Hearts is a trick
-taking card game best played with four players
. If three or five play, one may even the deck by removing the ♣2 and/or ♦2, or placing the remaining cards in the middle after each deal
, to be taken by the player who takes the first trick.
The object of the game is to not take any hearts in tricks. Before each hand, all players ante. If one players takes all thirteen hearts, the pot stands. Otherwise, whoever took no hearts takes the pot, splitting it evenly if two people did so.
Such is the traditional method of playing Hearts, although the game today is known by its modern variants. In these games, the object is take as few points as possible, with each heart being counted as one point. Games are typically played to a point limit; when a player goes over a certain number of points, the player with the lowest score is considered the winner. One may also play to a time limit or for money. When playing for money, at the end of the night all players' scores are averaged, with players putting into the pot a set amount per point they have over the average, or taking out that amount for each point under.
Black Lady (usually just called "Hearts")
In Black Lady, the Queen of Spades (also called Black Lady, Black Mariah or a number of other colorful names) counts thirteen points for the person taking it. If a player takes all thirteen hearts and the ♠Q, they have "shot the moon," and have the choice of either adding 26 to everyone else's score, or subtracting 26 from their own.
Omnibus Hearts (aka New York Hearts, aka Hearts)
In Omnibus Hearts, the same rules as in Black Lady apply, but the ♦10 (sometimes the ♦J) counts -10 points for the taker. To shoot the moon, one must take all the hearts the ♠Q, and the ♦10.
Hearts for six or more people, uses two decks. Cards may be removed to make an even number. In Cancellation Hearts, if identical cards are played on a trick, they cancel each other out, and neither one is able to win the trick. If all cards played cancel out, then they are left on the table. The person with the lead retains it, and the cards are taken by the person who takes the next trick.