In recent previous columns, we have explored Spade-suit management, how to avoid taking in the Queen of Spades, passing technique, and defending against the Moon. An overlooked area is the Hearts suit itself. Seasoned players are very familiar with these Hearts-suit combinations (listed below). Assume that we are looking at Hearts holdings prior to the pass ("x" denotes a card lower than a 10).
- A (singleton)
- K x (doubleton)
- Q x x
- J x x x
- 10 x x x x
If you said: "These Hearts suits will prevent someone from Shooting the Moon provided they have at least one Heart in their hand," you may go to the head of the class! Check out your entire hand before making the pass. (On "keeper" hands, you have no options.) You may want to consider voiding a weak Diamond or Club suit before parting with a Heart from the above combinations. Of course, if you have a suspect Spade suit (such as an unguarded Queen, King, or Ace), you must take care of that situation first. A good rule of thumb regarding the passing of Hearts is never to pass the Ace of Hearts, unless you are unloading a smaller Heart with the Ace. And that may fail too, if the recipient of your A x Heart pass has the K Q J of Hearts, or the K Q of Hearts with a lot of length. The King of Hearts is best kept in your hand as well, unless you have the Ace, which is the natural stopper against the King. The Queen of Hearts with two small guards should be retained. However, if your Heart suit is Q J 10, Q J 9, Q 10 9, Q J 9 8, etc., my advice is to send all of this junk (the top three Hearts in the four-card holdings), along to whoever is scheduled to receive it. This is especially true if your other suits are rotten. You might not have a Heart passed to you, and thus, your odds increase for a chance at a Moon, if you were able to unload a bad three-card Heart suit. And if you do have a middle Heart passed to you, it could be an exit card, especially if you can strip the other suits. You may rest assured that some hands are real dogs without much room for improvement. By the way, some foxy players will pass a Heart from Q x x, J x x x, or 10 x x x x anyway, as they normally expect a Heart to be passed to them.
There are many questions to be answered here:
- Do you have the Spade Queen in your hand, and is she protected?
- Are your other three suits reasonably safe?
- Do you have a shot at a Moon?
- What is the score, and what position (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th place) are you situated? If you are in first place with at least a 27-point lead, you can try to feed the Moon to anyone, as a Shoot will seal the game for you.
- Are your opponents trustworthy and team players? Or do they play dirty Hearts -- duck and dump, and every man for himself?
- Whom are you passing to -- the leader? the person in last place?
Hearts is a game of logic and understanding. Knowing your opponents and their tendencies can be very advantageous to you.