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Hearts

Hearts is one of the four suits found in playing cards

It is the second highest ranking suit in Contract bridge.


Hearts is a popular trick-taking game, played with a standard deck of cards, in which the goal is to have the lowest number of points. The game is normally played with four players, but can also be played, sometimes with small modifications to the rules, with a different number of people.

Each hand consists of the following steps:

  • The deal
  • Passing cards
  • Playing the hand
  • Scoring

Table of contents
1 Other variants
2 Interesting positions

The deal

The dealer position is rotated counterclockwise with each new hand. In a four-player game, the dealer deals out all the cards. If the number of players is different, and all the cards can not be evenly distributed, then two possible variations can occur:

  • enough of the lowest club cards are removed from the deck so that the cards will distribute evenly. For example, in a 3-player game, only 51 cards can be dealt, so the 2 of clubs is removed.
  • Alternatively, the full deck is used, but any remaining card or cards are simply undealt and put into a kitty; the player who wins the first point trick gets the card or cards in the kitty.

Passing Cards

Before the hand is played, each player picks three cards and passes it to another player. The player who is passed to changes in each hand, according to a preassigned sequence. In a four-player game, it is usually as follows:

  1. Player to the left
  2. Player to the right
  3. Player who sits across
  4. A "keeper" hand, where no passing takes place
  5. Repeat the sequence

In some variations of the game, the dealer has the choice of how many cards are passed and to whom.

Playing the hand

After all cards are dealt, the player who holds the lowest value club card (normally, the two of clubs) leads with that card. All players must follow suit if possibe. No one may throw out a point card on the first trick. On subsequent tricks, no player may lead with a heart until hearts have been broken.

In some variations of the game, the player to the right of the dealer starts play.

Scoring

Taking a trick does not give a player any points unless there are point cards in the trick. Each heart counts for one point (for a total of 13 points), and the Queen of spades by itself counts for another 13 points. Thus 26 points are distributed among the players each hand. The goal is to avoid taking points, and the fewer point cards taken, the better. However, if a player takes all 26 points in the hand (known as shooting the moon), the reverse situation occurs; he or she subtracts 26 from their point total (a variation of this rule is to have the player who shoots the moon receive zero points and all the other players get 26--in either case, shooting the moon is a very positive outcome for a player).

The game is played until one or more players has passed a predetermined point threshold (usually 100 points). The player who holds the fewest points at the end of that hand is declared the winner.

The appeal of Hearts

The element of risk involved in shooting the moon is one of the appeals of the game, since a player may attempt to get all 26 points and fail by only getting 24 or 25, in which case the player is stuck with a large number of points. This element provides much of the appeal of the game, along with the cutthroat aspect associated with a player holding the queen of spades possibly having the option of dropping it on another player's trick. Often the player who has the fewest points (and is thus leading) is the one people try to give the queen to; however, there is always the risk of giving it a player who then uses it as part of shooting the moon. Players must always be on the lookout for another player trying to shoot the moon, in the hopes that they can stop it. In addition, the element of passing cards allows players to attempt to control their destiny and influence the that of their fellow players.

Other variants

Cancellation Hearts

When a large number of players are present, play with more than 1 deck. There are still a total of 26 points per deck. If the same card is played more than once to the same trick, they "cancel" and the highest remaining card of the suit led wins the trick. If all cards of the suit led cancel, then the person who led to that trick leads again to the next trick, and the winner of that trick gets credit for both tricks. (but this is very rare) If the last trick is completely cancelled, any points it contains are not scored for that hand. Shooting the moon is theoretically possible in this variant, but almost impossible to attain.

When playing cancellation hearts, it is key to remember what cards are no longer cancellable, as they are dangerous to play. For those unwilling to memorize each card played, you can sort your hand and then move a card to the left side of your hand when its counterpart is played. If you are not in the lead or near the lead, you should consider leading the ace of hearts or queen of spades, knowing that the person holding the matching card will gladly cancel it. Of course, this play is risky.

Jack of Diamonds

Some people play that the jack of diamonds counts for -10 points. This card is not required to shoot the moon. In some books, this card is the ten of diamonds.

Interesting positions Some obscure positions can arise. For example, suppose you are dealt

 S AK
 H AKQJ
 D AKQ2
 C AKQ

And an opponent holds

 S 32
 H 65432
 D JT98
 C 32

When you play off all your cards except the queen of clubs and deuce of diamonds, your opponent will hold the six of hearts and jack of diamonds. When you play the queen of clubs, your opponent is squeezed. If he discards the jack of diamonds, you will win the last trick with the deuce of diamonds. If he discards the six of hearts, he will win the last trick with the jack of diamonds, but all the points will be gone and your moon will be successful.



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