Hearts (game)
Hearts is an "evasion-type" trick-taking
Trick-taking game
A trick-taking game is a card game or tile-based game in which play centers on a series of finite rounds or units of play, called tricks. The object of such games then may be closely tied to the number of tricks taken, as in plain-trick games such as Whist, Contract Bridge, Napoleon, Rowboat, and...

 playing card
Playing card
A playing card is a piece of specially prepared heavy paper, thin cardboard, plastic-coated paper, cotton-paper blend, or thin plastic, marked with distinguishing motifs and used as one of a set for playing card games...

 game for four players, although variations can accommodate 3–6 players. The game is also known as The Dirty, Black Lady, Chase the Lady, Crubs, and Black Maria, though any of these may refer to the similar but differently-scored game Black Lady
Black Lady
Black Lady is an extremely combative variant of the card game Whist, similar to the popular game Hearts, that is popular in the United Kingdom...

. The game is regarded as a member of the Whist
Whist is a classic English trick-taking card game which was played widely in the 18th and 19th centuries. It derives from the 16th century game of Trump or Ruff, via Ruff and Honours...

 family of trick-taking games (which also includes Bridge
Contract bridge
Contract bridge, usually known simply as bridge, is a trick-taking card game using a standard deck of 52 playing cards played by four players in two competing partnerships with partners sitting opposite each other around a small table...

 and Spades
Spades is a partnership trick-taking card game devised in the United States in the 1930s, in which the object is for each pair or partnership to take at least the number of tricks they bid on before play began. Spades is a descendant of the Whist family of card games, which also includes Bridge,...

), but the game is unique among Whist variants in that it is an evasion-type game.

History of Hearts

The game of Hearts as currently known originated with a family of related games called Reversis
Reversis, or more rarely, Réversi, is a very old trick-taking card game of the Hearts group whose origin is supposed to be Italian, transformed into Spain and then in France. It is considered one of the two probable ancestor of Hearts and Black Maria, the other being Conquimbert, or Losing Lodam...

, which became popular around 1750 in Spain. In this game, a penalty point was awarded for each trick won, plus additional points for capturing the Jack of Hearts or the Queen of Hearts. A similar game called Four Jacks centered around avoiding any trick containing a Jack, which were worth one penalty point, and the Jack of Spades worth two.

Over time, additional penalty cards were added to Reverse, and around 1850, the game gave way to a simple variant of Hearts, where each Heart was worth 1 point. The Queen of Spades was introduced in a variant called Black Maria which then became known as the standard Hearts game, and soon thereafter, the idea of "shooting the moon" was introduced to the game to add depth to the gameplay. In the 1920s, the Jack of Diamonds variation (ten positive points) was introduced, and some time later the scoring was reversed so that penalty points were expressed as positive instead of negative. Passing cards, breaking Hearts, and leading the Two of Clubs are more recent additions.

Recently the game has become popular in live play among grade school students in the United States, and is enjoying more widespread popularity through Internet gaming sites and due to a Microsoft
Microsoft Corporation is an American public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through its various product divisions...

 version of the game packaged with most workstation versions of its popular Windows
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

 operating system, beginning in version 3.1 (see Hearts (Windows) for more information on the software game).


A standard deck of 52 playing card
Playing card
A playing card is a piece of specially prepared heavy paper, thin cardboard, plastic-coated paper, cotton-paper blend, or thin plastic, marked with distinguishing motifs and used as one of a set for playing card games...

s is used. The objective of the game is to have the fewest points at the completion of the game. Tricks containing any heart and the queen of spades give points to the winner of the trick. There is no trump
A trump is a type of card in some card games.Trump may also refer to:* Trump * Trump * Trumps * The Trump * HMS Trump , a British submarine* The Trump Organization, a business conglomerate...

; the highest card of the suit led wins each trick.

Dealing the cards

Thirteen cards are dealt singly in turn to each of the four players.
  • When there are only three players, the 2 is removed from the deck before play commences, and each player receives 17 cards. Start dealing the cards clockwise (the person to the left of you). In another alternative, a randomly chosen card is set aside face down at the beginning of play; this card goes to whoever takes the first heart.
  • When there are five players, the 2 is removed as well as the 2, and each player receives 10 cards. Alternatively, three Jokers (usually the two from one deck plus one from a similar deck) can be added, and each player receives 11. In another alternative, two randomly chosen cards are set aside face down at the beginning of play; these cards go to whoever takes the first heart.

Passing cards

The basic game of Hearts does not include card passing, but the most common variants do. Before each hand begins, each player chooses three cards, which they do not want or which they think will be damaging to another player, and pass them to another player. There are many variations on passing; the most common in computer versions of the game (and thus popular in live games) rotates passing through four deals; on the first deal, players pass to the left, the second deal to the right, the third across the table. On the fourth deal no cards are passed; the cycle of four deals is then repeated.

Other variations on the passing rules include:
  • Subsets of the four-deal passing sequence, such as only passing in one direction each deal, alternating between passing left and right, or sequencing through passing left, right, and across, or left, right, and no pass.
  • When playing with three or five players, cross-passing is not technically possible as no one player is seated directly across from another. In these cases, "star-passing" may be substituted for cross-passing. The players choose only two cards, and pass one each to the two players situated closest to the exact opposite side of the table. Star-passing is so named because the pattern of passing routes forms a five-point star.
  • Alternatively, with an odd number of players, players may choose three cards and discard them to a central pile. The Dealer will gather, shuffle, and re-deal these cards. This method is known as a center mixer.
  • Passing the Ace, King and/or Queen of Spades may be allowed or prohibited.
  • When there are more than four players, only two cards are passed.
  • The Dealer may choose how many cards and where to pass.

The play of the game

Common variants include:
  • The player holding the 2 must lead it to begin the first trick. When playing with five players and the 2♣ has been removed, play starts with the 3
  • No penalty card (a Heart or the Queen of Spades) may be played on the first trick ("no bleeding on the first trick"), however the player must follow suit and can play a penalty card if they would otherwise renege. The chance of being dealt a hand composed entirely of penalty cards is roughly 1 in 45 billion. However, the Hooligan Hearts variation which makes the 7 a penalty card, as well as variants in which the opening lead doesn't have to be a Club, present a far more likely situation in which a player might have only a penalty card in the opening trick's suit.
  • Hearts may not be led until they have been "broken" (discarded on the lead of another suit), unless the player who must lead has nothing but Hearts remaining in hand. In some variations, any play of a penalty card, including the Q♠, "breaks hearts".
  • In a sub-variation of the above, if a player's hand contains nothing but Hearts and the Q♠, the player may elect not to lead with the Q♠ and instead still play a Heart. Either way, hearts are broken by such a play.


Each heart taken in a trick scores 1 penalty point against the player winning the trick, and taking the queen of spades costs 13 penalty points. There are thus 26 penalty points in each deal. The game ends either when one player reaches or exceeds 100 points, or after a predetermined number of deals or length of time has passed. In either case, the winning player is the one with the fewest penalty points.

Simplified scoring with chips is possible: all players contribute one chip to a central pool of chips and the pool is divided equally among those players taking no penalty cards on a deal; if all players take penalty cards, the pool remains on the table and is added to the next pool; once one player has won all available chips, or once another player has run out, the game ends.

Scoring variants

There are many scoring variants including:
  • The 10 or J is a "bonus" card, subtracting 10 penalty points from the player who captures it. This is called the "Omnibus" variant and is very popular in some regions.
  • A player reaching exactly 50 or 100 points subtracts 50 points from their score.
  • A player who takes no tricks in a deal subtracts 5 points from their own score.
  • A player may declare before the first card is played that he or she will not take any hearts on the upcoming hand. If they succeed in their pledge, they may subtract 10 penalty points, but if they take any hearts they are assessed 10 additional penalty points.
  • The 7 is another penalty card, worth 7 points, in a variant called Hooligan Hearts.
  • The A can also be a penalty card, and sometimes also the K and 10.
  • Higher penalties may be assigned for the high hearts (e.g. A=5, K=4, Q=3, J=2).
  • Different points are allocated to each penalty card. For example:
    • Each numbered Heart (2–10) is assigned the numeric value in points, each Heart face card and the A counts as 10 points, and the Q counts as 25 points, making a total of 119 in any given deal similar to Schwarze Katze.
    • "Pip Hearts": the Q has no value, but each takes on its own value. For example, the 7 is worth 7 points. J is worth 11, Q is worth 12, K is worth 13, and the A is worth 14 points.

Shooting the moon

Shooting the moon, also known as getting control, capmangoe or running, is a very common scoring variant. If one player takes all the penalty cards on one deal, that player's score remains unchanged while 26 penalty points are added to the scores of each of the other three players. This is known as playing by "old moon" rules. Attempting to shoot the moon is often a risky strategy, as failure to capture even one of the penalty cards will result in the remaining penalty points (as many as 25) being added to one's score. An alternative rule allows giving a player who shoots the moon the option of subtracting 26 points from his or her own score instead of adding 26 to the opponents' scores; this variant is called "New Moon".

Four other sub-variations to the moon rule provide:
  • That a player who shoots the moon must add unless doing so would end the game with the shooter losing (e.g., in a 100-pt game, if the shooter has 90, another player 95, and the leader 63, adding on a moon would sink the shooter). In such a case, the player may subtract.
  • That a player may subtract after a predetermined score has been reached by the player, or any other player.
  • That a player who shoots the moon and takes all the tricks in so doing (a grand slam) adds 52 points to the other players' scores, subject to the other variations listed above. This is known as "shooting the Sun" or "shooting the blue moon
    Blue moon
    A blue moon can refer to the third full moon in a season with four full moons. Most years have twelve full moons that occur approximately monthly. In addition to those twelve full lunar cycles, each solar calendar year contains roughly eleven days more than the lunar year of 12 lunations...

  • That a player who shoots the moon and takes all the tricks in so doing (a grand slam) adds 52 points to the player from whom the cards were received in the previous passing round, while the others (excluding the player) each receive 26. This is known as "The Punishment Rule".

There is also a variant called "Shooting the Big Moon". This rule states that if a player receives 260 points (26 points every round) over the total of the 10 rounds, then all other players receive 260 points and the player finishes with a score of 0, or all other players receive 100 in a normal game.


  • Royal Hearts– A game produced by Parker Brothers
    Parker Brothers
    Parker Brothers is a toy and game manufacturer and brand. Since 1883, the company has published more than 1,800 games; among their best known products are Monopoly, Cluedo , Sorry, Risk, Trivial Pursuit, Ouija, Aggravation, and Probe...

     (owned by Hasbro
    Hasbro is a multinational toy and boardgame company from the United States of America. It is one of the largest toy makers in the world. The corporate headquarters is located in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, United States...

    ) by the name of Royal Hearts is a commercialization of the basic Hearts game. The deck can be used to play the classic Hearts game (and whose rules are included), but was designed to center around new powers of the four Queens when scoring: (1) The Queen of Spades ("Most Evil") is worth 26 points instead of 13; (2) The Queen of Hearts ("Broken Hearted") doubles the point value of all Hearts captured by the player who takes it, and is itself also a Heart; (3) The Queen of Diamonds ("Best Friend") subtracts 10 points from the score of the player taking it. However, this cannot result in a negative score for the hand; (4) The Queen of Clubs ("Most Kind"), when captured by a player who has also taken the Queen of Spades, negates the Q's point value. There are thus 52 total points per hand that can be taken (however that is a moon shot; the highest score any one player can take on a hand is 50), minus the value of the Q. The actual number of points awarded depends on who captures each Queen and how many other Hearts and/or previously-awarded points each of those players has. Shooting the moon is also different; it is defined as capturing all penalty cards as before, but the bonus to the player who shoots the moon, or the penalty to all others, is based on the total point count of that player, so capturing one or both of the two beneficial Queens actually reduces the benefit to the player; capturing the Q (−10) makes the benefit 42 points, the Q (−26 with Q) reduces it to 26, and both of these combined make the reward only 16 points. This gives players attempting to prevent a moon shot other options; the players could instead force an attempting player to take all four Queens in addition to all Hearts which drastically mitigates the value of a moon shot.

The game can easily be played this way with a standard deck. However, as Royal Hearts introduced these new effects in the first place, the variant is not commonly seen when playing with a standard deck. The main advantage to the commercial Royal Hearts deck is that the effects of each card are on their faces; with this new variant easily translating to a standard deck (at half the price), the Hasbro Royal Hearts game did not sell well and was discontinued as of the 2008 Hasbro catalog.
  • Rickety Kate – A game almost identical to hearts bar a few rules, including scoring and lack of 'shooting the moon'. It is mostly played in Australia.
  • Complex Hearts – a variant using the complex number
    Complex number
    A complex number is a number consisting of a real part and an imaginary part. Complex numbers extend the idea of the one-dimensional number line to the two-dimensional complex plane by using the number line for the real part and adding a vertical axis to plot the imaginary part...

  • Danger Hearts – 10 rounds are played using standard scoring, yet each player has three lives. If a player receives 15 hearts (and over) in a round, they lose a life. Further rounds are played until an overall winner is decided.
  • Small Hearts – the 2 through 7 of each suit are taken out; the 8♣ starts; each ♥ is worth 1 point, the Q♠ is worth 7 points; shooting the moon is worth 14 points; optionally the J♦ if worth -5 points.
  • Double Deck Cancellation Hearts
    Double Deck Cancellation Hearts
    Double Deck Cancellation Hearts is a variant of Hearts for 6-11 players. With a large number of players Hearts can be played with two decks. This allows each player to hold more cards and gives a four person feel to the game. However, this means that there are two of each card and can lead to...

     – good for six or more players.
  • Chinese Hearts
    Gong Zhu
    Gong Zhu is a Chinese four-player trick-taking card game, and is a Chinese version of the game Hearts. It differs from the standard Hearts game by assigning special point values to cards. The objective of the game is to score positive points and avoid penalty points. Gong Zhu means: Chase the Pig,...

     (拱猪) (Pinyin
    Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It is also often used to teach Mandarin Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into...

     – gŏng zhū, literally "chase the pig") – scoring works slightly differently as the Q and the hearts are worth different amounts of penalty points. In addition, the 10 and J both have functions. Shooting the moon now takes into consideration these two additional cards.
  • Booster Nines – if a nine is played then an extra round in the suit is played.
  • Joker Hearts – adding the joker cards, which can be played any time and count for zero points.
  • Shooting the Sun – taking all the tricks, not just all the points, gives all other players 52 points.
  • Jack of Diamonds — the J becomes a point card. Unlike the normal practice of having the Q♠ add 13 points to one's score, the J subtracts 10. In these games, a player attempting to 'shoot the moon' may be required to capture the J as well in order to do so. Another variant of this game is to have the 10 as the point card.
  • In Hooligan Hearts, the 7 is another penalty card, worth 7 points.
  • Hearts — the Xbox
    The Xbox is a sixth-generation video game console manufactured by Microsoft. It was released on November 15, 2001 in North America, February 22, 2002 in Japan, and March 14, 2002 in Australia and Europe and is the predecessor to the Xbox 360. It was Microsoft's first foray into the gaming console...

    version of the game including single player games & multi-player online games.
  • The MSN version of hearts allows hearts to be played if the queen has been played first. Hearts do not have to be "broken".
  • Queens – A version of hearts where all the queens are worth 13 points plus the regular point cards(hearts) making the total one can achieve, 64. The game ends when a player reaches 108. Hearts need not be broken to be played and point cards (hearts and the queens) can be played on the first round Another major difference is that a player cannot 'Shoot the moon'. The dealer of each round is the player who received the Queen of Spades Q♠ in the previous round.
  • Likha - a popular variant in the Middle East, likha has some significant differences from Hearts. The 10 is designated as a point card, but it adds rather than subtracts 10 points to a player's score. The name likha applies primarily to the Q♠, but some players also refer to the 10 as a lesser likha; as such, likha is defined as a point card that is not a heart. The dealer deals cards singly counterclockwise; after each deal, the player on the right becomes dealer. The rule of card passing happens after every deal, where each player selects any 3 cards from his hand and gives them to the player on his right (in Hearts, passing cards varies from left, right, across and none at all). A player is not allowed to pick up the 3 cards the player on his left had passed to him unless he passes 3 cards to the player on his right. Once all players had passed 3 cards then received 3 cards, play begins by the player to the dealer's right, who gets to choose to lead with any card he wishes, even if it were a point card (such as a heart or even the Q♠). The rest of the players must follow suit; if a player happens not to have any cards of the suit of the card played, he may play a point card or any high card of the most numerous suit he has, to lessen the chance he may get stuck with that suit and so gets more point cards. Play continues until all 13 tricks have been taken. Points are awarded according to the following rule: each heart counts as 1 point, the 10 as 10 points, and the Q♠ as 13 points; a deal has 36 total points to be given to players. If a player takes all point cards, he is given 36 points plus 1 point as penalty for taking all points (for total of 37 points); this is a common practice of 3 players "ganging up" on the fourth player, especially in the no-partner variant of likha. The other variant of likha is the partner variant, where the 4 players are divided into teams of 2 players in partnership. The 2 partners sit opposite each other, and each team tries to slam the other team with the point cards. The game ends with the first player to get a score above 100; in the partner variant, the team which has a partner first to get a score above 100 loses.
  • Partner hearts. Four players in two partnerships, sitting crosswise. Each team combines their scores, which are tallied in the same manner as the classic Hearts game. An exception is that teams which 'shoot the moon' by gathering all 13 hearts and the queen of spades score 52 points for the opposition if one member of the team collects all scoring cards (the 13 hearts and the queen of spades). Games are typically played to twice the normal game limit, as points are awarded at twice the normal rate.
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