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Dealing the cards Edit

Thirteen cards are dealt singly in turn to each of the four players.

  • When there are only three players, the 2♣ or 2 is removed from the deck before play commences, and each player receives 17 cards. Alternately, two Jokers can be added, and count as an off-suit, non-Heart card. Each player then receives 18 cards.
  • When there are five players, the 2♣ and the 2 are both removed, and each player receives 10 cards. Alternately, three Jokers (usually the two from one deck plus one from a similar deck) can be added, and each player receives 11.

Passing cards Edit

Before the first round commences, each player chooses three cards from his or her initial thirteen and passes them face down to the player on his or her right. The three cards are picked up and absorbed into the neighbour's hand. Players may not look at the cards they are to receive before passing their own cards.

There are many variations on the passing rules:

  • Cards may be passed to the left rather than to the right.
  • On alternate deals the cards are passed to the left and then the right.
  • On the first deal cards are passed to the left, on the second deal they are passed to the right, on the third deal they are passed to the player sitting opposite, this sequence being repeated for every three deals.
  • On the first deal cards are passed to the left, on the second deal they are passed to the right, on the third deal they are passed to the player sitting opposite, on the fourth deal no cards are passed, this sequence being repeated for every four deals. (This is the sequence used by the Windows version of the game)
  • In the basic game of Hearts, no cards are passed before play commences.

Other variations on the passing rules include:

  • 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 Edit

The player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick and the other players play a card in turn clockwise. Players must follow suit when they are able to, but may play a card from any other suit, including a penalty Heart or the Q♠, when they cannot. The player who plays the highest card of the led suit takes the trick, and any penalty cards it contains, and leads for the next trick.

Common variants include:

  • The player holding the 2♣ must lead it to begin the first trick. When playing with three or 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, however the player must follow suit and can play a penalty card if they would otherwise renege. The odds 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 his hand. In some variations, any play of a penalty card, including the spade Queen, "breaks hearts".
  • If a player cannot follow suit, they must play a penalty card if they have one.

Scoring Edit

Each heart won in a trick scores 1 penalty point against the player winning the trick, and the player winning a trick containing the queen of spades scores 13 penalty points. Therefore, there are 26 penalty points in each deal. The game ends either when one player reaches 100 points or after a predetermined number of deals or 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 between 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.

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.
  • The 7♣ is another penalty card, worth 7 points, in a variant called Hooligan Hearts.
  • A player reaching exactly 50 or 100 points subtracts 50 points from his score.
  • Different points are allocated to each penalty card.
  • The A♠ can also be a penalty card, and sometimes also the K♠ and 10♠. This is unpopular as it means any penalty Spade, not just the Queen, must be "sloughed" by playing off-suit.
  • Higher penalties for the high hearts (e.g. A=5, K=4, Q=3, J=2).
  • A player who takes no tricks in a deal subtracts 5 points from his score.

Shooting the moon Edit

Shooting the moon or running is a very common scoring variant. If one player takes all the penalty cards on one deal, that player subtracts the total number of penalty points available (normally 26) from their previous total score. Alternatively, 26 penalty points can be added to each of the other three players' scores. 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.

Includes CC-BY-SA content from Wikipedia's Hearts article (authors)

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