3 to 7, best with 4.
Standard 52-card deck.
A (high) to 2 (low).
At the end of the game, the player with the lowest score wins.
Your goal in each hand is to:
- Avoid winning any tricks including a heart or the Queen of Spades (aka the Black Maria), or
- Win all 13 hearts and the Black Maria.
In a 4-player game of Hearts, each player gets 13 cards.
In a 3-player game, the 2 of diamonds is removed and each player gets 17 cards. In a 5-player game, the two of diamonds and two of clubs are removed; each player gets 10 cards. In a 6-player game, the two and three of diamonds and the three and four of clubs are removed; each player gets 8 cards. In a 7-player game, the two and three of diamonds and the three of clubs are removed; each player gets 7 cards.
After looking at his or her hand, each player chooses three cards and passes them face down to another player. All players must pass their own cards before looking at the cards received from an opponent.
The passing rotation in a 4-player game is: (1st hand) to the player on your left, (2nd hand) to the player on your right, (3rd hand) to the player across the table, (4th hand) no passing. The rotation then repeats until the game ends. When other than four players are involved, the passing rotation is: (1) to the player on your left, (2) to the player on your right, then repeat.
The player holding the 2 of clubs after the pass plays that card to start the first trick. (If the 2 of clubs has been removed for the 3-player game, then the 3 of clubs is led.)
Each player must follow suit if possible. If a player has no cards in the suit led, a card of any other suit may be discarded. Exception: If a player has no clubs when the first trick is led, a heart or the Black Maria cannot be played.
The highest card of the suit led wins a trick. The winner of the trick keeps all cards won in a single stack in front of himself or herself, face down. The winner of a trick starts the next trick.
Hearts may not be led until a heart or the Black Maria has been played (this is called "breaking" hearts). The Black Maria can be led at any time.
There is no trump suit in Hearts.
Use a score sheet with a column for each player. At the end of each hand, count the number of hearts each player has taken, as well as the Black Maria. Hearts are 1 point each; the Black Maria is 13 points.
If one player has won all 13 hearts and the Black Maria (this is known as shooting the moon), that player can choose to subtract 26 points from his or her score, or to add 26 points to every other player's score.
Hearts is generally played to 100 points (any score can be agreed on before the game begins, but 50 is a good minimum). When one player reaches or passes the agreed-upon score, the game ends. The player with the lowest score wins.