On this page you will find the complete rules of Hearts as it is played on Whisthub. There are a few games known in the world under the name Hearts, but on Whisthub the best-known variant of American Hearts is played, also known as Black Lady. This variant of Hearts is known worldwide because it was included with the Windows operating system.
Hearts is a trick-taking game and is played with a full deck of 52 cards, without jokers. The order of the cards from high to low is
A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2, as is common in many card games.
In principle it is possible to play with three, four, five or even more players, but on Whisthub, Hearts is always played with four players.
When playing in real life, each player alternates between being the dealer, and usually the player to the left of the current dealer is the dealer in the next game. On Whisthub, the cards are of course dealt by the computer and so no dealer is needed, although the virtual dealer is always indicated with the icon . This has no influence on the game at all and is therefore rather ceremonial.
The goal of Hearts is to collect as few penalty points as possible. At the start of the game, the players often agree when a game ends. Usually playing continues until at least one player has collected a certain number of penalty points. Hearts is most often played up to 100 penalty points, but 50 and 200 are also possible on Whisthub. Alternatively, a fixed number of deals can be played, which is often the case on Whisthub in the tournaments for practical reasons.
Each heart ♥ taken in a trick is worth one penalty point, and the Queen of Spades ♠Q accounts for 13 penalty points, adding to a total of 26 penalty points per deal. However, if someone manages to collect all 26 penalty points, all opponents receive 26 penalty points and the player in question receives none. This situation is called Shooting the Moon and is one of the most fun and challenging aspects of the game.
After the cards are dealt, there is a phase where cards are passed before the game actually starts, except during the fourth deal. Each player chooses three cards and passes them to another player without the other players being able to see the cards. In the first deal each player passes to the left, in the second deal to the right and in the third deal to the player on the opposite side of the table. In the fourth deal, everyone keeps their cards and the game starts immediately after which the cycle starts over again.
The player who holds ♣2 after passing the cards, leads to the first trick, after which the other players each play a card clockwise. As usual in many card games, one should always follow suit if possible. The player with the highest card in the suit led wins the trick and leads to the next trick. There is no trump suit.
If someone no longer has any cards in the suit led, any card may be played. This means that it is not mandatory to play hearts ♥ when one cannot follow another suit! Note that this is different from Barbu King, where in the negative games it is often mandatory to throw away penalty cards, if possible. There is one exception to this rule: in the first trick - which is always led by ♣2 - penalty points may never be played, unless there is no other option (an extremely rare situation by the way).
One may also never lead a heart ♥ if no hearts ♥ have yet been played in another trick. If hearts ♥ have already been played, hearts are said to be broken. Some players also allow hearts ♥ to be played when the Queen of Spades ♠Q has been played, but no hearts ♥. This is not allowed on Whisthub.
Below are some examples to illustrate the rules of the game.
The first trick is always led by ♣2, so if one still has clubs ♣, one must follow suit. If one has no clubs ♣ left, one may play any card except hearts ♥ or ♠Q.
If one still has diamonds ♦, one must of obviously follow suit. If one has no diamonds ♦ left, one may play any card. It is not mandatory to play hearts ♥ or the Queen of Spades ♠Q.
Suppose that before this trick no hearts ♥ have yet been played and that ultimately no hearts ♥ end up in this trick either, then the player on turn in the next trick may not lead a heart ♥, even though the Queen of Spades ♠Q was played in this trick! The exception to this is obviously when there's no other possibility.
That said, note that on Whisthub it is impossible to play cards that are not allowed according to the rules. These cards are grayed out and nothing happens when such a card is picked.
Since the Queen of Spades ♠Q accounts for 13 penalty points - half of the number of penalty points to be distributed per deal - the focus initially is usually on (avoiding) the Queen of Spades ♠Q. This also explains the name of the game in French, i.e. Dame de pique and also the English alternative name Black Lady. Usually, in the beginning, low spades ♠ are played to force the person with ♠Q to take the trick.
The Queen of Spades ♠Q also plays a major role in the passing of the cards. Players almost never pass spades ♠ lower than ♠Q because they offer "protection". If one has the ♠Q, it is often passed, unless one has enough low spades ♠ not to be forced to play it. For the same reason, ♠A and ♠K are also often passed.
It is also important to keep track of whether hearts ♥ have already been played and especially who already has penalty points. If halfway through the game there is only one player with penalty points, an alarm should go off whether this player is not trying to get all the penalty points. In that case it is best to stop dumping ♥ hearts and do everything you can to give someone else penalty cards, and if necessary, win a trick yourself with penalties.
This also means that you have to be careful passing or dumping ♥A or ♥K, even when it is not yet clear whether someone is going for all the penalty points. After all, these are often the cards that the player shooting the moon will lack!
Enough with the theory, it's always easiest to get to know the game by practicing against the computer!