Hearts: Everybody’s Favourite Game
by Katie Coopersmith © 2017 Great Bridge Links
If you like to play cards – and especially if you play bridge – you’re probably familiar with at least the basics of the card game Hearts. Well loved by computer card game enthusiasts, entire families, and college students alike, Hearts is a game that sits right in that sweet spot of easy to learn, yet challenging to master.
I have a close friend who’s told me for years that Hearts is her official family game, and she recounts with a nice mix of pride and horror the time her grandfather once yelled at her for breaking the official family rule: always pass a mid-range heart!
If you’re anything like me, however, you have no idea where the game of Hearts came from or how it evolved. Let’s delve into its history, shall we?
Hearts first made its way to card tables in the United States in about 1880 – however, its origins lie with a far more antiquated European game called Reverse. By the late 20th century, thanks to Bill Gates and co.’s decision to put Hearts on every Microsoft computer, the game had become a well-loved fixture in many homes.
If you’re not familiar with the gameplay of Hearts, the basic skeleton of the game is pretty simple: it’s a trick-based game, the player with highest amount of points at the end of the tournament loses (or, as some play, the player with the lowest amount of points wins), and you pick up points by taking hearts (one point each) and/or the infamous Queen of Spades (13 points). However, any player who cunningly manages to capture all 26 points available in a round (this feat is known as ‘shooting the moon’ or ‘going for control’) gets to choose between knocking 26 points off their own score or adding 26 points to everyone else’s score. It’s a pretty sweet deal if you can get it!
One of our favourite Card Game Rules websites is Pagat.com – and they have a great section for the card game Hearts.
The game of Hearts is traditionally played with four players, each of whom holds a 13-card hand, but it can certainly be played with different-sized groups – the deck can be modified by removing certain cards to suit bigger groups.
Of course, like any well-loved and long-played card game, a slew of different variations on Hearts can be found by anyone motivated enough to do a Google search! One popular variation is the four-hand-based Omnibus Hearts, in which taking the Jack of Diamonds knocks ten points off your score!
If you’re really into Hearts and want to break out past your family or friend sphere, you can try starting a local Hearts club in your community or campus – or try attending a Hearts tournament! Yup, that’s right, they do exist! The popular group coordination site Meetup.com is home to many localized groups of Hearts enthusiasts, and tournaments are often held at universities around the world. Many have also posited that first learning to play simpler trick-taking games like Hearts and Whist is an excellent first step towards learning bridge. What are you waiting for? Get out there and put your heart in it!
Whenever I think if Hearts, I also think of Hearts in Atlantis, by Stephen King. The book is a collection of novellas and short stories set in the 60s and there is one about students playing Hearts in university that sticks with me – as many of King’s stories do!
Do you have any ‘official’ family card games? Let us know in the comments below!