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How To Play The Card Game Hearts
Hearts is a fun card game, where it's every man or woman for themselves! While it is traditionally played with four players, the game has variations which allow for everything from head-to-head to team play.
History of the Game
Hearts originally evolved from a game called Reverse, which was very popular in Spain around the year 1750. In Reverse, the Jack of Hearts was called Quinola Grande, and the Queen of Hearts was the Quinola Pequena (or Little Queen). Both of these cards would score negative points against those who captured them.
Hearts was very popular about a 100 years ago, but has maintained its popularity due to many children being taught the game at a young age. These children then grow up and pass the game along to their children.
With the rise of the Internet, Hearts has become more popular than ever. There's even a yearly tournament held to determine the greatest Hearts player in the world.
Rules of the Game
Hearts is most commonly played by 4 people. While there are no partnerships, players will sometimes find that it is advantageous to work with another player for a short time.
A standard 52-card deck is used for the game. The Ace is the high card, and the two is the low card. Unlike Spades, there is no trump suit.
Each heart which is captured by a player causes one penalty point to be deducted from their score. The Queen of Spades causes 13 points to be deducted from a player's score. Other cards carry no point value.
The entire object of the game is to avoid scoring points by not capturing any hearts or the Queen of Spades. The game ends when a player goes over 100 points. At this point, the player with the lowest score is declared the winner.
Both the deal and gameplay proceed in a clockwise fashion. The first dealer is chosen at random, with subsequent deals passing around the table in a clockwise direction. The dealer shuffles the cards and deals one card at a time around the table, starting with the player on his or her left. The entire deck is dealt, leaving each player with a 13-card hand.
After the deal has been completed, each player looks at their hand. Then, each player passes any 3 cards face-down to the player on their left. It is usually a good idea to pass hearts or the queen of spades, since these are cards you wish to avoid at all costs. After cards are passed, each player picks up their 3 new cards and adds them to their hand.
On the second hand of the game, players will pass 3 cards to the player on their right. On the third hand, they will pass 3 cards to the player sitting across from them. On the fourth hand, no cards are passed. After the fourth hand, the cycle is repeated until the game is over (left, right, across, none).
The player who has the 2 of clubs must play it as the lead trick. Play then continues in clockwise order, with each player putting down a card which matches the suit which was led. If a player does not have a card of that suit, then he or she may play a card of any other suit. The person who played the highest card of the lead suit will capture the trick and lead off the next trick.
Hearts cannot be led until after a heart has been played to another trick. The only exception is if a player's hand contains nothing but hearts. At this point, the player has no choice but to play a heart. Playing a heart during a hand and allowing hearts to be led in the future is referred to as "breaking hearts." Discarding a penalty card on a trick is called "painting" the trick.
It is also a fairly normal tactic for players to try and lead low spades in order to force a player to lay down the queen of spades. This strategy is sometimes referred to as "smoking out the queen."
Once all tricks have been captured, the players look at the tricks which they have captured and tally up the scores. If a captured trick contains a heart, the player scores 1 point for every heart. If a player has the queen of spades in a captured trick, they score 13 points. If a player manages to capture all hearts and the queen of spades (referred to as a "slam" or "shooting the moon"), their score is reduced by 26 points, or you may instead choose to have all players' scores increased by 26.
Once again, the first player to exceed 100 points causes the game to end. The player with the lowest score at this point is the winner.
There are also numerous variations and house rules for Hearts. Below, I will discuss a few of them.
1. Kitty - Only 12 cards are dealt to each player. The remaining 4 cards are dealt face-down to form a kitty. The first player who captures a penalty card (hearts or queen of spades) has the kitty added to their captured tricks.
2. Passing - Some players pass their cards to other players in a different order. These include:
a. Pass left, pass right, pass across, and then repeat. There is no hold hand.
b. Instead of the hold hand, players pass 1 card to every player at the table.
c. Both scatter and hold hands are played (left, right, across, scatter, hold, repeat).
d. Another method which can be included in the cycle is the "mix." With this, each player discards 3 cards into a pile. The pile is shuffled, and then 3 new cards are dealt out to the players.
e. In some versions, players do not have to pass cards unless they want to.
3. Play of the Hand - In some versions, hearts can be led at any time. This was actually the original way which hearts were played, but it has since become a somewhat outdated rule. Originally, the player to the dealer's left led the first trick, not the player who holds the 2 of clubs, and they could lead with any card.
Others play where it is illegal to play points (hearts or the queen of spades) on the very first trick, unless you have nothing but penalty cards in your hand.
Other versions allow hearts to be led after the queen of spades is played. In other versions, a player can lead hearts if he has nothing in his hand but hearts and the queen of spades. This is a very friendly rule, as it doesn't force the player to lead with the queen of spades and most likely incur the 13 point penalty.
In some instances, players require that you play the queen of spades as soon as possible. In other words, if clubs are led and you have none, then you must play the queen of spades before a heart.
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