Basic Rules of Hearts

Hearts is a classic card game that blends strategy, skill, and a bit of luck. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to the basic rules of Hearts, making it easy for beginners to grasp the fundamentals of this beloved card game. Let’s dive in.


The primary goal in Hearts is to accumulate as few points as possible by the end of the game. The game typically continues until a predetermined score is reached or for a set number of rounds.

Card Deck

  • Hearts is typically played with a standard 52-card deck.
  • The cards are ranked from highest to lowest: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
  • Hearts suit is considered the penalty suit, and the Queen of Spades is also a penalty card.


  • The dealer shuffles the deck and deals the entire deck one card at a time, clockwise.
  • In a four-player game, each player receives 13 cards.

Passing Cards

  • After the deal, players select three cards to pass to an opponent, following a specified rotation (left, right, across, or no pass).
  • The passing phase adds a strategic element to the game.


  • The player with the 2 of Clubs leads the first trick.
  • Players must follow suit if possible; if not, they can play any card.
  • The player who wins a trick leads the next one.


  • At the end of each round, players receive penalty points for collecting Hearts and the Queen of Spades.
  • Hearts are worth one point each, while the Queen of Spades is worth 13 points.
  • The goal is to avoid collecting penalty cards.


  • The game continues until a player reaches or exceeds a predetermined score.
  • The player with the fewest penalty points at the end of the game is the winner.

Common Strategies and Tactics

Hearts is not just a game of chance; it involves strategy and tactics. In this section, we’ll explore some common strategies and tactics that can help you become a better Hearts player, including:

  1. Avoiding Hearts: Explain the importance of trying to avoid collecting Hearts and the Queen of Spades, especially early in the game.
  2. Shooting the Moon: Discuss the high-risk, high-reward strategy of attempting to collect all the Hearts and the Queen of Spades, known as “Shooting the Moon.”
  3. Leading with the 2 of Clubs: Describe the significance of leading with the 2 of Clubs to gain control of the game early on.
  4. Card Counting: Explain how keeping track of played cards can help you make informed decisions and predict opponents’ moves.
  5. Passing Strategy: Discuss effective strategies for passing cards during the passing phase, depending on the situation.

Variations and House Rules

Hearts can be played with various house rules and variations. In this section, we’ll touch upon some popular Hearts variations, such as:

  1. No Passing: Describe a variation where players do not pass cards before each round.
  2. Spot Hearts: Explain a variation where only Hearts cards with spots (2 through 10) count as penalty points.
  3. Custom Score Thresholds: Mention how players can customize the score thresholds for winning the game.

Tips for Beginners

For those new to the game of Hearts, mastering it might seem daunting. However, with practice and some essential tips, you can quickly improve your skills:

  1. Watch Your Opponents: Pay attention to what cards your opponents play, especially during the passing phase.
  2. Count the Points: Keep track of the points you and your opponents have accumulated to make informed decisions.
  3. Plan Your Passing: Plan your card passes strategically based on your hand and the passing rotation.
  4. Don’t Shoot the Moon Early: Avoid attempting to Shoot the Moon too early in the game, as it can backfire.
  5. Learn from Experience: Hearts is a game that improves with practice, so don’t be discouraged by losses.

By understanding the basic rules of Hearts, adopting smart strategies, and practicing your card-playing skills, you can become a skilled Hearts player and enjoy the game’s blend of competition and camaraderie with friends and family.