Hearts Strategy – Shooting The Moon

The basic strategy of card desirability only applies to a player not desiring to “shoot the moon”. Otherwise, many of these criteria are reversed.

A hand that appears doomed (by virtue of being capable of winning almost all the tricks) may be excellent for the purpose of moon-shooting. The element of risk involved in shooting the moon is one of the appeals of the game, since a player may attempt to get all 26 points and fail by only getting 24 or 25, in which case the player suffers a massive penalty.

This element provides much of the appeal of the game, along with the cutthroat aspect associated with a player holding the Qspades possibly having the option of dropping it on another player’s trick (sometimes called Q-bombing or ‘Impregnating’ in slang). Often the player who has the fewest points (and is thus leading) is the one people try to give the queen to; however, there is always the risk of giving it to a player who then uses it as part of shooting the moon.

Players must always be on the lookout for another player trying to shoot the moon, in the hopes that they can stop it, or weigh the advantages of stopping it versus taking many points to stop it. In addition, the element of passing cards allows players to attempt to control their destiny and influence that of their fellow players.

Generally, the player attempting to shoot will keep high cards, and keep a long suit, so that they may keep playing that suit when others have run out. In order to make sure that a player does not save a card specifically to foil a moon shot, most players must deceive their opponents as to their intentions, for example playing lower cards until they are confident they can take and hold possession of the lead. This is important, especially during pass rounds, as players receiving a pass of low cards is a red flag that the other player is attempting to shoot the moon. Usually it is in a player’s best interest to stop the other person from shooting, as they will take 26 points, but that must be weighed against the potential consequences of stopping the shooter, which may include taking many points.

An advanced player holding the Qspades and other high cards, but aware that others will prevent them from shooting, may clear out their other suits by playing high cards and then pass the lead to someone else with a low card played late in the hand, hoping that they will then be able to discard the queen on a trick in the suit they have created a void in. Other players, fearing the moon shot, will keep high cards to prevent it, which may garner them the queen on the last few tricks if the Queen was not smoked out earlier. The player in second place may be wary of preventing a moon shot by a higher player, since if the higher player successfully shoots the second-place player may still be in second place (or nearly) since both their score and that of the leader increases by 26 points, whereas if the second-place player stops the moonshot they may take many (13+) points for their pains, putting them further out of reach of first place.

Players with “long suits” (five or more of a single suit) have a high advantage to shoot the moon; similarly, those without hearts also have a higher chance of being successful in a moon shoot.

A long suit allows the player to force others to play their highest of that suit, then switch to another suit before the leading player has run out of that suit; this means that even low cards, if other players do not have that suit, can be used to shoot the moon.

Successful shooting often requires players to count cards, seeing which cards have been played to see if a moon shot is possible or which player has which card. A player leading off with Aspades either means he or she is shooting the moon, or has the Qspades and is not afraid to retain possession. Generally, if a player has a long suit including low cards, it is important to count cards in that suit as they are played, since their low cards may cease to be exits once the rest of the suit is exhausted. It is entirely possible to lead a two in a long suit and receive the Qspades when no one else has that suit anymore.