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Hearts Strategy: How to Win at Hearts: Card Game Tips & Tactics

Hearts StrategyHow to Win at Hearts Card Game
Hearts Strategy: How to Win at Hearts

Do you love playing Hearts but feel like your Hearts strategy is making you take more points than you have to? Make this great trick-taking/trick evasion game even better by winning more!

Hearts Strategy

Hearts isn’t exactly complicated, but it’s not one of the simplest card games either. There are many areas where informed play improves our chances to win. Here’s some Hearts strategy to be aware of, starting with the first thing we have control over, the pass.

Hearts Strategy: Passing

When selecting cards to pass, focus on making your hand as strong and safe as possible before trying to stick an opponent with troublesome cards. While a large part of effective passing is getting rid of high cards, it isn’t just a matter of automatically selecting our highest cards.

Passing Spades

As the Queen of Spades is the highest penalty card at 13 points, it makes sense that protecting ourselves from winning it is a top priority in Hearts strategy.

If you hold the A, K or Q of ♠s, you generally want to pass them. If you have enough low-card protection in spades (at least 3 and preferably 4 or more) you can consider keeping them, depending on what else you’re holding.

If you hold the Q with at least 4 (3 is riskier) lower ♠, you could keep the Q. This gives you flexibility on when you want to drop it, if you’d like a particular player to win it.

Never pass a spade lower than the Q, unless you’re intentionally trying to help that player.

Of course, you can win the Q♠ with any other suit as well, but protecting yourself from spade leads is the first way to avoid it.

Passing Hearts

The next priority is hearts, which carry a combined 13 penalty points.

Again, the A, K and Q are great candidates to pass, as each one could net you 4 unwanted points or worse. Keeping low hearts is usually not a problem. You can lead them and someone else will likely win the trick.

With the hearts suit, we also have to be aware of an opponent trying to Shoot the Moon—win every penalty card—which will stick us with 26 points. To defend against this:

  • you might pass your second highest heart instead of the highest.
  • you might refrain from passing the A♥, especially if it’s your only heart.
  • you might pass a low heart.

As you can see, none of these defenses are guaranteed, but that’s the nature of the game. All we can do is improve our chances where possible.

Passing Clubs & Diamonds

Although these suits don’t have any penalty cards, they can still win us or the Q♠.

You’d still rather not be holding the A, K or Q of these suits. If you lack lower cards to ensure you won’t win unwanted tricks, it’s best to get rid of these if you can. An exception might occur with ♣ because the 2 starts the hand. If you want to win the first trick so you can lead the card of your choice, you could refrain from passing a high ♣.

Remember that when you’re deciding what to pass from all 4 suits, a lack of low cards in a suit makes it more dangerous. Notice the danger in holding the 8, 9, 10 & J of ♦. It might look safe enough, but that’s an illusion. There are six lower than your 8. Add to this the possibility that your opponents are able to discard the three higher ones and you could end up winning all the tricks, or a later one that sticks you with the Q♠.

An effective passing strategy for ♣ & is to create a void or a short suit—to have 0, 1 or 2 of a suit. When you run out, you’ll be able to harmlessly get rid of your most dangerous cards before they can hurt you.

Notice that it’s not a good idea to try this with ♠ or . If you short yourself on ♠ and end up getting passed the A, K or Q, you have very good chances of getting stuck winning the Q. Trying to short yourself on is usually ineffective because your chances of getting passed some are high.

How to Win at Hearts: Strategy & Tips

After the cards have been dealt and passed, you’re stuck with whatever you have. But there’s still lots of Hearts strategy to improve your chances.

Hearts Strategy: Drawing Out the Queen ♠

Leading lower spades to flush out the Q is the first line of defense against winning it. Sometimes, this will cause whoever’s holding it to be forced to play it if they don’t have enough lower spades to protect themselves. It could also force one of your other opponent’s to play the A or K, allowing the Q holder to drop it on them.

Hearts Strategy: Discarding

The first priority when discarding is to defend yourself. In what suit are you most vulnerable to winning tricks? Those are the ones to dump as soon as possible.

Obviously, if you’re holding the Q♠ you’ll try to discard it quickly. Don’t assume, though, that it must be discarded first. If you have low suit protection in spades it might not be your first priority.

Hearts Strategy: When Should You Break Hearts?

Don’t rush. It depends what you’re holding. If hearts are a problem suit for you, you’ll probably break as soon as you can.

If you have another suit that’s concerning it’s better to discard those first. Remember, too, that breaking hearts gives your opponents the added option of leading with a heart, which could help them get out of trouble.

Hearts Strategy: Shooting the Moon Prevention

Be aware of an opponent who might be trying to Shoot the Moon:

  • A player who wins the Q♠ might try for everything.
  • A player who discards a low card might be preparing for it as well.
  • If you were passed unthreatening cards, that player might be going for it.
  • To prevent this you might have to win a few points that you could have let go. This is preferable to getting hit with 26 points if your opponent is successful.

Hearts Strategy: Playing High Earlier Instead of Later

If you end up with a high card with only 1 or 2 lower ones, it’s safer to play the higher one first when your opponents are more likely to follow suit. For example, if you hold the A & 3 of , playing the A first is safer than second.

Hearts Strategy: Keeping Track of Cards

The ability to remember which cards have been played varies greatly among people, but do your best to keep track of what you can. You’ll have an advantage if you can remember:

  • Which cards have been played in a potentially problematic suit (e. g. have the A & K ♠ been played when you’re holding the Q♠?)
  • Suits your opponents have run out of
  • When all the cards of a suit except the ones you hold have been played (if you lead one of these cards you can’t lose the trick)

It would be ideal to remember everything that’s been laid. This would allow you to make the highest percentage play. Working on a system to improve how much you can remember is worth the effort if you love hearts.

Hearts Strategy: Pay Attention to the Score

Your Hearts strategy should change depending on the score. You will want to:

  • Avoid giving penalty points to the highest score if you aren’t the lowest score when they’re getting close to 100.
  • Try to stick the lowest score with the Q♠ and as many hearts as possible.

I hope this look at Hearts strategy and how to win at Hearts has been helpful. Enjoy playing this awesome card game!

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