A standard deck of cards (no Jokers)
A pen and score sheet
3 or 4 players
Deal 13 cards to each player, if there are four players. For three players, remove the 2♣ and deal 17 cards to each player. Players assess their hands and pass three cards to another player. Typically, cards are passed to the left, but players can pass cards across the table, to the right, or in whatever fashion the table agrees. Players must accept the three cards they are given.
Play begins with the person to the left of the dealer. Each player plays one card. Players must follow the suit of the card that is lead. If they have no cards of that suit, they may get rid of whatever card they choose. The person who plays the highest card of the lead suit takes the trick.
The game is called Hearts because the cards of that suit play a critical role in determining the winner. Each heart taken in a trick is worth a point. The goal is to end up with as few points as possible. The only non-heart card that is worth points is the Queen of Spades. This is by far the worst card to take in a trick, because it is worth 13 points by itself!
During play, a heart can only be lead if the hearts have been “broken,” which occurs when a heart is played in a trick where another suit is lead.
After each hand, tally the number of points each player has accumulated and write it down
If, after a hand is completed and the points are tallied, a player has reached 100 points, then the game is over. The player with the fewest points when this happens is the winner.
Shoot the moon
Most versions of this game include the option to “shoot the moon.” This is when a player tries to get all the points in a hand, rather than avoiding them. If he can successfully capture all 13 hearts and the Queen of Spades, then he gets a huge point boost. But this is a very dangerous move, because getting all but one point will leave a player with a huge point penalty of 25 points. But if he does shoot the moon successfully the player may either A) subtract 26 points from his point total or B) add 26 points to all the other players’ point totals, whichever suits his strategic needs.