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Hearts is a popular card game played using a regulation deck and between three to six players. In contrast to most card games, the aim of Hearts is to accrue as few points as possible. Players are awarded penalty points for winning 'tricks' that include certain cards.
The origin of Hearts can be traced back to Spain in the middle of the 18th century, though the game as we know it today was truly born around 100 years later, when the notion of awarding penalty points was fully established. Since then Hearts has been given a huge boost in popularity by online versions of the game, which swept to prominence in the 1990s and continue to be a big draw.
What equipment do you need to play Hearts?
Two pieces of equipment are required to play a physical game of Hearts, being:
A regulation deck of 52 playing cards, with jokers removed.
Paper and pen to record penalty points and keep a running total of scores.
To play online Hearts you're going to need either a desktop computer or a mobile/tablet device. Some games can be played via in the Internet, while others you'll want to download so you can access them when you're offline also.
How does a game of Hearts play out?
Here follows a step-by-step guide to how you play a game of Hearts:
Basic Hearts is played with four players and each player is dealt 13 cards to start the game. If you play with three players, each player gets 17 cards. If you play with five, it's 10 cards each. If you play with six players, jokers are included.
The first action of the game is to select three cards you want to give away to the player on your left. These will be the cards you consider the most potentially damaging to your score. Cards are passed in a clockwise direction.
Whoever has the two of clubs gets to go first, and lays down the two of clubs in the middle of the table.
Every player then lays down a card in turn. You must follow suit if you can, but if you don't have that suit you're allowed to place whatever you like down.
Once every player has laid down a card the highest scoring card wins the trick. That person will then lead the next round by laying down the first card.
When all cards have been played the hand is over. The player with the lowest score is the winner of the hand.
How does scoring work in Hearts?
This is where things get really interesting. The following points are applied if you win these cards in tricks.
Minus 13 points for the queen of spades
Minus one point for every heart
In total, there are 26 penalty points to be awarded in each hand. The player with the lowest score at the end of each hand is the winner. Typically you will set a score of 100 to end to the game. Once the first player reaches that mark, the game is over and the player with the lowest score at that point wins.
What is 'shooting the moon'?
If you're feeling bold there's always the option to try and win every penalty card in a hand. If you're successful, and you take every heart and the queen of spades for yourself, you stand to score zero points and penalize every one of your opponents to the tune of 26 points each. This is called 'shooting the moon.' It's a dangerous approach, but one that seriously pays off it you can pull it out.
How do I get started playing Hearts?
The best way to learn Hearts is to play online. You'll find a wide selection of excellent online Hearts game to choose from. Many are free play games, but some can be played for real money if you so desire. A good strategy is to visit an online Hearts portal and read up on the best sites to play at.