Hearts Variations Checklist

These comments copyright 1999 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated June 22, 1999

I'm of the opinion that the card game Hearts is an excellent game, but I've come to learn that there are many variations, most of which I frankly don't like. I now have a checklist I go down before playing Hearts with strangers. You may wish to take note of these questions in case you do the same - better to know the rules before you begin play ...

  1. What are the scoring cards?
  2. What is the rule about leading?
  3. What are the passing rules?
  4. Are there any restrictions on the first trick?
  5. What are the conditions when hearts can be led?
  6. How is Shooting the Moon scored?
  7. When is the game over?
  8. Are there any other scoring peculiarities?
  9. In three-handed, what happens to the extra card?
And in case you ever play Hearts with me, here are my preferences. Note that I'm not claiming these are the "official" rules of Hearts - this is just the way I like to play the game.

  1. Scoring cards: I prefer only QS and Hearts. Some folk count the JD as -10, but I dislike playing with that rule.
  2. Lead card: I prefer that the 2C must be the first card led.
  3. Passing: I prefer 3 to the left, then 3 to the right, then 3 across, then hold.
  4. First trick: I prefer no dirt on the first trick.
  5. Hearts led: I prefer they have to be "broken" first, and the QS does not count as a heart for that purpose. If it's your lead and you have nothing but hearts and they haven't yet been broken, there are two rules I'm aware of, and I have no preference between them. Either:
    • you may then lead a heart, or
    • you may not lead a heart and the lead passes to the player on your left.
  6. Shooting the Moon: I prefer player's choice: you go back 26 or everyone else goes up 26.
  7. Game over: I prefer when someone goes above 100 points. (See the next point for the reason ...)
  8. Other scoring peculiarities: I prefer that if you score exactly 100 points, you drop back to 50. This introduces a very slight Oh Hell-like feel to the game when scores when get above 80 ...
  9. Three-handed: I prefer that the first heart (or QS) trick takes the extra card, and the player does not have to reveal what it is to anyone. Alternately, I don't mind simply playing without the four deuces, and the three of clubs leads. This way there is no extra card to worry about, and there are the same number of cards in each suit ...

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