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The Many Playing Styles of Hearts

Leonardo da Vinci once said that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. These words describe the rules of Hearts, pretty well. All you have to do is take as many low-value cards as you can. Even though the rules of Hearts are simple, it can be quite a complex game. There are also several strategies you can follow, depending on the cards you have. If you want to make sure that you are always adopting the best strategy or if you simply want to learn more about the play styles you can adopt, then the only thing you have to do is take a look below.

The Low-Layer

If you’re a beginner, this is the strategy you should be adopting. It’s not only the most natural, it’s also the most logical. The low-layer hates having high–value cards. You will be a defensive player, with the aim of winning as few tricks as possible. Zero tricks translates to zero points. If you were to adopt this playing style then you don’t have to make voids. Overall, your main objective is to try and pass off any cards equal, to or above Jack. Spades are your main priority, closely followed by Hearts. If you follow this advice blindly however then you may find yourself in hot water. Going under doesn’t mean having low cards. You just need to make sure that you have lower cards than the suit being led. First of all, it’s helpful to locate your trouble suit first. This is a suit that has mid to high cards, without a single low card. Void this first.

Don’t pass on an A or K of Spades all the time. If you have four Spades or more below the Queen, you will be able to withstand any siege that other players may lay to you. Pass a 7 or J of your identified trouble suit instead.

Points to Note about the Low-Layer

Locate your trouble suit and take care of it

Don’t have any high cards that aren’t covered by low cards

Void suits if you can

This playstyle is overall, quite simple. You just need to go under in any scenario you can. This is very difficult when you are playing second. There will be times when playing a high card is a justified risk. If you are in the rare position where you are in the lead, then try and bleed any Spades. You really do want the Queen of Spades to be out of the game ASAP. Get rid of your trouble suits first.

There are some risks to being a low-layer, first of all, creating voids is not your top priority. Playing low cards from the get-go is your strategy, so you may be exposed when it comes to tricks. You may find that you have to take all of the tricks in the late stages of the game. This can be bad, as many players will leave their point cards until the end. Another risk would be the fact that a low-layer play style is a passive one. If there are two or even three Low-layers in the game, then this paves an easy victory for the Shooter.

The Voider

Having no cards of any suit means you have created a void for that particular suit. Having one or two voids at the start means you have a great advantage because you have zero chance of taking a trick. It also gives you the chance to slough some of your high cards when someone is leading that suit. The Voider plays both a defensive and a passive role in the game. When playing The Voider, you need to make sure that you never void the same suit in each round. If you only ever pass Clubs then your opponents will figure this out. They will then pass Clubs to you. If possible, you need to adapt to the hand you are dealt with. There’s a 25% chance of you voiding two suits during the Passing phase. This doesn’t take into consideration which cards might be passed to you, but this type of thing can’t be predicted anyway.

Voiding Spades

If there is one important rule you need to play in the game of Hearts, it’s that you need to make sure that you don’t pass Spades. With any rule though, it can be broken under the right circumstances. Voiding a Spade is a bold move, to say the least. If you do not have an A, K or Q of Spades to pass during your turn, but you happen to receive one then this could ruin your entire game. The best thing about voiding a spade is that it’s an unexpected move and it helps to keep people on their toes. Experienced players won’t void Spades if they are lower than a Q and it’s possible for you to take advantage of this if you play your cards right. The situation to do this would be if you are not in the lead.

Voiding Hearts

The one downside to voiding hearts is that you can’t profit from some of the early tricks of the round. There’s a very good chance that when Hearts are broken, tricks will give you the chance to get rid of any high cards you have.

Voiding Clubs

When it comes to voiding suits, clubs are often the easiest suit to void. You can slough a high card on the initial trick if you do not have any clubs at all. Even if you have 4 Clubs, if you can pass 3 then you will be able to void your suit on the first trick.

Voiding Diamonds

Diamonds are often seen as being the most boring of suits. Diamonds are a good choice when it comes to voiding. Even though it’s not as much as Clubs, it’s often played earlier on and this can lead to you being able to slough some of the bad cards before the game gets too far in.

Playing as the Voider

When the round starts, the game style, if you play as the voider, will be very similar to that of a low-layer. You don’t want to win tricks if you can avoid it. Sometimes though, if you do want to create a new void, you can win a pointless trick so you can drive the suit you really want. When you slough cards, logic will dictate that you slough from the suit that has the least cards. If there is a problematic suit, where you don’t have any mid or low cards, then you may want to pick it up. Ideally, when the final tricks come around, you will have two long suits that have plenty of low to mid-cards. You may even be able to shoot for the moon if your suit is long enough.

Points to Note as the Voider:

Playing as The Voider is not without its risks. You may end up being passed the suit you are trying to void and on top of this, the suits you voided are not played.

Using psychology can be a great help when it comes to the first issue. Always pass on clubs if you are going to the left and when passing to the right, always opt for diamonds. If you do this then you will confuse both sides. You will encourage your opponents to pass the right cards to you during their turn, helping you in your quest to create a long suit.

Great for new players

Ideal for those looking to adopt a new strategy

Quick and easy to learn

The Equalizer

The Equalizer brings balance to the game. Their goal is to pass the point cards to other players. They do this mainly to the current leader. It is a passive strategy but at the same time, there are a lot of offensive elements. If you do play this role correctly, you may find that you end up with quite a low amount of points, which works to your advantage.

Playing this role means that you need to have all the point cards. You can then distribute them to whoever you want. Voiding diamonds and even Clubs is always a good thing to do, but you want to keep all of the point cards you have. You also need a lot of Spades so you can endure any possible siege attempts.

Playing as the Equalizer

The best strategy you could hope to adopt here would be for you to void Clubs and Diamonds if you haven’t done so in the passing stage. If you do want to distribute points to other people then you should not be leading tricks. Try and go under where possible and be careful not to slough your point cards to one person. If you do then this will assist them in shooting.

Points to Note about the Equalizer

When you try to give points to other people, you won’t be the most adored person on the table. You will be hit now and again, but because you don't have a risky hand, and you’re probably not going to be leading, this means you can adopt a safe role overall.

A relatively safe role overall

Great for beginners and new players

No need for risky hands

The Shooter

The Shooter is a high-risk position. The consequences of you failing are great. The prize, however, is even greater. You shouldn’t play The Shooter often as most people will try and sabotage you. Try Shooting the Moon, but only if you know that your opponents do not expect it.

If you want to pass cards as The Shooter then there are a few ways that you can do this. You can try and have high cards from all suits or you can simply opt for a really long suit. Obviously, you cannot shoot with every single hand. Picking up one of the two strategies listed here is a good idea, but it depends on the cards you have. If you can make a long suit that is 7+ then leave your Aces and Kings from other suits. Don’t forget that you have to win a trick, outside of your long suit, if you want to lead.

If you notice that your initial hand is filled with high cards from every suit then this is even better. Make sure that you pass all of your low hands, especially if you have low hearts. When it comes to the last tricks in the round, everyone is going to try and keep their hearts. You want only high Hearts, as trick-winners. The third option would be for you to be hazardous yet sneaky. You will void your hearts. This will help to bluff the player that you are passing to. On top of this, it will also give you an advantage in the late game. Everyone will try to stop you with Hearts but you won’t actually have any. Most importantly if someone does try and slough a heart in a trick, and it is won by an opponent then you can then rethink your strategy and take up the position as a low-layer instead.

Playing your Hand as a Shooter

When playing as The Shooter, you need to take all of the point cards. A lot of new players make the mistake of thinking that they need to take all of the cards and this isn’t true. You can skip the first tricks. In fact, you don’t want to win them. The main reason for this is because it’ll drain your high cards and it will make your strategy clear for all to see. Counting cards is a great way to work when you are The Shooter. If you can keep track of every card that can stunt your long suit or high cards then this will help you to calculate any winning tricks. The later you can do this, the better. With that in mind, the risk of someone else sloughing a heart is great.

Points to Note about the Shooter

First of all, when people figure out you are playing as The Shooter, they are going to take extra steps to stop you. Even if they have to take out the Queen of Spades, it’s important to know that 13 points is always better than 26. The price you pay for not Shooting the Moon is huge. There is absolutely nothing worse than scoring 25 points because someone managed to keep the last Heart card away from you.

The price for not shooting the moon is huge

High-risk playstyle

Much more suited to intermediate players

The Sheriff

Whenever there is a villain who is trying to hand 26 points to everyone, a law enforcer has to rise to the occasion. The Sheriff's only goal is to stop anyone from being able to shoot. It’s an ungrateful task that will win you some points, but someone’s gotta do it. If you want to win then being this position full-time is not the way to go. Ideally, you will play this role between playing other roles.

If you want to pass cards as The Sheriff then make sure that you pass a low Heart. These are a real nuisance to Shooters and this is especially the case if you combine it with a higher Heart that you know you can beat. Another option would be for you to pass a high and a low card that you can beat. If you collect the right hand after passing then you may even change to be The Shooter yourself. That being said, the main thing you should be doing is bleeding hearts. It obliges the Shooter to win tricks sooner in the round, so you can make the play harder. If you do discover what suit The Shooter is trying to void then try and play it extensively. They won’t be able to win a trick and you can then hope that another player is going to bleed a Heart. This will ruin the game plan of The Shooter.

Another strategy would be for you to take the lead after the Queen of Spades has been played. This will be a direct rivalry with the Shooter in terms of every trick. It will also end poorly for everyone as you will score points, but it will not be as much as 26. After you have mitigated any Shooters, you can then opt for a Low-Layer position,

Points to Note about The Sheriff

Not a full-time position

Opportunities to become the shooter

Ideal for experienced players

There are some downsides to playing as the Sheriff. If you want to stop the Shooter then you will get hit. If things go wrong then you may end up with a lot of pain points. Only play Sheriff if you suspect an active shooter, and you know that right now, you are not in the lead.

So, there you have it! Some of the top playing styles you can adopt when playing Hearts. Which one is most suited to you and your experience level?


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