How to play Hearts

Hearts is played with four (4) players using a standard 52-card deck without jokers. Cards range from Ace (highest) to deuce (2) lowest. The entire deck is dealt so each player starts the hand with 13 cards.
OBJECT OF THE GAME:
The objective is to have the lowest score when one of the player's score reaches or exceeds 100 Points, ending the game.

Unless you wish to 'Shoot the Moon' (see below) you want to avoid taking any hearts or the Queen of Spades as these will score against you.
PASSING:
Each player selects three (3) cards from their hand and then clicks the "PASS" button in the center of the table.

  • 1st Hand: Pass to player on the left
  • 2nd Hand: Pass to player on the right
  • 3rd Hand: Pass to player across from you.
  • 4th Hand: No cards are passed.

Cards passed will not be revealed to players until all passes are complete.
This cycle repeats until the end of the game.
THE PLAY:
The first card played in the first trick is the two of clubs.Play continues clockwise until everyone has played a card (this is a "trick"). Point cards cannot be played on the first trick. The highest ranked card in the initially lead suit wins the trick. There is no trump suit in Hearts. Everyone must follow suit if possible. If a player is out of cards in that suit when their turn comes, they may play any card out of their hand. Neither hearts nor the Queen of Spades may be lead until a heart was played in a previous trick. This is called "Breaking Hearts."However, if a player has the lead and nothing but point cards in their hand, they may lead and break Hearts. (Playing the Queen of Spades constitutes breaking Hearts.) The player who won the last trick, leads the first card in the next one. Play continues until all players are out of cards, 13 tricks in each hand. If there is a tie for lowest score, then play continues until there is a clear winner.

Each heart taken by a player adds 1 point to their score. Taking the Queen of Spades (called the "Black Lady") adds 13 points to a player's score. If one player in a regular hearts game takes all 13 single point cards (the hearts) as well as the Queen of Spades, that player has "Shot The Moon" and 26 points are added to each opponents score.

Jack Of Diamonds Variation:
One common variation of the game is the "Jack of Diamonds" variation, offered in Specific JOD rooms In this version of the game, the player who takes the Jack of Diamonds in a trick during play is rewarded with a -10 point bonus, making it a card you want to try to capture. It is not necessary to catch the Jack of Diamonds in order to Shoot the Moon.

Classic "Lowman Hearts"
How to play Lowman Hearts (by spectre)
Hearts is a game that depends on the cards you are dealt. While your actions during a game are dictated by several factors such as where low player is sitting in relation to you, where high score is and what cards you are dealt, there are some guidelines that will help in your efforts to either set up low score or hit them with the queen yourself. In lowman hearts sometimes it happens that holding for low means you may end up eating the queen. This is a part of lowman hearts. A lot of the game is paying attention to the cards that are played, and adjusting play to them. Some of the game of hearts is just plain intuition and common sense.

  1. Establishing trust:
    It is essential for a player to establish trust with the other players in lowman hearts. There is ONLY 1 low score and the other 3 players MUST target that person. Yes, true lowman hearts requires teamwork. It is typical for low score to lead spades in order to draw the queen out and avoid 13 points. A player SHOULD feel they can play the ace or king of spades, to take lead and cease spades pushing, and another player NOT dump queen on them. High score in the lead should be able to lead their higher cards and not be worried that someone is going to dump the queen in their lap. Sometimes low may have the queen and this tactic could cost you 13 points, but if you are high score low should hold the queen and attempt to hit either 2nd or 3rd to give them a better position in the game. Leading a suit that low is void in can be summed up in one word - suicide. Along the same thought if low is dumping diamonds on the 2 club lead then that is the weak suit that needs to be attacked. If you have low diamonds you should lead them, especially if you happen to be to low's right and passed them high diamonds.
  2. Passing:
    Passing or knowing which cards to pass is one of the hardest decisions facing a hearts player. Since hands always vary and no set rules apply to EVERY hand you get, the following should be used as a guide in passing. NEVER keep the queen of spades unless you have at least 4 other spades. When the pass is to the left passing a high club and trying to get the player on your left in the lead is a good idea. This can allow you to get last play on a trick and get rid of some high cards. If the pass is to the right don't pass a high club or you may find you are under the gun if the player on your right gets the lead. It is always a good idea to pass a heart you can beat to prevent a moon. If you can't pass a heart pass a card in a suit you are long in that you can take. If trust has been established and you get the queen with only 2 backers pass all the spades you have with the queen and hope the player you pass to goes for low. This is better if you have some low cards to help set up low score. If you have the queen and plenty of backup pass some low cards to help set up low, ideally in a suit you void in the pass. Too many times a player that receives a 2 and 3 of a suit in a pass doesn't read that pass correctly and bleeds spades, breaking the trust and most likely burning someone other than low. NEVER, I repeat NEVER pass the queen bare to high score. An exception to this may be if you receive ONLY the queen in the spade suit on the deal. If you MUST pass the queen to high pass other spades that you have with her. Keep in mind that the queen in a hand to the right of low is much harder to drop on low. The ideal place for the queen is on the left of low. Remember, if low gets lead they more than likely will push spades and if you pass a bare queen to high you have not only betrayed their trust, most likely they will seek revenge for your action. There's that word trust again.
  3. Covering Pass:
    One of the biggest mistakes made in hearts is NOT covering your pass. There are several ways for a player to cover their pass and prevent a moon. Mentioned in passing hints is giving a low heart in your pass so you can take it and stop a moon. Taking a trick that contains a heart can often prevent a moon. If hearts have been broken, you have the ace of hearts and the lead, then leading it closes the door on a moon attempt. While it is often mentioned in a game that there is "moon tax",it is also a rule among some for a moon passer's tax to be applied to the person not covering their pass. Never count on someone else to cover your pass. No one enjoys a game where there are 2 or 3 moons.
  4. Leading spades:
    The leading of spades is overrated. Some players lead spades as long as they have them. The pushing of spades RARELY gets low, but most often nails someone other than low and causes hard feelings toward the spades pusher. Along with leading a suit low is void in, leading spades when low has none is considered very bad play and may cause revenge type play. Leading spades when low is to your right means it is likely you will pull the ace or king out of a hand ahead of low and if low has the queen it lets them off the hook. Likewise leading spades with low to right allows them to get rid of the ace or king of spades and most likely they will push spades to draw her out once they have rid their hand of the ace or king. If low is to your left leading spades is more acceptable because if they have the ace or king they will likely hold it so they won't eat the queen. This is especially effective if you have passed the ace, king or queen of spades to low to your left. Likewise this leading of spades allows the players that play after low to get rid of the ace or king of spades if they have them.
  5. Protecting High:
    At times it is necessary to take points to prevent the player with the high score from going out and ending the game. In a game where 3 players are fairly close in score and one is considerably higher hitting high is not a smart move, even if you are low. There is a tendency by some players to pound on high score when they are low so they can win. Many times this has backfired and the player that was low isn't low anymore when high goes out. If it appears high is in trouble and may end up taking the queen and you have a chance to give queen to 2nd, do it. When you notice high is void a suit, lead that suit to help protect high from taking the queen and also allow them to get rid of their trouble cards. It is too late to regret not protecting the high score after the game is over.
  6. Setting up low:
    Players in tournaments seem reluctant to try to set up low for fear others may dump the queen on them during the set up stage. WAY too many times players give the player the queen during setup only to find that ONE more lead had low dead with taking the queen. If a player is leading high cards and not low, only them and low have that suit then chances are that they're getting low set up and going to lead the 2 of that suit for low to eat the queen. Be patient. When you've passed to low lead the suit that you've passed them high cards in.
  7. Leading to low:
    Pushing spades with low to your left has been mentioned as an expected action. Leading spades with low to your right has also been described as a no no. Leading low's void suit has been warned against. Again these are guides and you must interpret the cards you are dealt, the position of low, the position of high and the cards low is playing during the hand in play.
  8. When you ARE low:
    It is a natural tendency when you are low score to think that hitting high will get the game over quicker and gain you the victory sooner. Many times this has backfired and low loses low position only to find that the player they helped become high is now in danger of a queen hit to end the game and they find themselves in a delicate position. When you are low you should make every effort to give the queen to 2nd or 3rd, ESPECIALLY if they are a moon or less in total points away from your score.
  9. Breaking hearts:
    At all costs avoid breaking hearts on low. When that happens it many times lets low off the hook, especially if low is in the lead. If hearts are not broken and low has the queen often they must lead the queen and eat her. Throw your off suits as low is leading and if they have to lead the queen one of the other players can safely take a heart and stop a moon. Breaking hearts to high is advisable because of the same thinking in reverse. If high has the lead then breaking hearts will allow them to lead hearts if necessary to avoid having to lead the queen and eating the 13 points. Many times players don't break hearts and the end result is disastrous. Either someone will moon or a player other than low having the queen is forced to lead her and take 13 points.
  10. Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you:
    Be totally aware of what players are playing in a hand. Watch the cards carefully and let that determine your course of action in a particular hand. Remember if you are 2nd or 3rd and continually dump the queen on someone other than low, the other players may lose interest in helping you try to target low. Above all else, think of getting low as a TEAM effort. IT IS. Gain the trust of the other players and you'll find a better game, many times with the winner in the 90's or above. Break the trust and often it allows low to have an easy victory. One of the variations of hearts is the 2 advance game. Many don't like to play this version because typically low is allowed to coast as the other 3 players jockey to gain an advance as 2nd. This you'll hear referred to as playing for 2nd.
STRATEGIES AND TIPS:
Passing Cards:
Try to remember all the cards that have been played.
If you are vulnerable in a suit, remember, there are 13 of each.
Passing a low heart can prevent another player from "Shooting The Moon."
Remember what has been passed to you, it could indicate a vulnerability in the passer's hand.
Ask yourself:
Are you vulnerable to taking the Queen?
How will you improve your hand by passing?
Can you void yourself in a suit and protect yourself from taking too many point cards?
Never keep the A or K of spades unless you have at least three (3) other spades to defend yourself against the Queen.
If you have the A, K and Q of spades and 3 or 4 low spades, give away the A and K.
Watch for these to be led in a trick and then drop the Q.

Play:
Try to give point cards to the player with the lowest score, (Lowman Game).
In regular play, there is only one winner.
If you are winning, you can target the player closest to 100 points, or the player closest to you to increase your lead.
When someone is losing and a trick might end the game, consider taking it yourself to prolong the game and give yourself a chance to win in a later hand.
If you have the Queen of Spades, drop her on someone during play.
When one or more players are out of a suit, try to get rid of your own cards in this suit as quickly as possible, so they can't dump Hearts or the Queen on you.
The best strategy against picking up the Queen of Spades is to lead with spades lower than the Queen every chance you get.
If you have four (4) or more cards in a suit, including high and low cards, play the high cards early before others run out of that suit and have a dumping opportunity.
If someone takes a trick with the Queen of Spades, before any heart points have been scored, they may try to "Shoot The Moon".
Hold on to a high card in at least one suit to try to take a heart point to stop them.
Trying to "Shoot the Moon" is very high risk strategy.
You may take the Queen of Spades and many hearts,
but not totally succeed in getting all 26 points.

Regular Hearts: Beginner and Advanced Offered
Social: Beginner
Show cumulative score and points taken per hand during play.
Competitive rooms: Advanced
Show cumulative score only
Rated games are available, and are scored for games containing 4 players
Tournament rooms will offer both Beginner and Advanced

Dedicated "Jack of Diamonds" Option: Beginner and Advanced Offered
Social: Beginner
Show cumulative score and points taken per hand during play.
Competitive: Advanced
Show cumulative score only

Ladder/League rooms will have room selection choice
GLOSSARY
B
Black Widow:
That bad girl, the Queen of Spades.
If you take the Queen of Spades and do not Shoot the Moon, it counts as +13

Bot:
A computer-controlled player.

Breaking Hearts:
Playing the first heart in a hand OR playing the Queen of Spades.
After any heart or the Queen of Spades has been played, hearts may be led.
Hearts do not have to have been broken for the Queen of Spades to be led, however the Queen cannot be played on the first trick.
C
Counting Cards:
Keeping track of which cards have been played so you know what cards are still out.
D
Doubleton:
Holding only two cards of a particular suit in your hand.
F
Follow Suit:
Playing a card from the same suit as the card that was led.
J
Jack of Diamonds Variation:
In some versions of Hearts, taking the Jack of Diamonds counts -10.
Also referred to as "An Angel".
L
Lead:
The first card played in a trick.
P
Points:
In Hearts, + points ("black" points) are bad, and - points ("white" points) are good,
since the winner is the player with the fewest points.
S
Shooting the Moon:
Taking all 13 hearts and the Queen of Spades.
If you Shoot The Moon you give all other players +26 points!!

Short suit:
Only one or two cards of a particular suit in your hand.

Singleton:
Holding only one card of a particular suit in your hand.

Slam:
A synonym for Shooting the Moon
T
Trick:
One card played by each player.
V
Void:
Holding no cards of a particular suit in your hand.

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