- 3-5 players
- Typically played with four players
- A standard 52 pack of cards
- A pen and paper to keep track of penalty scores after each hand
- Players avoid taking cards to end up with the lowest score at the end of the game.
- All Heart cards carry one penalty point each.
- The Queen of Spades is worth 13 penalty points which makes it the highest-stake penalty card in the game.
- Once all cards have been played in a hand, players count the total number of your penalty points.
Additional Setup Notes
- Shuffle the card deck thoroughly.
- Agree to a score limit–usually, Hearts is played with a score limit of 50, 100, or 200 points.
- Deal each person cards face down and clockwise.
- Three-player game: Remove the 2 of Diamonds from the game, and each player is dealt 17 cards.
- Four-player game: Each player is dealt 13 cards.
- Five-player game: Remove the 2 of Diamonds and 2 of Clubs from the game, and each player is dealt 10 cards.
Typically played over several hands, players seek to finish Hearts as the player with the lowest score and least penalty points to win.
Deal the cards one at a time facedown and in a clockwise direction, based on the number of players. Next, all players can look at their hand and select three cards to pass to their opponent. Each player selects the three cards to pass, and passes them facedown to the player on their left. (Note: Players must select and pass three cards before revealing the cards they receive from the player on their right.)
Passing cards to another player takes place each turn, but changes direction each turn. In a four person game, the first pass goes to the players on your left, then to the player on your right, then to the player across from you, and then no pass at all. This rotation repeats until the game is over. For any amount of players other than four, the first pass is to the left, then to the right, and repeat.
Hearts is a simple enough game where the player that goes first is determined by whoever has a two of Clubs in their hand. If there is no two of clubs in the game, then the three of clubs determines the first player. To begin, the first player plays the two of clubs or three of clubs in the center of gameplay (typically a circle). Going clockwise, each player plays one card on top of the original card creating a stack. Each player after the first player should play a card with the same suit as the first player’s turn, if possible. If a player does not have a card with a matching suit they can play a different suit (ie. a spade), but they are unable to play either a Heart or a queen of Spades on that turn.
Once all players have played a card, the player that played the highest card wins the trick (or round). That player collects all cards from that trick, places them facedown in front of them and starts the next round. In the second round, the first player or previous winner begins by playing a card. A Heart card and queen of Spades can only be played in the first turn if a Heart or queen of Spades was played in a previous round or “broken”. If a either card has not been “broken”, the first player must play any suit other than a Heart or queen of Spades. If the first player only has Heart cards or Queen of Spades and the suit has not been broken, then they pass the first turn to the player on their left.
This is continued until all tricks have been taken. After each trick, write down the total penalty points each player has accrued. A heart is worth 1 point and a Queen of Spades is worth 13 points. You will take turns playing until a player either hits the score limit or goes above it on a given round.
After completing all tricks and meeting or exceeding the previously agreed upon number of points, the player with the lowest score, wins.
Hearts Strategy & Tips
Hearts is an accessible yet surprisingly strategic game. In early tricks, it’s better to refrain from leading Heart cards in the early tricks to stop other players from unloading Hearts onto you. Controlling the Queen of Spades until later in the game can also help you force opponents to take penalty points.
Hearts Variations and Alternate Rules
Shooting for the Moon variation: If a player holds all the Hearts and the Queen of Spades during a hand, they earn zero points instead of 26 points, and their opponents accrue 26 penalty points each. If an opponent manages to also shoot for the moon in the same hand, they avoid the 26 penalty points.
How is Hearts Scored?
In Hearts, the objective is to keep your score low by avoiding Hearts, each worth one penalty point, and the Queen of Spades, worth 13 penalty points. At the end of each hand, players tally their penalty points until someone reaches the agreed-upon threshold.
How Long Do You Play Hearts?
Usually, a hand lasts around five minutes.
How Do You Win in Hearts?
In Hearts, the winner is determined as the player with the lowest score so try to avoid Penalty points accrued from any Heart card or the Queen of Spades, worth 13 penalty points.