Hearts is one of the more popular card games in the “trick-taking” genre of games which have evolved over the centuries from the game known as Reverse. Hearts differs from virtually all other ‘trick-taking” games in that Hearts is played defensively (you do not want to win the tricks) making it one of the more difficult games to master.
In addition to playing defensively, Hearts also differs from most games in the “trick-taking” genre in that there is no Trump suit in Hearts.
Hearts can be played with anywhere from three to six players, with the most common number of players being four. In a four player game each participant is dealt 13 cards from the deck –In order to keep the number of cards dealt to each player equal certain cards are removed when three, five, or six players are involved.
Once players have receive their cards they will “pass” three cards from their hand to another player (the most common practice is to rotate each deal between passing cards to the left, then to the right, and across the table). This is one of the most overlooked parts of the game, and one of the spots where players make egregious errors.
Once cards have been passed, the player with the Deuce of Clubs will begin the first trick. Players must follow suit whenever possible, and standard rules disallow a player from playing any of the penalty cards (any Heart or the Queen of Spades) on the first trick. The winner of the trick will begin the next trick and so on. Hearts cannot be led until a heart or the Queen of Spades has been played; which happens only when a player has a “void”.
Once a player has a “void” (no cards in the suit that was led) they are allowed to play any card in their hand, which is where players generally offload their penalty cards. At this point in the game players are allowed to lead with any suit, including hearts.
A game of Hearts is typically played to 100 points; once a player reaches 100 points the match ends and the player with the FEWEST points wins the game.
At the end of each hand players’ tally up the number of points from each trick they won (each Heart is worth 1 point regardless of rank and the Queen of Spades is worth 13 points).
Another way to score in Hearts is by “Shooting the Moon”. Shooting the Moon is a newer addition to the game that has caught on thanks to the increased strategic planning it creates. In order to “Shoot the Moon” a player must win all 26 penalty points on a single hand, if this occurs each opponent receives 26 points while the player who Shot the Moon’s score remains unchanged –in some variants the player can choose to either subtract 26 points from their own score or add 26 points to each opponents’ score.