Hearts Card Game Strategy: Tips and Tricks to Win the Game
Hearts is the 18th-century game enjoyed by millions around the world. Everyone wants to have fun, but nothing is more fun than having a great time and being the big winner.
Unlike other card games, Hearts isn’t just a game of chance. There’s an element of luck involved, but with the right Hearts card game strategy, you can increase your odds of winning, even if you get a poor hand.
Winning tricks is the name of the game, but you want to win the right tricks. In this guide, you will learn about the right strategy for Hearts so you can perfect the game.
What is a Hearts Strategy?
Your Hearts strategy can allow you to overcome a poor hand when Lady Luck isn’t on your side. Smart players know that one bad round does not mean you will lose the overall game. While there are no magic tricks for winning every time, regular players know that by employing the best tactics, you will win more than you’ll lose.
Hearts strategies concentrate on knowing which cards to play and when to play them. They also teach you how to win a Hearts card game by watching what your opponents are playing and adjusting accordingly.
No one strategy is suitable. You need to know when to employ one tactic and when to employ another.
Practice makes perfect, and the best way to create your playing style is to start with the basics and gradually add new wrinkles into your game.
With that in mind, let’s discuss how to win Hearts.
Top Tips for Playing Hearts
Before discussing advanced strategies for winning the game of Hearts, it’s essential to begin with the basics.
The basics will show you how to avoid making rookie mistakes and put you in a position where you’ll pick up all the hearts or be left with the Black Maria.
Here are ten top tips for succeeding at Hearts.
Pay Attention to Others
Part of the fun of Hearts is that it’s a multiplayer game. One card played by an opponent can turn the entire game on its head. Pay attention to which cards others are playing. Think about sequences.
If someone has just thrown down the jack of diamonds, there’s a good chance a trick is about to be won soon. Do you want to win that trick, or do you want to ensure someone else wins it?
Watch the Pass
Which cards have others passed to you?
If you’ve received three cards of the same suit, it shows one player is trying to create a void. They could be shooting for the moon if they pass you a bunch of low cards.
Be Mindful of Where the Hearts Are
Shooting for the moon is the best result in the game. You need to stop someone else from accomplishing that at all costs.
Think about which hearts have been played and who has those hearts. If someone has every heart played in the middle of the game, it’s a sure-fire sign someone is shooting for the moon.
Don’t Focus Too Much on Shooting for the Moon
New players look at the points gained for successfully shooting the moon (and the points they can add to other players) and see dollar signs. While this is the best possible result, it is also the most challenging goal.
Sometimes slow and steady wins the race, so don’t become too enamored with winning all the hearts.
Take Tricks with a High Card
You want as few tricks as possible to keep your points totals down. If you’re going to take a trick, use the highest card in your hand.
Using your highest card decreases the chance of taking a trick from that same suit going forward.
Where’s the Queen of Spades?
The queen of spades is the nastiest card on the board. You must stay vigilant as long as it hasn’t been taken as part of a trick.
Savvy players are looking to dump that card on someone else, so play cautiously until someone else has it.
Never Lead with an Ace
Perhaps the biggest rookie mistake newbies make is leading with an ace. You don’t know if an opponent already got rid of that suit and may want to leave you with an evil card.
Leading with an ace means you are sure to win the trick and any hearts or queens of spades that come with it.
Take the First Heart
Watch a game of Hearts filled with veterans, and you may be surprised to see the table actively competing to win the first heart. It may seem counterintuitive but winning the first heart ensures that nobody else can shoot for the moon.
Accepting a minor point hit is better than someone shooting for the moon successfully.
Get Rid of Your Diamonds and Clubs
Void your diamonds and clubs because cards in this suit are worth nothing in this game. Hearts strategies often begin with addressing these suits so you can concentrate on ridding yourself of high spade cards and unwanted hearts.
Pass the Two of Clubs
The first player to act in many card games has an advantage. This is not the case in Hearts. In this game, you want to pass your two of clubs because the player with the edge is the one that leads the second trick.
Players who find themselves starting the second trick usually end up leading the round from start to finish from then on.
How to Win at Hearts
Hearts is a game conventionally played with four players, but variations allow for as few as two players or as many as seven.
The game starts with 13 cards dealt to each player, which is an entire 52-card standard deck. Choose three cards to pass to an opponent before the round begins. You can’t choose which opponent to pass your cards to. It depends on where you’re sitting.
The person who has the two of clubs leads out the first suit. Each player will put down a card, moving clockwise around the table. Each card must be higher than the other of the same suit. Players who don’t have that suit can put down whatever card they like. The person who puts down the highest club wins the four-card trick.
The game continues until everyone runs out of cards. Each heart is worth one point and the Black Maria 13 points. Count up everyone’s scores and keep going. Traditionally, the game ends when the first player hits 100 points.
Once this happens, the player with the lowest score wins.
Advanced Hearts Strategies
Knowing how to win at the Hearts card game means gradual improvement and incorporating new strategies into your repertoire.
Millions play the game because it’s constantly evolving, and you’ll always come up against a player that presents a challenge.
Let’s run through some advanced Hearts strategies. Note, this is just scratching the surface of what can be a deceptively complex game.
Give Away Your Worst Cards
It might seem obvious but giving away your worst cards is the foundation of any strategy. The problems begin when determining what your worst cards are.
Most games will involve you hoarding those aces, kings, and queens. In this game, do the opposite. Get rid of those high-ranking cards.
High-ranking cards mean that you’re more likely to win a trick, which is what you want to avoid. This is why being in the fourth seat is such a disadvantage in a round of Hearts because it’s the one seat that doesn’t allow you to pass any cards.
Focus on Dropping One Suit
Another excellent strategy for playing Hearts is to focus on getting rid of a single suit as quickly as possible. If you instantly void all your diamonds and diamonds are leading, you can throw down your high cards and point cards from other suits risk-free.
Remember, each trick goes to the person who played the highest card of that suit. For example, if someone led with a four of diamonds, you could throw down a queen of hearts. Someone else might also have voided their diamonds and thrown down a king of hearts. If they were the last person to act, whoever played the previous highest diamond has to pick up those two hearts.
Who Voided What?
Analyze your threats early on. You already know that if someone passed you three cards of the same suit, they’re attempting to void that suit. It’s a great starting point, but advanced Hearts game strategy requires you to know who voided what.
Watch other players and make a mental note of who’s not playing cards of the suit currently being led. It’ll give you an idea of how to react accordingly.
High Hearts? Fast Play
The worst cards in the game are the queen of spades and any high heart. Your goal is to get rid of these cards as soon as possible.
The queen of spades is the worst card to win, so that needs to go for obvious reasons. High hearts are dangerous because even though the ace of hearts is worth the same as the two of hearts, your high cards become a problem if someone leads out with a heart.
Getting stuck taking a four-card trick of hearts is one of the worst outcomes in the game and almost guarantees that you’ll be getting the most points for that round.
Play them away quickly at any opportunity.
When to Lead with the Ace
You may find yourself in a situation when you decide to shoot for the moon if you want to catch players by surprise, or you’ve found yourself with many hearts to play. Getting stuck with a few bad tricks doesn’t mean the round is over for you.
When actively shooting for the moon, you’ll either have gotten unlucky during the early rounds or hold lots of high spades and/or hearts.
Sometimes, it makes sense to break the cardinal rule and to lead with an ace to secure that trick.
After the first trick has been played out, it’s time to begin bleeding spades. The bleeding spades strategy is employed by anybody who is not in danger of getting stuck with the Black Maria.
The theory behind this Hearts game strategy is that if someone is leading with spades, then players with the three highest spades will have no choice but to play them. If you don’t hold any of the top three spades, you have a chance to force your opponents to play them, thus sticking someone with a cool 13 points.
Failing to bleed spades means someone could create a void in one of the other three suits, thus allowing them to be burned and potentially leaving you with the Black Maria.
Defending Against Spades
Your priority is to defend against the queen of spades. If you’re stuck with high spade cards, your goal should be to create a void in one of the other suits.
Dumping your diamonds or clubs leaves you with an opening if someone leads with either of these suits. Once you’ve created the void, you can dump your high spade cards, including the dreaded Black Maria.
Dump the Black Maria on a Hearts Trick
Dumping the Black Maria on a hearts trick is one of the most crushing blows you can dish out to your opponents.
You’ll need to hold the queen of spades for this Hearts card game strategy. Try leading on your longest suit out of clubs or diamonds. The play here is to get someone else to void one of their suits.
Since you already have the Black Maria, the worst outcome is that you get a few heart points. However, by accepting this sacrifice, you break the hearts, and so players are free to lead with hearts. If you’re out of hearts or only have a few, dump the queen on a hearts trick to leave someone with a potential 16 points.
Counting cards might be illegal at the casino, but it’s not in hearts. One of the most effective ways to win at Hearts is to employ card counting within your overarching Hearts card game strategy.
Keeping track of how many of each suit has been played gives you a lot of helpful information to plan your next move. While it might sound complex, it’s easier than you think. Until someone shows that they’ve voided by throwing down an off-suit card, the number of cards of any suit is divisible by four.
For example, if three complete rounds of diamonds have been played with no off-suit cards thrown down and you hold a diamond, you know you have the final diamond. In this scenario, leading out with a diamond means everyone else will dump their cards on you, meaning you’ll be picking up that trick.
Holding onto your diamond is the correct strategy in most cases. However, if you’re shooting for the moon, this is a powerful card to possess because it could mean picking up three diamonds or two diamonds plus the queen of spades.
Pass the Queen of Spades in the Right Direction
The queen of spades is a dangerous card to hold unless you’ve already decided to shoot for the moon during this round.
Never pass the queen of spades to the left of your position. Passing it to the left means the player has a high likelihood of dictating when it’s played, meaning you’ve got the highest chance of getting stuck with it.
If you’re passing it to the right, you should be doing so if you don’t have any spades lower than it. Alternatively, passing it directly across is inconsequential and nothing to worry about.
Get Better at Card Games with Arkadium
A Hearts card game strategy can be as straightforward or tricky as you want it to be. That’s what makes the game so fun. Mixing and matching strategies constantly keep your opponents guessing. You want to withhold as much information about your hand while garnering as much detail possible about their hands.
Start simple and gain experience. You’ll soon work out how to outwit your opponents and dump Black Maria onto some unsuspecting friend or family member.
If you want to get better at card games or just have some fun during your downtime, Arkadium has you covered. Check out some of our free games now, and keep checking back for the latest additions.