Want to include Hearts in the next game night, but don’t know the rules?
Don’t worry! Hearts is a simple and fun game that anyone can play, even complete newbies to card games.
Here is everything you need to know, from basic Hearts rules to different variations of the classic game.
How to Play Hearts?
Hearts is a classic trick-taking game that originated back in the 1880s. It is usually played with 4 players, although there are several variations where three to six players can take part.
Objective of the Game
Unlike most competitive card games, the goal in a game of Hearts is not to get the most points, but to come out as the player with the lowest score at the end of the game.
Players set a score at the start of the game (usually 100 points) and the game ends when one of the players reaches that score. The player with the fewest points is then declared the winner.
Cards and Players
To get started with Hearts, you need a standard, preferably high-quality deck of cards.
As mentioned above, the game is best played with four players, although some versions of the Hearts classic can accommodate up to six or even nine players. Any more than that and it would be wise to split up into smaller teams of 4 or 5 players—this way, the game will be less hectic and you can get longer tricks.
Hearts scoring works on a penalty points basis. Here is the value of each card
- Each heart card counts as 1 penalty point
- The Queen of spades counts as 13 penalty points
- Other cards don’t count penalty points
The dealer deals cards clockwise and face down until all the cards run out and each player has 13 cards (in a four-person game).
Depending on the number of players, you should remove some cards from the standard deck. So, if you are playing with more or less than 4 players, you need to
- Remove the 2 of clubs in a three-player game (each player will get 17 cards)
- Remove the 2 of diamonds and clubs in a five-player game (each player gets 10 cards)
- Remove the 3 and 2 of clubs, the 2 of diamonds and the 2 of spades in a six-player game (each player gets 8 cards)
Once the cards are dealt, each player looks at their hand and decides which 3 cards to pass to an opponent. In a typical Hearts card game, cards are passed in the following rotation
- First hand—each player passes the cards to the player on the left;
- Second hand—each player passes the cards to the player on the right;
- Third hand—each player passes the cards to the player across from them;
- Fourth hand—no cards are passed.
The cards must be passed face down and no player can look at the cards they’ve been given until they have passed their own 3 cards to another player.
The cycle is repeated until the game ends.
Note: If you are playing with more or fewer people than the standard four players, hearts rules for passing cards say to skip the third and fourth hand passing and only pass to the person on the left on the first hand and to the person on the right on the second hand.
The player that has the 2 of clubs (or 3 of clubs if the 2 has been removed) begins the game by putting the card in the middle of the table. Then, the play continues clockwise, with each player following suit (clubs) whenever possible. There is no trump suit in Hearts.
If the player does not have any cards of the suit lead, they can play cards of any other suit. However, players are not allowed to play hearts cards or the Queen of spades on the first trick. (unless a player has nothing but hearts).
The player that has played the highest ranking card that matches the suit takes the pile, places it face down in front of them and leads the next trick.
Here’s an example: If player A leads with a 6 of spades, player B discards a 5 of spades, player C plays a 10 of clubs and player D discards a 9 of spades, player D would win the trick since the 9 of spades is the highest card of the leading suit.
As in poker hand rankings, the Ace is the highest and the two is the lowest.
Note: If you are able to follow suit but haven’t done so (or haven’t revoked your card in time) you will get all the hearts points in that hand, while the others will not get any points.
Players can’t lead a heart until a heart has been played in a previous trick. This is known as breaking hearts and happens when a player must discard a heart card because they do not have any cards in the leading suit.
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End of the hand
When all players have played their hand, the points are calculated—each player looks at the cards they took and writes down the points. To ensure you’ve counted correctly, the total scores for each hand must be 26.
Each player’s points are then added to the cumulative score from the previous hands and then the person to the left of the dealer deals a new hand.
This cycle continues until one of the players reaches the score set at the start of the game. At this point, the player with the lowest score is declared the winner.
Shooting the moon
One exception to scoring in basic Hearts rules, shoot the moon refers to when a player collects all the points in that hand. In this case, that player will get 0 points and everyone else will score 26 points.
If you are losing and you have managed to collect most point cards in that hand, you might as well go for all the hearts and the Queen of Spades. It is risky, though—all it takes is for another player to get just one points card for this strategy for Hearts to fail.
Like other card games, you can tweak and tailor some of the rules to suit your style of play. The game is still basically the same, but a few changes can make it feel like a different one altogether.
Hearts rules for 2 players are the same as the standard four-player game. The only difference is that you need to remove the threes, fives, sevens, nines, Jacks and Kings from the deck. You will then be left with 13 cards for each player (the one remaining card is not used).
Looking to up the excitement in a two-player game? Take a look at our detailed guide on Speed
Considered one of the most popular versions of the Hearts card game, this variant incorporates all the features from different members of the Hearts family.
Omnibus Hearts has all the points cards and has added the 10 of diamonds, worth 10, and the Queen of Clubs, worth 13 points. If a player takes all 15 points cards, they will score 26+ points in that hand, while the rest get 0.
This variant is designed for larger groups of players, usually 6 or more, and requires the use of two packs of cards.
Here, if the same card is played twice in a trick, the cards will cancel each other out, while the trick is won by the next highest card of the leading suit. If two pairs of the same card show up in the same trick, the whole trick is cancelled and the player who wins the following trick also takes the previous one as well.
Hearts can also be played in partnerships, i.e. two partners sitting opposite each other in a game of four. The scores of the partners are combined, meaning that if one team shoots the moon, the other will be credited with 52 points. Alternatively, you could keep individual scores, but when the game is over you combine the points and the partnership with the lowest score wins.
In this version of Hearts, scoring is similar to a game of Rummy—each card is worth its face value, so two of hearts is worth two points, three of hearts three points all the way to Aces scoring 14 points. In some variants, players value each heart picture card with 10 points, while all the others are scored from 2 to 10.
Hearts rules are relatively simple to understand. Namely, you’ll need to remember all the cards played in each suit to be able to win the game. In a 4-player game, each player needs to play 1 card in every trick. The person who plays the highest card in the suit led picks up all the cards played and leads a card to the next trick. However, you can’t play a heart until someone has discarded it on a trick. When all the cards have been played, players count their points. The player with the fewest points wins the game.
Before starting the game, each player gets 17 cards, with the 2 of diamonds removed from the deck. The card led is the 3 of clubs and the direction of the passing can go either to the left or to the right, depending on your preference, as there are no Hearts rules for passing cards in 3-player games. After this, the rules are the same as with a standard 4-player game of Hearts. The player with the lowest point total wins the game.
To play the Hearts card game with 8 players, you’ll need to add a Joker and remove the 2 of clubs. Then, deal 13 cards to each player, while the Joker leads. From here, just follow the standard rules of Hearts. However, keep in mind that 8-player games might get pretty confusing and you’ll also run out of cards quickly. To accommodate an 8-player game, you should consider splitting the group into 4 players each and playing the standard Hearts in a tournament style.
To play Hearts, you’ll need to receive 13 cards from the dealer. During each trick, you’ll have to play any 1 card of the suit that is being led. When a player wins a trick, they will lead the next one with any suit he wants, except for hearts, which need to be discarded during a trick. Interestingly enough, the object of Hearts is to have the fewest total points.