Hearts is a standard trick taking game without a trump suit (as in the game of Spades, where spades is the trump suit), where the cards in the tricks are what matters, and not how many tricks you take overall. Hearts is played with four players, every pirate for themselves. The object of the game is to NOT take tricks with hearts (worth 1 point each) or the queen of spades (worth 13 points!). Given this, the player with the LOWEST score wins the game when another player reaches the end score. The cards are dealt and played in a clockwise direction.
Rank of the Cards
A standard pack of 52 cards is used. The cards, in each suit, rank from highest to lowest: *A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
Dealing the Cards
The first dealer is chosen at random, and the turn to deal rotates clockwise. The cards are shuffled and then dealt one by one, in clockwise order beginning with the player on dealer's left, until all 52 cards have been dealt and everyone has 13 cards.
After the cards are dealt but before the hand is played, the players need to pass three cards. The pattern of passing is as following. First passing round -- pass three cards to the player on your left. Second passing round -- pass three cards to the player on your right. Third passing round -- pass three cards to the player across from you. Fourth passing round -- no passing. This pattern is then repeated throughout the game.
Playing the Hand
The player who holds the two of clubs (2C) in their hand plays it to start the first trick. Each player, clockwise in turn, *must* follow suit if able; if unable to follow suit, the player may play *any* card (the one exception being on the first trick of the game no point card -- any of the 13 hearts or the queen of spades -- may be played). Players have a limited time to play their card as shown by the hourglass. If they do not play a card by the time the hourglass runs out, then a random legal card will be automatically played for them.
A trick is won by the highest card played of the suit that lead the round. The winner of each trick will lead the next round (place the first card). Hearts may not be led until either:
- some player has played a heart (on the lead of another suit, of course), or
- the leader has nothing but hearts left in hand.
Playing the first heart is known as "breaking" hearts. Note that playing the queen of spades does NOT count as breaking hearts, even though it is a point card.
The cards played in the last trick are displayed next to the player who took that last trick. Players who have taken at least one trick will have a card back near them, where the last trick goes. This can help to keep track of who has taken tricks, but a good hearts player needs to keep track of who has been taking which point cards.
After all 13 tricks have been taken, the point cards are counted up from every players' trick piles. Every heart taken is worth 1 point. The queen of spades is worth 13 points. Remember, that you do not want points in hearts, the object of the game is to have as few points as possible.
The one special case in scoring is "Shooting the Moon." Shooting the moon in hearts is when a player gets ALL the hearts AND the queen of spades. In this case every other player gets 26 points added to their score. There is one special case in tabulating scores for shooting the moon: if adding 26 points to the score of one of the three other players would push them over the end game point total and cause the player who shot the moon to lose the game, then the player who shot the moon gets 26 deducted from her score instead and the other three players' scores stay the same.
Winning the Game
The game ends when one of the four players scores exceeds the end game point total (after all the scores are tabulated for that deal). The player with the lowest score at this point wins the game. The player with the next lowest score comes in second place. The player with the third lowest score comes in third and the player with the highest score comes in 4th. Note that your placement at the end of the game will affect how you are rated as well as your payout on wagers (unless you are playing "winner takes all").