How to play Hearts

By Neal - 3/15/2023

The card game of Hearts involves a standard 52-card deck and does not contain any trump suits. Although typically played with four players, the game can be adapted for between two and six players. The objective is to score as few points as possible by avoiding hearts (1 point each) and the infamous queen of spades (13 points). However, another strategy is to “Shoot the Moon” by collecting all the hearts plus the queen of spades. This risky play will score you zero points and give your opponents 26!

Traditionally, the predetermined score is 100 points. However, some players set the score to 50 points for a shorter game.

For the setup, the dealer must shuffle a standard 52-card deck without any jokers and deal them to players face down, clockwise. In the traditional four-player game, each player starts with 13 cards apiece.

After looking at their hands, each player must select three cards and pass them face down to another player. All players must pass their cards before peeking at the cards they received from an opposing player.

The passing rotation in a traditional four-player hearts game starts with players passing cards to their left. The next hand passing rotation is to the opponent to the right of each player. For the next hand, cards are passed to the player sitting opposite. The fourth and final hand has no passing. This repeats continuously until the game ends.

The player who is holding the two of clubs must always play it first to begin the hand. The gameplay continues clockwise from the lead player. Each player must always play a card of the same suit as the lead card whenever possible.If a player's hand does not have a card that matches the suit of the lead card, they may play any card.

The player that plays the highest-ranked card of the suit that was led is the winner of the trick. The winner of that trick takes all the cards from it and places them face down in front of them. That player must also lead the next trick. As mentioned, there is no trump suit, and a player may not lead with a heart until hearts have been “broken.”

Breaking hearts means that a heart has been played during a trick by a player who does not have any cards of the suit that was led. After this has happened, players can lead hearts as the first card in a trick.

The round continues until all 13 tricks have been taken. Scores are awarded to players based on the cards they took from each trick. Heart cards are worth 1 point each regardless of rank, while the queen of spades is worth 13 points. That is why the queen of spades is the last card you want to end up winning if you are not planning to shoot the moon.

When a player takes all 13 heart cards and the queen of spades in one hand, that means they have successfully shot the moon. When a player shoots the moon, they automatically get zero points instead of 26 points, and each of their opponents gains 26 points instead.

If by the end of each round, no player has reached the predetermined maximum high score, shuffle the cards and deal another hand. Repeat this process until one player reaches that score or exceeds it.

Once that score is reached, that marks the end of the game. Players must tally each player’s scores from every round. The player with the lowest total score wins.