Hearts Strategy Tip: Count to 13 in the Spades Suit

While acting as the tournament director for several live tournaments nationwide, Joe Andrews has authored several books including, Win at Hearts, available through Amazon.com.

Spades important in Hearts? Yes!

In the game of the Hearts, the queen of spades is the key card. Understanding the basics about the spades suit can often make the difference between avoiding the Evil Lady and taking an unnecessary 13 points! Take a look at this layout of spades after the pass to the left. (Assume that there is no possibility for a Moon and the game is in its early stage.)

North West East South (You)
K 7 6 5 J 10 9 4 2 A Q 8 3


You have received the ace and the queen of Spades from East. At first glance, you appear to be in trouble. You have only three guards (“backers”) for your spade queen and anyone with four small spades will be on your case. However, his “Royal Majesty,” the king of spades, may be favorably located, and perhaps you will have a chance for salvation.

West wins the ace of clubs on the first trick and plays the jack of spades — a card that is very pleasing to you. North must duck, unless he has good reason to believe that West is underleading the queen— a rather remote possibility. East plays low and now you must duck, too. Taking the ace would make no sense here. Let the hand play on!

West continues with the tenspot, and two more low spades appear, as you drop your 8. The 9 (a card that warms your Heart) initiates the third round of Spades, and now North is squirming. His last low spade appears, and East drops a middle heart. NOW, you win the ace.

Many lazy players would shift to another suit. Perhaps North might discard that “hot” spade king on a club or diamond lead. You are not lazy. You can count to 13, and you know that the king is still out. After all, three rounds of spades have been played and the count is 11. Your Queen is the 12th Spade, and his Nibs is #13! Thus, you make the bold play of the queen of spades, and sure enough, she catches the king and the opponents are impressed. (Well, maybe they aren’t; it all depends on who is sitting at the table.) In any case, you have avoided 13 points.

In the early days of the New England Hearts Players’ Association, this maneuver was called “The Spear Play.” In summary, when you hold the spade queen and a short suit as in the example above, be on the lookout for the favorable lead, watch the cards that appear, and count those spades!

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