By Joe Andrews, author of "The Complete Win At Hearts"
Other columns by Joe Andrews:
Note - This article was part of my original book, 'Win At Hearts' first edition, Dover Books, Inc. 1983.
Introduction; Players; Cards
Hearts is a trick-taking game. Similar to other styles of the game, this variant is a competitive 4-player game. There are no formal partnerships.
A Standard 52 - card deck is used.
Aces are high and deuces are low. There is no trump suit and no bidding is necessary
The Queen of Spades 'The Witch' is worth 13 points. The Ten of Diamonds 'The Dime' is worth 10 points. Each heart is worth 1 point. The other cards have no point value.
There is a total of 36 points to be scored per round.
Object of Game:
To avoid scoring points and to hold a seat. The game is ended when one person reaches 52 points. In this version of hearts a player does not want to take all the
points in a round of play. If a player does, the 36 points are added to his/her score. That can be embarrassing and put the player closer to losing their valued seat. Players
will talk about a person who doesn't avoid taking all the 'numbers'.
This version usually draws a 'waiting list' of people who want to play. If only one person totals 52 or more points, only that person loses his/her seat. However, if at least two
people are waiting to play and two people take 52 or more points, then they both lose their seat, and so forth. Note: I have on occasion seen an entire table lose their seat
to four waiting players.
The Deal and Passing Cards:
The entire deck is dealt out clockwise. Each player receives 13 cards. The dealer announces what pass will be made by the players. Each round of passing cards from one player to another will
contain (3) three cards. Again, each set of passes consist of (3) three cards.
Dealer's calls for passing cards:
'Suffer'- which means there is no passing. Everyone plays the hand as dealt.
'1 to the Left (Right)' - each person makes 1 pass to the person either on their left (right), depending on which direction the dealer has called.
'2 to the Left (Right)' each person makes 2 passes to the person either on their left (right), depending on which direction the dealer has called.
'3 to the Left (Right)' each person makes 3 passes to the person either on their left (right) depending on which direction the dealer has called.
'Across the table' each person makes one pass across the table to the person sitting opposite them.
'Corners' 1 pass with the person either on the left or right, as designated by the dealer.
'Corner to Corner' 2 passes. 1 pass with the person on the right (left) then, second pass with the person on the other side.
'Across the table, then 1 Left or 1 Right' - a combination pass. One pass across the table then the next pass goes to the Left (Right) as designated by the dealer.
'Three in the middle' each player places three cards down and in the middle and then the dealer shuffles 12 cards and deals them out clockwise.
'1 (across)(left)(right)(corners), then in the middle' - another combo pass. Dealer will call for players to do one of the passes in parenthesis, then place the three cards in the middle.
Passes below are called 'Personal Passes' or 'Personals':
'1-2-3' or 'Around the Table'- In order clockwise, the first person and the dealer exchange a pass. Then the second person and the dealer exchange a pass. Lastly, the
third person and the dealer exchange a pass.
'2-3-1', '2-1-3', '3-2-1' and '3-1-2'- are all the additional personal calls. They are simply variants in the order of the one pass exchanged between the dealer and the other
players. For example: In 2-3-1, The second person clockwise from the dealer (sitting across the table) would pass first, the third
person clockwise (person sitting to the right) would pass second, and the first person clockwise (person sitting to the left) would pass last.
The dealer must call the choice of passing before he looks at his hand. If s/he looks at the hand before he calls a pass, the only pass s/he can call is '3 to the left (right)'.
All passes are enhanced by playing strategy that is gained through practice of the game. Thinking about what cards one is passing, where they will likely end up, and
what cards one hasn't seen will be key. In this version, low cards ('duckers') are good cards to have and good cards to keep. A player who manages to have a three or two
suited hand has some passing skills. High cards can mean trouble to the player who doesn't have enough of the suit to duck under a Queen of Spades or Ten of
Diamonds. Often, players exhale that sigh of relief when they have last play and can get rid of a high card.
Personal passes are called as such for a reason. Players tend to call personal passes to place card in the hands where they think it will be beneficial to them getting
another player. Players also call personals if they have a lot of numbers (points) and they are trying to create a safe hand for themselves. Those who excel at strategizing
can get the person they wish to (ex: person with highest score) easily. Sometimes it is smarter to hold on to cards rather than pass them. Often in this game a 'hot seat' is
created. In this case, 3 players are going after the one player who is sitting in the seat that everyone is losing in or is talking the most trash. Players also like to 'get the man
across the table' from them, passing across the table is one of the harder passes to make.
There is more strategy in this version of Hearts than a person can imagine or by only playing one or two hands. The more this game is played the more is learned about
strategic card playing and strategic card passing.
The play begins with the person to the dealer's left. He leads of with any card that s/he leads any card they choose. Usually the lead of player immediately go to
'the hunt' (looking for the queen of spades, or ten of diamonds) in order to make something fall. The player will not hunt for something that may fall on them. Let me
explain. The Q of spades can be played on the A and K of Spades to give the to whoever played the higher of the two on that particular hand. It also can be played off on
any other suit when the holder doesn't have any cards of that particular suit in his/her hand. The ten (10) of diamonds can be played on the A, K, Q or J of Diamonds to
give points. It also can be played off on any other suit when the holder doesn't have any cards of that particular suit in his/her hand. The person with either of those two
dangerous cards must play them off on the first opportunity available, there are no options in waiting for someone you may be aiming to 'serve' with the points. If
somebody happens to get in the way of a player's strategic passing (ex: changing passes, when you asked them not to, taking point that should be going to someone else,
etc.) then that player may decide to go after the person who didn't cooperate.
Hearts cannot lead or be played until somebody is 'painted' (given a point) There is some strategy behind when a person should and should not break paint. A player
may be looking for a way to avoid taking a lot of points if they have a bad hand and by not breaking paint they may be stuck playing all the high cards in their hand. Players also
like to break paint at first chance it they have a high hearts that they think may bring them points.
Teaming up during play: Often the two or three low men at the table will take into consideration that other's are waiting to play and decide to team up to create the vacant
seat. Those players who count cards and remember passes can orchestrate and time the falling of 'the bitch' and 'the dime' and who will get the points. Excellent players
can orchestrate what is called 'the Mother Load'. The mother load is when both 'the bitch' and 'the dime' fall at the same time. In this instance the last player will
'paint'(play a heart) to add insult if they also don't have any of the suit played.
This game is most fun when many people know how to play. When others are waiting on what may be your seat, each play becomes more important. I have learned
other ways to play Hearts, and in my opinion this is the most exciting, most challenging and aggressive way to play the game, by far.
The more a person play's, the better a strategic card player they will become.