Hearts – A Card Game Strategy

In addition to sheer luck, winning Hearts is dependent on several factors.

An important element is passing: Heart’s strategic element first appears in the 3-card player-to-player pass for the Black Lady variant. Intuitively, the function of this pass is to rid one’s hand of undesirable cards, or to get a head start on clearing a suit. However, this is not always the best strategy; for instance, a player may pass off all his spades just to get passed the Qspades; this will force that player in all likelihood to “eat his own queen”, that is, play the Qspades and take it himself.

This means that most players want to be able to protect the queen with a buffer of three or more Spades. As most players will try and force the queen out (sometimes called “flushing” or “smoking it out”), if the player with the Qspades is able to outlast all other players with Spades, he or she is at a great advantage to play the Qspades off-suit.

Another important aspect of Hearts is teamwork: As there is only one winner and three losers in hearts, the most advanced strategy appears when the three losing players team up to give the leader points. Playing the queen and other point cards only when the player with the lowest score can take them, passing favorable cards to trailing players, and setting up the leader all require teamwork and unselfish play.

Second place is no better than fourth place, and thus it profits a player nothing to give points to the player with the highest score ending the game while sitting in second place.

Knowing whether to try to “shoot the moon” or not is also important, as a botched attempt to shoot could end up giving the player all but one heart. The term “covering” is used to describe the common practice of passing the second highest heart (generally the 10hearts or lower) in order to prevent anyone else from shooting the moon. Occasionally, a player will pass a Jack or Queen as their cover card if they only have high hearts. This player is responsible for playing the higher heart to stop a player if they attempt to shoot the moon. Passing the highest heart (thus making it possible one player has all the high hearts), or not playing the cover card is called “dodging” or “ducking” and is considered poor sportsmanship by many players.

Passing a low heart is also a strategy often employed to prevent other players from “Shooting the Moon.” E.g. If a player holds the Ahearts, Khearts and Qhearts and is passed the 4hearts, they will not be able to run the hand as long as one other player also has four hearts in their hand.

Since the 2clubs is always the first card played, some players opt to pass this card as if it were a high card. The reason being that having the 2clubs does not enable you to play a high club on the first hand. If the game is being played with the optional restriction on playing point cards on the first trick, the first trick must be safe and the player should try to use his high clubs immediately. With this rule, the Aclubs is considered by many a great card, and is generally not passed. Having the Aclubs enables a player to start the next trick with whatever suit they desire (unless the player also has the 2clubs). This can be especially useful if the player only has one card in a suit left. Passing a high club is generally considered foolish, because it will just be played on the first hand. The most dangerous clubs are the 9, 10 and J, as the 2, Q, K, and A generally see play on the first hand, thus making those three the highest three cards left.

When point cards are allowed on the first trick, however, many players adopt aggressive passing strategies to void themselves in clubs so as to play high hearts or the Qspades on unsuspecting players following the strategies outlined in the previous paragraph. Under these rules, it is sometimes advisable to keep the 2clubs and pass higher clubs to cover the initial trick. When a player has all high clubs, it is advisable to pass them, especially if it is possible to get rid of all of them through passing and then begin laying points immediately.

Diamonds are generally passed in an attempt to short them. Generally passing all of the highest diamonds is the preferred strategy of most players as there is very little risk in shorting Diamonds. In some variations of the game, the 10? or J? subtracts points, in which case high Diamonds are preferred.

Note that having a balanced hand (that is, a 4-3-3-3 or 4-4-3-2 suit split) is undesirable because they make it difficult to “clear” a suit, so that potentially dangerous cards can be ruffed to future tricks of that suit. One or two cards in a suit are relatively easy to clear; while a 3- or 4-card suit can be cleared, doing so may exhaust most or all of the cards in that suit, making the clearing useless.