How To Play Hearts And Win At Family Game Night

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How To Play Hearts
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Believe it or not, playing cards was once an incredibly popular pastime for American adults — especially in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. As television and technology took over the world, their popularity waned. However, like all good things, card games are starting to see a resurgence. Card games are classic games for a reason — they’re cheap and (can be) relatively easy to play. If you have a single deck of cards at home, the possibilities are practically endless. From Poker to Spades To Crazy 8s, there’s a game for everyone. One of the most popular games? Hearts. If you’re a young mama looking for something fun to incorporate into long summer evenings at home with the family, learning how to play Hearts might just be the answer. Here’s the scoop.

The (Somewhat Confusing) History of Hearts

Hearts has a fairly interesting history. It’s believed that the first version of the game was created in Spain around 1750. More than one hundred years later, it made its first appearance in America, where many thought it must have come from Germany. As with all things, the game itself has taken many variations and evolved quite a bit in the last 270 years. Most notably, the way in which players score has continued to change and, even now, different parts of the world (and even different areas of the country) play by different scoring rules. There are more than a dozen ways you can play Hearts in modern times. Most games have fabulous (if not irrelevant) names including Auction Hearts, Black Maria (the most popular version in Britain), Black Lady (popular in the United States), Omnibus Hearts, and Heartsette.


Some games come with a whole new vocabulary and it can feel a little frustrating to new players. Here are some words you’ll find in this tutorial, along with their definitions.


A declaration of the minimum number of “tricks” (or turns) you expect to win. (When playing in pairs, players bid without discussion and then the pair’s bids are added together.) Deal (Verb) To distribute cards among players. (Adjective) The collective “round” of turns taken to play through a hand of cards. Kitty Extra cards. Overtrick Every trick won above the number of tricks you bid, (i.e. If you bid four tricks but won five tricks, the fifth trick is an “overtrick.) Suit Based on the symbol on each card (hearts, spades, diamonds, clubs). All cards with the same symbol are from the same suit. (Related: “Follow suit” means to play a card matching the suit of cards already in play.) Trick The set of cards played by all players during a turn or play of a hand. Trump A privileged card or suit whose trick-taking power is greater than any plain suit card. (i.e. Anything suited hearts beats any number card from spades, diamonds, and clubs.) OR, the highest card played. Turn One rotation around the table and through all players.

How Many Players Can Play?

Three to seven players can play, but four players (two pairs) is the most fun and efficient option.


Be the player (or team) with the lowest score.

How To Deal

Cards are dealt face down and clockwise. You can cut the deck and draw cards, the person with the lowest card deals. Or just have the person who best understands the game start to deal. Each subsequent round should rotate through players as dealers.

Start with a deck of 52 cards and distribute the deck evenly. If 4 players are playing, each team player gets 13 cards. If you play with a number of players that isn’t divisible into 52, leftover cards should go into the kitty. The person/team who wins the first trick also wins the kitty.

While holding your hards, it’s best to arrange them by suit and value. (A, K, Q, J, 10, 9…)

Once all cards are dealt, everyone selects three cards to pass. During the first deal, everyone passes to the right. After the second deal, pass to the left. For the third deal, pass your cards across the table. (So, probably to your partner.) During the fourth (and usually final) deal, everyone keeps their cards.

How To Bid And Score

Once everyone has their cards, players must bid on how many tricks they think they can win. This should be done without conversing with partners, if there are partners. However, if there are teams/pairs/partners, those bids are added together. (If your partner bids two and you bid three, you must win a combined total of five tricks.)

After you’ve played through a deal (so, if you’re playing with four people, that’s 13 turns/rounds, thus 13 tricks), partners should add up how many tricks they won. As long as you meet or exceed your bid, you get 10 points per trick you bid on and an additional one point for every overtrick. If you bid six tricks but won eight tricks, you’ll get 62 points.

How To Play

Some families play under the rules that the player with a certain card (2 of clubs) starts the game. It’s often easiest just to start the game with the person to the left of the dealer. From there, continue clockwise around the table. The lead player can put any card on the table. (If you start with the player with the 2 of clubs, that should be the card they start with.) Every other player at the table must also lay down a card, following suit (lay down a club). The person who plays the highest club wins the trick. If a player doesn’t have the suit being played, then a card of any other suit should be discarded. The first trick (if played by the clubs rule) is different, though. If you don’t have a club during the first turn, a heart or the queen of spades cannot be discarded. The highest card of the suit led wins the trick. That person leads the next turn.

Winners collect their tricks to be counted at the end of the deal. Hearts may not lead until a heart or the queen of spades has been discarded. The queen does not have to be discarded at the first opportunity and can lead at any time.

Still confused?

Here’s a video tutorial to walk you through. Your best bet, though, is to get a deck of cards and just start playing.

Game Night Humor Ahead

Now that you’ve mastered all Hearts, how about some silly jokes about card playing to share around the table? These are a few of our favorites.

1. A relationship is like playing cards…

First, you have hearts and diamonds; Then at the end, it’s clubs and spades. 2. A couple of cows were smoking a joint and playing cards… The steaks were pretty high. 3. Which playing cards are the best dancers? The king and queen of clubs. 4. What’s the difference between poker players and politicians? Poker players sometimes tell the truth. 5. I hate playing cards in the Oval Office… The president always has a trump card. 6. For my birthday, the only thing I got was a deck of sticky playing cards. I find that very hard to deal with. 7. Why do you never play a game of cards in the jungle? Because of all the cheetahs! 8. What has a heart but no organs? A deck of cards. 9. I’m stuck in quarantine all alone with a deck of cards… I guess you could say I’m in solitaire confinement. 10. A patient bursts into a doctor’s office: “Doctor, I believe I’m a deck of cards!” The doctor calmly replies, “Go sit in the waiting room, please. I’ll be dealing with you later.”

Quotes About Playing Cards

“When luck joins the game, cleverness scores double.” – Yiddish Proverb

“If you were to put together a ‘Greatest Hits’ list for card games, you’d have to put Rummy at the top of the list. Probably more people have played Rummy than any other card game.” – Susan Perry

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” – Albert Einstein

“No matter what your circumstances are in life, a simple card game can make you feel special and give great joy, if only for a few fleeting moments.” – Anonymous

“Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.” – Jack London

“One should always play fair when one has the winning cards.” – Oscar Wilde

“Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.” – Josh Billings

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