make the most of what you deduce about the other players' hands when compared to the strength of your own hand." (John Scarne in Scarne on Cards)
Hearts Rule Links
The following sites provide authoritative rules to play Hearts card games:
"Here at Arcatm we love, live and breathe Hearts." With rules, links, strategy tips, and Hearts videos.
- Bicycle Hearts Rules
Authoritative rules for the game of Hearts, from Bicycle Playing Cards.
- Hearts Homepage
Learn about the game, with rules, some variation listings, lots of links and more.
- Hearts, How to Play the Game
This website takes you through the basic rules of the game, reviews strategy, and suggests some fun variations.
"At heartsworld.co.uk we live and breathe hearts. We feel that it is by far and away the best card game and this website was set up to make hearts more accessible to the world."
Rules for a Hearts variation that uses two decks of cards, ideal for larger groups of up to 8 players.
- Pagat Hearts
John McLeod's Hearts page, with rules, strategies and links.
- Royal Hearts
Rules to a Hearts variation known as "Royal Hearts". [PDF]
- Valentine Hearts
This game is invented by Nicholas Cheung as a variant of Hearts. There are some very quirky changes in the arrangements of suits and so on. It combines Hearts and Flowers with the Black Lady rule in it plus quirky changes in rules. [ Archive Copy ]
- WhiteKnuckle Hearts
Rules to Hearts and several variations, including Black Maria, Knaves, Polignac, Rickety Kate, and Slobberhannes.
- Wikipedia Hearts
An article about Hearts, with hitory, rules, and strategy tips, from the free online encyclopedia.