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Hearts Column of the Month -- October 2003




By Joe Andrews




Hearts Aflutter -- Winning the Old-Fashioned Way

Hearts Aflutter (HAF) is a group of dedicated and accomplished Zone Hearts competitors who know how to play the game. Their strategy is quite simple -- get the low man!  No frills, no fancy plays -- just aim low!  "Ducking and Dumping" (often called "Dirty Hearts") is not tolerated.  Any player who wants to take a "Dirty Hearts" approach is soon drummed out of the group, or has a difficult time finding games. Shooting the Moon is very infrequent, unless you are dealt the top cards in Hearts and Spades. Most important of all is -- TRUST.  These players have great patience, and will risk taking the Spade Queen (if sitting in second or third place) rather than dumping it on the high player. Thus you have reassurance when you are in third or fourth position of not being a target -- unless the low person (only) is after you! Hearts Aflutter regulars congregate in Tournament Room #5 during most early evenings. If you are up for this style of Hearts, by all means check them out.

The following is a brief excerpt from their site:

Hearts is a game that is easy to learn but difficult to master. Some play it as a simple game like checkers, but the best players play it as strategy like chess.

Hearts is a very old classic card game, over 100 years old. It is different from most other games in that it is a one-winner game with second being no better than fourth.

Classic Hearts (only one winner) should be played using DIFFERENT strategies than apply when playing "rated," 2 advance, or round-robin formats. If you want to be good at Classic Hearts, endeavor to learn Classic Hearts strategies.

When possible, each hand should be played as a team of three against the "lowman" . . . with the team against low changing when another player becomes low. You have a better chance to win yourself when you endeavor to get the lowman's score up. However, depending on the lay of the cards, it is not always possible to do so every hand. It is a game of judgment of the situation at hand (including judgment of the caliber of the other players in the game). But no one's judgment is always perfect for each and every hand. Everyone make mistakes at times. To become a better player, learn from your mistakes and endeavor to make fewer mistakes. Some players get lucky and briefly climb in rank at times, but our player rankings and win-rate statistics do tend to show who can stay up there for long periods of time or climb right back up there over and over again.

Here is an interesting hand, which illustrates the spirit of Classic Hearts, or "Clean" Hearts, as I prefer to call this style.

In a typical Clean Hearts game, this deal comes along:






 7 6 4
 Q 6 4
 10 2
 9 6 5 3 2



 J 10 9 2
 A 9
 8 6
 A K J 10 7



 8 5
 J 10 2
 A J 7 4 3
 Q 8 4



 A K Q 3
 K 8 7 5 3
 K Q 9 5





The scores are West 58; North 32; East 54; and South 62

In the typical "Dirty Hearts," or "Duck and Dump," game, West would win the Deuce of Clubs lead, and immediately lead Spades. A careless South would drop a high Diamond on the first Club, and take the first Spade lead with the Ace. Now he tries the Queen of Diamonds. East pounces on this with his Ace, and continues Spades. South wins the King, and desperately tries to clear Diamonds. Sooner or later, a Heart is discarded.  West grabs the first Heart lead and rips out the Spade Queen with two more pushes. North gets away cleanly, and increases his lead.  South could prevent some aggravation by ducking the first Spade trick; however, the low player will escape anyway.

Classic or "Clean" Hearts players won't allow this to happen.  North is the target, and that is the objective.  West must hope that North does not hold the Spade Queen, or that East and South are not short in Spades. He also knows that his hand is quite bad, indeed.  Accordingly, West wins the first Club with the Jack, as South deposits the King of Dimes. Now he continues with the Ace of Clubs, as North drops the 9, and East lets go of the Queen. South dumps another high Diamond. A third round of Clubs fetches low spots from North and East, as South lets go of another Diamond. West persists with another Club, as he wants to strip North of his Clubs. East deposits his Jack of Hearts, and South rids himself of his last Diamond. West now shifts to his eightspot in Diamonds. North is doomed!  If he rises with the 10, an alert East will duck low, and here comes Her Majesty!  If he ducks with the Deuce, East also plays low, and South lets go of a medium Heart. Now the 6 of Diamonds administers the coup de grace, as the 10 is forced!

This line of play is not guaranteed to succeed -- however, it is sure a lot better than taking the easy way out by blasting blindly at the Spades suit! And this is how Classic Hearts is played!

Grand Prix National Hearts Championship -- Cincinnati, Ohio
November 7 and 8, 2003

If you are a competitive Hearts player, come to Cincinnati and test your skill against the best in the country. This is an "open" event for all.  Check out the link:

Grand Prix Tournaments 2003

Happy Halloween to all!