Hearts Card Game Rules

A classic trick-taking card game that truly shines with 4 players. This rules summary includes a detailed description of all the basic elements of Hearts and also a number of optional rules variations.

Game Summary

Object of the Game

The player with the lowest score at the end of the game wins.

Equipment

A standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Cards are ranked from ace (high) to 2 (low). There is no trump suit.

Score sheet or paper

Pen or pencil

Number of Players

3 to 7 (or 6 to 11 if playing Cancellation Hearts)

How to Play Hearts

Beginning the Game

Before the game begins, players should agree on a game-ending score (usually 100 points) so that once one player reaches or exceeds that score, the game ends.

Depending on the number of players, certain cards should be removed from the game so that each player receives an equal number of cards each hand.

  • In a three-player game, remove the 2 of diamonds. Each player will receive 17 cards each hand.
  • In a four-player game, don't remove any cards. Each player will receive 13 cards each hand.
  • In a five-player game, remove the 2 of diamonds and the 2 of clubs. Each player will receive 10 cards each hand.
  • In a six-player game, remove the 2 and 3 of diamonds and the 3 and 4 of clubs. Each player will receive 8 cards each hand.
  • In a seven-player game, remove the 2 and 3 of diamonds and the 3 of clubs. Each player will receive 7 cards each hand.

Dealing

Begin each hand by dealing all the cards face down, one at a time to each player, in a clockwise manner around the table.

Playing the Game

After all the cards have been dealt, the lead player plays a card face-up onto the center of the table. For the first trick, the player holding the 2 of clubs plays it onto the table, thus making the opening lead. (If the 2 of clubs has been removed from the game, the player holding the 3 of clubs leads.)

Each player then in turn also plays one card from their hand, face-up, onto the center of the table, following the same suit as the lead card if possible.

For example if the lead player plays a 6 of spades, each subsequent player must play a spade card if possible.

If a player cannot follow suit because they have no cards of that suit in their hand, they may play any other card. (There is one exception to this rule however. In the first trick, if a player has no clubs in hand then they may NOT play a heart or the queen of spades.)

Once all players have played a card, the player who played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick.

For example, if Jim leads with a 6 of spades, Christine plays a 5 of spades, Donna plays a 10 of clubs, and Mark plays a 9 of spades, Mark would win the trick.

The winner of the trick collects the cards from the center of the table and places them face down in front of themselves. They then lead the next trick by placing a card from their hand onto the table, and play continues in this manner.

Hearts may not be led until a heart has been played in a previous trick or the queen of spades has been led. (This is known as “breaking hearts.”) The queen does not have to be played at the first opportunity and can be led at any time.

If a player's hand consists of only hearts, they may lead any heart even if hearts have not previously been broken.

Scoring

When players have no more cards left, the hand ends and players calculate their scores.

Each player adds up the points from all the cards in the tricks they won.

  • Each heart card is worth 1 point.
  • The queen of spades is worth 13 points.
  • All other cards are worth zero points.

For example, if Mark had 4 hearts cards and the queen of spades, he would score 17 points. If Donna had 2 heart cards, she would score 2 points.

If a player manages to take all 13 hearts and the queen of spades in one hand, they score zero points and each of their opponents scores 26 points. This is called “shooting the moon” or a “slam.”

Players mark their individual scores on a score sheet and sum the total from any previous rounds. The cards are then shuffled and dealt for the next hand.

Game End and Winning

If at the end of any hand one or more players has exceeded the game-ending score, the game immediately ends and the player with the lowest score is the winner.

In the case of a tie, an additional hand is played to determine a single winner.

Hearts Variants

Passing Cards

At the start of each hand, after cards are dealt, each player looks at their cards and chooses three of them to pass to another player. All players must choose and pass their three cards before receiving and looking at the cards they receive from their opponent.

The passing rotation varies from hand to hand. In a four-player game, the passing rotation is as follows:

  • First hand – Pass the cards to the player on the left
  • Second hand – Pass the cards to the player on the right
  • Third hand – Pass the cards to the player across the table
  • Fourth hand – No passing

This rotation schedule repeats until the end of the game.

In games with other player counts such as three or five, the passing rotation is:

  • First hand – Pass the cards to the player on the left
  • Second hand – Pass the cards to the player on the right

Again, this rotation schedule repeats until the end of the game.

The Kitty

At the beginning of the game, a certain number of cards are dealt face-down into a pile. This is known as the kitty.

  • In a three-player game, don't remove the 2 of diamonds from the game and instead deal one card into the kitty.
  • In a four-player game, deal four cards to the kitty. Each player will receive 12 cards each hand.
  • In a five-player game, don't remove the 2 of diamonds and the 2 of clubs and instead deal two cards to the kitty.
  • In a six-player game, don't remove the 2 and 3 of diamonds and the 3 and 4 of clubs and instead deal four cards to the kitty.
  • In a seven-player game, don't remove the 2 and 3 of diamonds and the 3 of clubs and instead deal three cards to the kitty.

The first player to win a trick that includes point cards (a heart or the queen of spades) collects the cards in the kitty and adds them to the pile of cards they have won from other tricks.

Alternate variations to this rule include:

  • The winner of the first trick collects the kitty.
  • The winner of the last trick collects the kitty.
  • The winner of the first heart card collects the kitty. (In other words, the queen of spades is not used for determining who collects the kitty.)

Omnibus Hearts

In this variant, the jack of diamonds is worth -10 points. (So winning it is a good thing!) When shooting the moon, a player must collect all hearts and the queen of spades but is not required to win the jack of diamonds.

Shooting the Moon Options

When a player shoots the moon, they score -26 points instead of all other players receiving 26 points.

Alternatively, if a player shoots the moon they can choose to either subtract 26 points from their own score or they can add 26 points to all other players' scores.

No Broken Hearts

In this variant, players can lead with hearts at any time.

Queen Doesn't Break

In this variant, the queen of spades doesn't break hearts.

Cancellation Hearts

Cancellation Hearts is a variant of Hearts for 6 to 11 players. It uses two standard 52-card decks that are shuffled together, and the rules are the same as Hearts except for the following changes:

For each hand, the cards are dealt as evenly as possible to all players. Any extra cards are placed face down on the table and are collected by the player who wins the first trick. Players pass cards as in the Passing Cards variant above.

The player to the dealer's left begins the first trick. They may play any card other than a heart or the queen of spades.

If two players play the same card on a trick, the cards cancel each other out and neither card can win the trick.

If two pairs are played on the same trick, no player wins the trick and it is set aside. The next player to win a trick collects those cards as well. (No one gets the cards if it is the last trick of the hand.)

For example, Jim plays a 5 of clubs, Christine plays a 5 of clubs as well, Donna plays a 3 of hearts, and Mark also plays a 3 of hearts. No one would win this trick and the cards would be set aside to be collected by the next player to win a trick.

Cancellation Hearts is typically played to 150 points.

Dec 13th 2017 Dice Game Depot

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