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HEARTS

HEARTS and its several variations is very similar in principle to Black Maria because the object of the game is to avoid taking tricks that contain certain specified cards.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS

The game may be played by any reasonable number of players, but it is at its most interesting and skillful as a game for four, each playing for himself.

CARDS

The full pack of 52 cards is used.  However, when the game is played by three players or by more than four, low cards are removed from the pack to reduce it to a number that allows every poker player to be dealt the same number of cards.

THE PLAY

The play follows the general principles of trick-taking games: the player on the left of the dealer leads to the first trick, and thereafter the winner of a trick leads to the next; a player must follow suit to the card led if he can, and if he cannot he may discard any card that suits him.

The ♠ Q and all cards of the heart suit are penalty cards.  Every deal is a separate event, and the usual method of settling is to debit the player who wins the ♠ Q 13 points, and those who win hearts one point for each poker card.

A revoke is heavily penalized.  A player may correct a revoke if he does so before a card is led to the next trick; otherwise the revoke is established, the hand is abandoned, and the revoking player is debited all 26 points.

The game is No-Trumps a difficult one, but it calls for an ability to count the cards, read the distribution and visualize possibilities.  It is instructive to consider the play in the deal illustrated opposite if West has to make the opening lead and assumes that the best lead is the ♥ 2 because one of the other players will certainly have to win the trick.

Against West’s opening lead of the ♥ 2 the play will be short and sharp, and West will come off worst of all because good play by his opponents will saddle him with the ♠ Q

.
                       West                North               East                  South
                        ♠ 2                   ♥ 4                   ♥ 3                   ♥ 8
                        ♥ 6                   ♥ 7                   ♥ 10                 ♥ 9
                        ♥ Q                  ♥ K                  ♥ J                   ♦ A
                        ♥ A                  ♥ 5

                   ♠ Q                  ♦ Q

A more experienced West would have kept off leading a heart.  It is probably that his best lead is the singleton diamond, because he has nothing to fear in the spade suit, and, once he has got rid of his diamond, he gives himself the best chance to get rid of the dangerous ♥ A and ♥ Q.

DOMINO HEARTS

In this version of the game, the players are dealt only six cards each, and the rest of the pack is placed face downwards in the centre of the table. 

The player on the left of the dealer leads to the first trick, and the game is played in the same way as the parent game except that if a player cannot follow suit to a card that has been led he must draw a card from the stock, and continue to do so until he draws a card of the suit led.

Only after the stock has been exhausted may a player discard from his hand if he cannot follow suit to a lead.

Domino Hearts

Play continues until all the cards have been taken in tricks, each player dropping out as his hand is exhausted.  If a player wins a trick with the last card in his hand, the next active player on his left leads to the next poker trick.  the last player to be left in the game retain all the cards left in his hand, and takes into it any cards that may be left in the stock.

The ♠ Q is not a penalty card; only cads of the heart suit are, and one point is lost for each one taken in a trick  or left in the hand of the surviving player.

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