How to Play Hearts Card Game

Hearts Card Game Overview

Hearts IconThe Hearts card game is a member of the Whist family of trick-taking games (which also includes Bridge and Spades), but Hearts is unique among Whist variants in that it is an evasion-type game. Players avoid winning certain penalty cards in tricks, usually by avoiding winning tricks altogether. Hearts is usually played with four players. The object of the game is to be the player with the fewest points. Here is a simplified idea of how the game is played:

Each round of four hands starts with players passing three cards to an opponent. First hand passes to the player on the left, next hand to the right, then across and then not at all. The player holding the 2 of Clubs will begin play by leading with a suit.  Each player in turn lays one card down on the table. The four cards together are called a “trick.”  The person who played the highest card takes the trick. The cards are ranked in the usual order, with 2 being lowest and Ace being highest.

Hearts Card Game iPad Tutorial

Click for larger image.

If there are any “point cards” in the trick, then the player who took the trick gets those points. Each Heart card is worth one point, and the Queen of Spades is worth a whopping 13 points! There is no trump suit. When one player’s score goes above 100 points, the game ends, and the one player with the least amount of points is declared the winner!

Hearts Rules and Strategy

The deal

You will deal and play in a clockwise manner. The dealer deals out the entire deck, one card at a time, until each of the 4 players has 13 cards.

The pass

Each player selects three cards to pass to the player to their left. (Usually you should pass high cards that might win tricks and cause you to collect points.) For the start of the second hand, the cards will be passed to the player on your right. On the third hand, cards will be passed to the player directly across from you. No cards are to be passed for the fourth hand. Passing continues in this four-hand pattern (left, right, across, none) until the game ends.

The trick

The player holding the 2 of Clubs will begin play by “leading” (playing the first card of the trick). The suit of the card led is called the “led suit.” Each player in turn then plays one card, and the four cards played each round are together called a “trick.”

The play

You must always play a card of the led suit if you have the suit in your hand. If you run out of that suit, you may play any card. Hearts can never be led until they are “broken” by someone playing a Heart or the Queen of Spades during a trick (which means they do not have the led suit in their hand).

Taking the trick

The player who plays the highest card in the trick matching the “led suit” (the suit of the first card played) wins the trick. (For instance, if Player1 played a 2 of Clubs, Player2 played a King of Diamonds, Player3 played a 6 of Clubs, and Player4 played an Ace of Spades, Player3 would actually take the trick!) The point value of all the cards in that trick are then added to the player’s score who took the cards. Remember, each Heart card is worth one point, and the Queen of Spades is worth 13 points. The winner of the trick then leads a card and play continues.

Scoring

After everyone’s cards are gone, each player adds up his or her points. The objective in Hearts is to be the player with the least amount of points… unless you can get all the point cards in the whole hand! If you can do this, you can choose to either subtract 26 points from your score or add 26 points to each other player’s score! Winning all the point cards in a hand is called “Shooting the Moon.”

The rest of the story

Cards are then shuffled and dealt again (dealer responsibilities pass in a clockwise manner), and play continues. Remember which way you’re supposed to pass your cards, since it changes every hand!

Winning

The game ends when one player’s score reaches or exceeds 100 points. At this point, the player with the least amount of points wins!

Play Championship Hearts Card Game Now

 

How to Play Hearts Card Game Video

Learn how to play the Hearts card game by watching this short video:


Hearts Card Game Variations

Select the image below to see the variations offered in our Windows and mobile Hearts games.

Hearts Card Game iPad Variations

Click for larger image.

Modern

The Hearts card game is a trick-taking game in which the object is to avoid winning tricks containing Hearts and, most of all, the Queen of Spades.  The exception is if you can take ALL of the Hearts plus the QS and then you get a MOONSHOT bonus of 26 points!  This modern variation of Hearts is often played in the US and in competitive tournaments.

  • Scoring: 1 point for each Heart taken
  • Penalty: 13 points for taking QS
  • Bonus: -26 points for Moonshot
  • Passing: Left, Right, then Across
  • Lead: Two of clubs, no points on first trick
  • Game ending score: 100 points

Classic

This classic variation of the Hearts card game offers a more traditional Hearts game by including a Hold pass rotation and everyone is required to play their lowest Club on the first trick.  Hope this brings back some memories!

  • Scoring: 1 point for each Heart taken
  • Penalty: 13 points for taking QS
  • Bonus: -26 points for Moonshot
  • Passing: Left, Right, Across, Hold
  • Lead: Low club on first trick
  • Game ending score: 100 points

Jacks

This popular variation of the Hearts card game is the same as Modern, but adds a bonus for capturing the Jack of Diamonds.  This can lead to more strategic play.
Scoring: 1 point for each Heart taken

  • Penalty: 13 points for taking QS
  • Bonus: -10 points for JD, -26 for Moonshot
  • Passing: Left, Right, then Across
  • Lead: Two of clubs, no points on first trick
  • Game ending score: 100 points

Spot

This interesting scoring variation of the Hearts card game adds more complexity to the scoring by having the Hearts penalty points determined by the PIP-value on the card (5=5, Jack=11, etc.).
Scoring: 1 point for each Heart PIP (of 81 possible)

  • Penalty: 50 points for taking QS
  • Bonus: -40 for JD, 150 for Moonshot
  • Passing: Left, Right, then Across
  • Lead: Two of clubs, no points on first trick
  • Game ending score: 400 points

Team

This partner-based variation of the Hearts card game  is often played between couples.  The players opposite from each other at the table have their scores combined.  Can you help each other as a team?

  • Scoring: 1 point for each Heart taken
  • Penalty: 13 points for taking QS
  • Bonus: -10 points for JD, -26 for Moonshot
  • Passing: Left, Right, then Across
  • Lead: Two of clubs, no points on first trick
  • Game ending score: 100 points

Reverse

In this partnership game of the Hearts card game, everything is upside down!  You want to take Hearts and the QS and be the first to reach 100 points!  Be careful though, Moonshots are bad and you lose points if you take them all!

  • Scoring: 1 point for each Heart taken
  • Penalty: -10 points for JD, -26 points for Moonshot!
  • Bonus: 13 points for taking QS
  • Passing: Left, Right, then Across
  • Lead: Two of clubs, no points on first trick
  • Game ending score: 100 points

Gates

This strategic variation of the Hearts card game adds ‘gates’ which encourage you to take precise numbers of Hearts to hit a ‘gate’ when your total score reaches 25, 50, and 75 points.  At the end of the hand scoring, if your TOTAL score is EXACTLY at one of the gates, you jump back to the previous gate!

  • Scoring: 1 point for each Heart taken
  • Penalty: 13 points for taking QS
  • Bonus: -26 for Moonshot, -25 for hitting Gate
  • Passing: Left, Right, then Across
  • Lead: Two of clubs, no points on first trick
  • Game ending score: 100 points 

 Related Hearts Card Game Articles

Over the years we have posted quite a few articles about Hearts. Read on to learn additional tips and strategy for the Hearts card game.