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Hearts

Game Type
Hearts
Age
Kids, Adults
Players
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Deck
Standard
Many trick-taking games are not directly related to Bridge or Whist. Perhaps the foremost one is Hearts, which is truly one of the greatest card games ever devised for four players, each playing individually. The game is fairly easy to play, yet there is plenty of scope for high strategy.
 
Number of Players. Three to seven people can play, but the game is absolutely best for four, each playing for himself. Two players may play Domino Hearts; more than seven should play Cancellation Hearts. These versions are described later.
 
The Pack. The standard 52-card pack is used.
 
Game Setup/Play
 
Rank of Cards: 
A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
 
The Shuffle, Cut and Draw: 
Each player draws one card from a shuffled pack spread face down. The highest card deals first, and thereafter the deal passes to the left. After the shuffle, the player on the dealer's right cuts.
 
The Deal:
The dealer completes the cut and distributes the cards one at a time, face down, clockwise. In a four-player game, each is dealt 13 cards; in a three-player game, the 2♦ should be removed, and each player gets 17 cards; in a five-player game, the 2♦ and 2♣ should be removed so that each player will get 10 cards. For the six-player game, the 2♦, 3♦, 3♣ and 4♣ are removed, so that each player gets eight cards. Finally, with seven players, the 2♦, 3♦ and 3♣ are removed so that each player gets seven cards. However, if you have more than five players it is best to have two tables of 3 for six players and a table of 4 and a table of 3 for seven players.
 
Object of the Game: 
The goal is to avoid winning in tricks any heart or the Q♠ (called Black Lady or Black Maria). Or, to win all 13 hearts and the Q♠ (referred to as "Shooting the Moon"). Ultimately, the object of the game is to have the lowest score when the game ends.
 
The Play: 
The player holding the 2♣ after the pass makes the opening lead. If the 2♣ has been removed for the three handed game, then the 3♣ is led. This is now the standard rule. Each player must follow suit if possible. If a player is void of the suit led, a card of any other suit may be discarded. However, if a player has no clubs when the first trick is led, a heart or the queen of spades cannot be discarded. The highest card of the suit led wins a trick and the winner of that trick leads next. There is no trump suit. The winner of the trick collects it and places it face down to form a neat "book" or stack of cards. Hearts may not be led until a heart or the queen of spades has been discarded. The queen does not have to be discarded at the first opportunity. The queen can be led at any time.
 
Scoring: 
A separate column on a score sheet is kept for each player. At the end of each hand, players count the number of hearts they have taken as well as the queen of spades, if applicable. Hearts count as one point each and the queen counts 13 points. 
 
Each heart - 1 point
The Q♠ - 13 points
 
The point totals are then entered in each player's column. The aggregate total of all scores for each hand must be a multiple of 26. Note: The number of tricks a player wins does not count per se; the scoring is based solely on who wins tricks containing hearts and/or the queen of spades.
 
The game is usually played to 100 points (some play to 50). When one player hits the agreed upon score or higher, the game ends; and the player with the lowest score wins.
 
"Shooting the Moon"
One of the great thrills of the game, shooting the moon or making a "slam", is when a player takes all 13 hearts and the queen of spades in one hand. Scores will differ dramatically. Instead of losing 26 points, that player scores zero and each of his opponents score an additional 26 points.
 
Scoring Variations
Instead of a score sheet, chips are used. Each player pays one chip for each heart, thirteen chips for the Q♠, and the lowest score for the deal takes all. Players who tie split the pot, leaving any odd chips for the next deal.
In this version called Sweepstakes, each player pays one chip for each heart and 13 chips for the Q♠. If one player alone scores zero, he takes the pot; if two or more players make zero, they split the pot. If every player earns 1 point or more, the pot remains for the next deal, or until it is eventually won.
 
History of Hearts
George S. Coffin, who was a bridge expert and the inventor of Trio (a bridge game for three players), reported that the game of Hearts evolved from Revers'e, a card game played in the mid-1700s in Spain. In that game, the J was called the quinola grande, "big quinola" and the Q was the quinola peque'a,"little quinola." These cards scored negative points in a player's tricks, and that rule became the basis for the game of Hearts. Only in the last century or so has Hearts added rule variations, which are now standard to the game: shooting the moon, no leading a heart until the suit is broken, the mandatory 2 lead on the first trick, and no discarding a heart or the Q on that trick. As Coffin pointed out, "Various embellishments have enlivened many card games, and so the variation of yesterday becomes the standard of today."