Hearts is one of the oldest classic card games, having originated in Spain, circa 1750. It evolved from a game called "Reversis." The most familiar version of Hearts is played by four persons in an individuals or "cutthroat" format. The "every man for himself" is what makes Hearts such a challenge. There are times when three or four players are not available, so a two-handed "honeymoon" version was created several years ago. It is an excellent practice tool, as it will teach you to count and track multiple suits. And it's a lot of fun too! Here is how to play:
Preparing the Deck Remove the Jokers from the pack and shuffle the cards accordingly. "Cut" for high card to determine who plays first. The deal for each successive hand will then alternate.
Scoring With the exception of four-handed play, the Rules of the game are the same. Each Heart counts as one point and the Queen of Spades counts as 13 points. The game ends when either player reaches 100 points. It is quite possible (although rare) to "Shoot The Moon" and pin your opponent for 26 points.
Jack of Diamonds Option It is suggested that this rule apply when playing the two-handed game. If either player takes the Jack of Diamonds during the hand he deducts 10 points from his score. This feature livens up the game and gives significance to the Diamond suit.
Getting Started The winner of the "cut" deals 13 cards, one at a time, to himself and his opponent. The remaining 26 cards become the "stock." The dealer now draws the top card from the stock. He has the choice of keeping that card and adding to his hand, while getting rid of a another card in his hand--Or--he may reject the drawn card and place it face down on the table. Regardless of his choice, his hand always has 13 cards. Then his opponent takes his turn and makes a draw from the stock accordingly.
Completing the Draw Both players alternate turns until the stock is depleted and each person has 13 cards. Now it is time play out the hand.
Opening Lead The dealer plays first. He may lead any card and is not required to play the deuce of clubs on the first trick if he has this card. There is no restriction on leading Hearts--this suit may be led on the first trick. The winner of the first trick leads to the next trick.
Following Suit Suit must be followed whenever possible, otherwise a discard is made. If a player reneges (revokes), he is penalized 26 points, while the other players scores zero for that hand.
Completing the Game Points are logged for each player at the end the hand. When anyone reaches 100 points, the game ends. It is best to play a two-out-of- three match to determine the overall winner.
Strategy It is very important to track the Heart and Spades suits. Sometimes an unexpected "Moon" might occur if a player is fortunate enough to draw a string of top Hearts. Another consideration is keeping diamonds if you have the Jack in your hand. Voiding the club suit is a good idea (while creating your hand during the draw). Spades are usually a safe lead, unless you have Ace or King problems in that suit.
Variation Two handed may be played with the option of leading after the 13 cards have been dealt and then replenishing your hand after each trick with successive draws from the stock. The only problem with this approach is that it mimimizes the skill factor and creates an "honor" system of following suit during the play of the hand.
Get in the habit of tracking all suits and noting key cards which have been played. The deuces of all suits are valuable as exit cards. Try to take a Heart trick early in the hand, as it will remove the possibility that your opponent can shoot the Moon. If your opponent does not lead Spades, assume that he is worried about that suit or has an Ace or King problem. This is intended to be a fun game. Don't take it too seriously!
Do not lead a low diamond, as your opponent may get a "free" Jack! Be very careful with the Heart suit, as repeated low or middle card leads may allow your opponent to set up this suit for a Moon. Multiple leads of the club suit can prove to be dangerous!