How To Play Hearts, With Variations

Through the years, the card game Hearts has been modified numerous times from its simple beginnings over a century ago to the present.  Some people play Hearts thinking that the version they are playing is the one and only version.  That is simply not true.

The following rules of Hearts will tell you how to play the game.  There are four places within the rules where you must choose from four variations.  At each place, pick the variation that you wish to use.  Then play the game.  In future games, you can choose different combinations of variations.  In all, you can play 256 different variations of Hearts.

For these rules, Hearts is played by four players using a standard deck of 52 playing cards.  The object of the game is to avoid taking Hearts and other harmful scoring cards.

To begin the game, write the players’ names across the top of a sheet of paper which will be used to record the scores.  Then choose a player to be the first dealer.  Just pick someone.  Or have each player cut the cards, and the player with the highest card is the first dealer.

The dealer shuffles the cards, and then deals them one at a time, face-down, clockwise around the table beginning with the player to her or his left.  The deal continues until all of the cards have been dealt and each player has 13 cards.  Each player looks at his or her cards.

Before play begins, cards may be passed between players.  Either:
1. No cards are passed.  or
2. A four-deal system of passing is used.  On the first deal, each player passes three cards to the player to the left.  On the second deal, each player passes three cards to the player to the right.  On the third deal, each player passes three cards to the player across the table.  And on the fourth deal, the players don’t pass any cards.  or
3. Use the same system as above, but pass four cards.  Then each player passes one of the four cards back to the player who passed them.  or
4. Each player passes three cards to the dealer who shuffles the cards and deals them back to the players.

Each hand is played as a series of “Tricks”.  A trick contains four cards, one from each player.  For each trick, one player lays the first card, the lead card, face-up on the table.  Then each of the other players in turn moving clockwise around the table lays a card face-up on the table.  After the first card is played, the other cards must match the suit of the lead card if possible.  Otherwise any card can be played.  (One exception – a harmful scoring card cannot be played on the first trick unless the player has no other choice.)

One player plays the lead card of the first trick.  Either:
1. The player to the left of the dealer plays her or his lowest card from a suit other than Hearts.  or
2. The player with the Two of Clubs plays it as the lead card.  or
3. The first player to the left of the dealer with a Two of Clubs, Two of Diamonds, or Two of Spades plays it.  or
4. The player with the Two of Clubs shows it to the other players, and then plays any non-scoring card.

Each of the other players plays a card, following suit if possible.  The highest card in the suit that was lead wins the trick.  The player who played that card takes the four cards in the trick, and then plays the lead card for the next trick.

There is an early-game restriction on leading a Heart.  Either:
1. A Heart can be lead after the first trick has been played.  or
2. A Heart can be lead after a Heart has been played in a previous trick.  or
3. A Heart can be lead after the third trick has been played.  or
4. A Heart can be lead after each of the other three suits have been lead, or after two suits have each been lead twice.

When all of the tricks in a hand have been taken, each player examines his or her cards for scoring cards.  Either:
1. The 13 Hearts each score 1 point.  or
2. The Two through Ten of Hearts each score 1 point, and the Jack, Queen, King, and Ace of Hearts each score 5 points.  or
3. The 13 Hearts each score 1 point, the Queen of Spades scores 13 points, and the Jack of Diamonds scores minus 10 points.  or
4. The first two Hearts taken by each player score 0 points.  All other Hearts each score 2 points, the Queen of Spades scores 13 points, and the Jack of Diamonds scores minus 10 points.

If a player takes all of the scoring cards in a hand, that player “Shoots the Moon”.  The player scores 0 points, and each of the other player scores 26 points.

Each player adds her or his points to any previous score on the score sheet.

If none of the players has scored 100 points, the cards are gathered together, and the player to the left of the dealer becomes the new dealer.

When a player scores 100 points, the player with the lowest score wins the game.

End of rules.  I’ve always loved the game of Hearts.

Copyright (c) 2010 – Paul Hoemke.  All Rights Reserved.

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