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  Hearts Tips and Strategies




Hearts Column of the Month -- September 2005




By Joe Andrews




MSN Games Hearts - New and Improved!

If you have not played a game of Hearts in this new arena, you are missing out on a great time. The updated features/graphics will enhance your enjoyment of one of the classic card games of our time!



Duplicate Hearts - A New Concept for a Great Game

Duplicate Hearts is the logical solution to the frustration of repeated bad hands. The standard game of Hearts is dealt fresh and randomly and, whether you are playing online or live, you are at the mercy of the card Gods. This is especially true in those close, end-game situations where all it takes is one killer hand where you eat 20 or more points, and a whole hour of effort is gone! In Duplicate the element of luck is eliminated. Each hand is its own entity and not part of a 100 point game. It is a comparison contest where everyone who sits facing the same direction at multiple tables receives the SAME hand. This system has been used by Bridge players (American Contract Bridge League) for decades. Thus, the best players usually win. All of their local, regional and national events are played as Duplicate. This format is also used online. (Check out the Bridge site at the Zone for more information).

Let us look at two Hearts hands (assume "keeper" or hold hands)



 A Q


 A K Q J 10 5

 K Q 10 7









 A K 3

 Q 5 2

 6 5 3

 J 9 5 3









In the first hand, you have lots of problems. Short spade Queen, stiff high heart, bad diamonds and clubs. Let's assume that the deuce of clubs is led. The Jack and Ace pop up in front of you. Some players would drop the King. Now a middle spade is led, two middle spots follow and you win your Ace.  Some players would cash a few high diamonds until a heart was pitched. Then they would try the Queen of Hearts. This would get jumped on by any decent player. With lots of spades kicking around, a spade lead would drop Her Majesty, and a nice, crispy 22 points rung up accordingly. The Duplicate player does not want to settle for an average result. Any seasoned player would try a different approach: On the first club trick, the seven is dropped. This promotes all of the clubs to winners. A spade goes around to the Ace. Now the clubs and diamonds are top dogs. And that is the key here. The next step is to run the hand (the minor suits) out to this two card position: Spade Queen and Heart Queen. The run of ten consecutive tricks will force opponents into discarding problems. Lots of spades will get dropped, that is for sure. Hearts will be guarded. Maybe the person who wins the Queen of hearts on trick #12 will reduce to the Ace of hearts and the deuce of hearts. And you unload your spade Queen! If the holder of the heart Ace chooses to keep a low spade with the big heart, you will be beaten. In regular Hearts, you will have lost very little. And in Duplicate, you will get a "bottom". But with everyone else having an average score, your loss is minimal here. And if the holder of the stopping heart reduces to a low heart as well, you will get a top (the best score for that hand).

In the second hand, the first club is won by the Ace across from you. The Jack of spades is played, and the fellow on your right plays a low spade. What is your play? You MUST try the Ace! (It’s a "finesse" of sorts). If the Queen is on your left, you are dead (anyway); if the lady is on your right, you will be OK. You exit with the five of diamonds. Of course, the fellow across the way may be under leading his spade Queen! Now, if he gets the lead again, and pushes another spade, and the Queen does not appear, you play your King. (And then drive a third round of spades.) The described approach to this hand will get you a very good result in a Duplicate game, or a regular game.  Good technique always makes a difference!

It is amazing how Duplicate Hearts can make "bad" hands a real challenge!



Cancellation Hearts – A Fun Variation

Here is a nice change of pace which is ideal for those times when you have more than five players and want to play a lively version of Hearts. Cancellation Hearts was created in the 1940s, and is still quite popular.

Number of Players: Seven to ten people can play.
The Pack: Two standard packs of 52 cards are shuffled together.
The Deal: The cards are dealt around as far as they will go evenly. Any remaining odd cards are placed face down for a widow, or “kitty."
The Play: No cards are passed before the play. The player to the dealer's left makes the opening lead, and the rules of play are the same as in Four-Hand Hearts with the following additions:

1) The widow is added to the first trick.
2) Cancellation: Two cards of the same rank in the same trick cancel each other and neither can win the trick. If all cards played to a trick are paired, the trick goes to the winner of the next trick.

Some really neat plays occur. For example, the lead of the deuce of spades can fetch both spade Queens, if other cards are all paired or matched. It is possible to shoot a "double" Moon, if the right combination of cancellation circumstances occur.

Finally, it is risky to play defense, especially if the spade Queens are at large.

Try it - you will like it!

See you in October!