How to Play the Card Game Hearts

By Diane Stevens
Hearts is an easy card game to learn.

The card game of Hearts is easy to learn and easy to play making it a very popular card game with children. However, the simplicity of the rules is contrary to the strategy that is necessary to become an excellent Hearts' player. The object of the game is to rid yourself of point cards (13 points for queen of spades and 1 point for each heart). Typically played with four people, the game ends when one player goes over 100 points; the player with the lowest score is the winner.

Shuffle the deck of cards. Deal out the deck in a clockwise direction. The first card goes to the player on the dealer’s left and the final card will go to the dealer. Each of the four players will have 13 cards.

Choose three cards that you will pass to another player. During the first round of play, you will pass to the player on your left. During the second round you pass them to the player on your right. During the third round you pass to the player across from you and there is no passing in the fourth round. If the game goes beyond four rounds, repeat the passing: left, right, across, hold.

Place the three cards face down on the table and slide them over to your opponent. Do not pick up your three new cards until you have passed yours away.

Determine if you hold the two of clubs. If you do, you will lead. Place the card on the table, face up. If you do not, wait for the player who has the two of clubs to start the game. Play continues clockwise from that player.

Follow the suit and play a club if you have one. If you do not have a club in your hand, you can play any card in any suit, including a heart or the queen of clubs. The player who drops the highest card of the same suit as the first card laid down in a round takes the trick. For instance, if the first card played is a 2 of clubs and the following cards are 5 of spades, king of spades and the queen of clubs, the queen of clubs takes the four cards on the table.

Lay down a card when it is your turn. You cannot lead with a heart until hearts are “broken;” that is a heart has been given to a player during the play of a trick. However, if you only have hearts in your hand, you may lead with a heart.

Avoid, if possible, taking any hearts or the queen of spades since you will get points for them and the idea of the game is to avoid points. An exception is if you feel you can get all the hearts and the queen of spades. If you are successful in doing that, you get zero points and all of your opponents receive 26 points.

Add up the points in your hand at the end of each round. Keep a running tally of your points. If you have the lowest score when one player goes over 100 you win. If you are the player that goes over 100, you are the big loser.

Tip

These instructions are for the typical four-player game.

The strategy of the game begins with the passing. If a player has the queen of spades, he needs to decide whether or not to keep it or pass it away. Some players like to keep it because they then have some control over which player gets it.

Another typical strategy is voiding your hand of a specific suit, usually clubs or diamonds. This provides you with an opportunity to discard your hearts or the queen of spades when the suit you have no cards in is played.

Avoid taking tricks, if possible, to avoid taking any hearts and/or the queen of spades.

About the Author

Diane Stevens' professional experience started in 1970 with a computer programming position. Beginning in 1985, running her own business gave her extensive experience in personal and business finance. Her writing appears on Orbitz's Travel Blog and other websites. Stevens holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from the State University of New York at Albany.