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 Hearts Tips and Strategies




Hearts Column of the Month -- August 2005




By Joe Andrews




What's New

MSN Games has officially launched the new Hearts program. You will really enjoy the many features and options!

I have played online Hearts for nearly ten years, and this is the best version of the game I have seen. The cards are larger and much easier to view. You may select the standard game, or the Jack of Diamonds version. I especially enjoy the option for a shorter game, which is really nice if you have a short lunch break or don't want to play to 100 points. You can also sort your hand by suit or rank. For those who wish to track their games, there is a History feature. This will help to improve your game, as you will be able to review your play, trick by trick.

MSN Zone Hearts is as close to playing the live version as you will ever see, and you don't have to shuffle the deck, determine whose turn it is to deal, which direction is the pass, or what the score is.

These new improvements in the Hearts area will please the newcomer as well as the seasoned pro. You might even catch yours truly in a game sometime. Go easy on me, I don't like having that nasty Queen dropped on me! Have fun!

Deals - Fair or Unfair?

The subject of random deals, computer deals, and live deals is the proverbial horse which has been beaten to death. The second guessing and commentary go on and on. Many players who lose repeatedly blame it on "bad cards." Their opponents are always lucky. To begin with, it is reasonable to state that the Random Deal Generator (RDG) for most established internet sites, including MSN Games, is programmed to produce fair and honest deals in their Classic card games.

However, if you look at the deals (shape and high/low card placement) for any 10 deals, you may observe that in some Hearts games, the cards were very unfairly distributed. Look at 100 deals, and you would observe a more balanced overall distribution. Look at 1000 deals, and the probability for approximate equal deals among four players would be virtually a sure thing.

Hearts is a game which is dictated by some clear-cut factors:

a. Your ability/talent.
b. The playing strength of your opponents.
c. The luck of the deal.
d. The placement of key cards in any given hand.
e. The player on lead and the cards in his/her hand.

Let's look at a the most common shape (distribution of a hand):

It is 5-3-3-2, (five of one suit, three of two other suits, and two cards in the last suit). Let's assume this hand has one Ace, one King, one Queen, and one Jack, and let's give this hand one of the three key cards (deuce of diamonds, deuce of hearts or three of clubs; we will take the three of clubs). Now we will add the four sevens, which will represent the middle cards, and finally, we will call this a hold hand (no cards will be passed to or received from opponents).

Now, here are some of the many possible hands which will satisfy the above prerequisites:




 A Q 10 7 4

 K 7 4

 J 7 3

 7 3











 A 7

 Q J 10 9 7

 7 4 3

 K 7 3











 Q 7 6

 A K 7

 7 6

 J 10 7 4 3











 10 4

 J 7 3

 A K 7 4 3

 Q 3











 J 10

 A K Q J 7

 9 7

 10 7 3










5-3-3-2 Shape. Note: This is not the same as the Bridge ranking of suits. Any suit could have 5-card length, 3-card length, or 2-card length.


In hand A, you are in great shape, barring a ridiculous spades break. You will strip the hand, planning to escape with a club or a diamond.

In hand B, you are in trouble! If you are lucky to survive the doubleton spade, the heart suit will surely be your "Waterloo!"

In Hand C, your spade Queen is weakly guarded. The only hope is for three diamond leads or a spade honor card popping in front of you.

In hand D, you are probably safe, barring a bad diamond layout.

In hand E, you have a shot at the Moon, thanks to the mass of high cards in the heart suit. BUT - this hand could either way, especially if a heart is dropped too early!

Amazing, eh? Each has the same shape, and almost identical high/low card content. It still comes down to WHERE certain cards are placed, the location or massing of high cards, and who is on lead at a given time. The so called "bad" hands might be escapable, whereas the so called "safe" hands could land you some points. The score is also a factor.

Hearts can be fun. More to come later.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!