How to Play Hearts

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by: Cindy Bond
Learn how to play Hearts with these easy-to-follow rules and get a game started with your friends and family.

Here are the rules to the card game of Hearts — a fun game to play on Valentine's Day, or any day!

The Object of the Game

Players don't want to end up with tricks containing hearts or the queen of spades, but they do want to end up with the jack of diamonds.

How Many Can Play

Three to seven players (four players is the best!)

The Cards

You need a standard deck of 52 cards. Each player is dealt the same number of cards. So, if you have 4 players, each receives 13 cards (13 x 4 = 52). If you have 3 players, deal each 13 cards, then add the leftover cards to the kitty. The person who takes the first trick will take the kitty, too. In each suit, the cards are ranked from the Ace, with the highest value, on down: K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2.

How to Deal

The players cut for deal. The lowest cut is the first to deal. The whole pack is dealt out clockwise, one card at a time, each placed face down.

After the cards have been dealt, each player chooses three cards to pass to an opponent. Players pick their cards after they've looked at them, and before they've received cards from their opponents. Cards are passed to the right at the first deal, to the left with the second, and across with the third. At the fourth deal, players keep their own cards.

Note: after each hand, the deal passes to the player on the dealer's left.

How to Play

The player to the left of the dealer leads first. (Or the person holding the 2 of clubs card can start first.) Each player after the lead must follow suit if he can. If he can't, he may play any card he wants.

A player wins a trick when he plays the highest card of the suit that is led. The winner of the trick leads the next.

A player can't lead with a heart until a heart has been "broken," or played in the game. Hearts are broken when a player lacks a card in the suit that has been led, so he throws down a heart instead. Many people play that hearts can't be broken on the first trick.

How to Keep Score

After all the cards have been played, players count up their tricks. Each player receives a penalty point for each heart card they have. The player who ends up with the queen of spades gets 13 points. Here's a bonus: the player who ends up with the jack of diamonds gets to subtract 10 points from his score.

The player with least number of points when any player reaches 50 points (or another preset score or time limit) wins.

Revoke

If a player doesn't follow the suit even though he is able, he isn't penalized if he corrects his mistake before the trick is completed. If a revoke isn't corrected in time, and is discovered before the deal has been scored, the "offender" is charged for all the hearts in that deal and no other player receives any penalty points.

Looking for more fun card games? Check out how to play Crazy Eights or Spades.