Partnership Hearts - A Legitimate Game?

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Joe Andrews
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Partnership Hearts - A Legitimate Game?

Post by Joe Andrews » Wed Jan 14, 2004 11:20 pm

Hi! My name is Joe Andrews. I am the author of several card game books, including "Win At Hearts". Some of you may know me from the Grand Prix National Series. In any case, there are two types of Partnership hearts Games: The Original and New Versions.

In the Original Variation, which was created in the 1960's, the members of a Team or Pair (seated opposite) worked as a Team. In other words, their scores were combined for each hand. Thus, the scores read "We and They" . You could Shoot the Moon together (one member of the Parnership might take 12 hearts, and other would take the spade Queen and the other heart )- thus combining for 26 points. Therefore, it was always imperative that your team take at least one heart per hand. When your side Shot the Moon, you would score zero, and the ops would take 26. Game ended at 100 points. Nice and clean and easy to track!

The Modern Version, a "hybrid" game - to be sure - was created in the late 1990's for Internet players. Because most Hearts sites maintained 4 individual scores, it became necessary to manually track the combined totals for each team if a Partnership game was desired. Some interesting peculiarities then resulted in the Modern Partnership variation:

a. If your team Shot the Moon, it would have to done by one member
of your Team. It was no good for your side to take all of the points,
if the points were divided. :(

b. If you did Shoot, the computer would still add 26 points to the scores of the other three players - thus dumping 52 points on the opponents, and
26 points on your partner! Sometimes shooting would be a big disadvantage if the 26 points dumped on your partner ended the game and your side wound up with the most combined points! :(

c. It was possible for one of members of a Team to go out with 100 or more points, and still have his side win the game (as long as the opponents combined scores were greater than the Team score of the player who did reach 100+ points.) :(

Although a lot of fun, and very entertaining, the Modern Partnership game is a flawed game. Sorry about that folks, but that is the way it is.

As for the Cheating Controversey, any private "carding" agreements in Partnership Hearts between the members of the same team is a form of Cheating. This is an exchange of information. In the game of Bridge, these private agreements are noted on a convention card, and alerted to the opponents.

Although controlled discard and suit preference signals are not as blatant as the use of IM's, headphones, cell phones, ICQ's, and discernable lags, they still are cheating!

"If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and waddles like a duck -
it's a duck!!!!!! :D

If you want to write to me about Hearts, or "live" events, please send
an email to heartsmoon@aol.com

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Post by Ukrgawd » Wed Jan 14, 2004 11:35 pm

Welcome to the board Joe. And thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to stop in and introduce yourself:) It was a pleasure to talk to you personally and I look forward to your input on many subjects here on the board including spades and euchre.
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oh my

Post by 1TOP MUSH » Wed Jan 14, 2004 11:40 pm

Well, Joe, Hardwood is one of those rare sites at which the "old partnership" version of hearts is played. (both scores are combined as one, and shooting the moon is a team effort, etc, exactly as you described it.)

I've played at other sites which used the 'internet' version you describe -- what a strange way to play that was!

I am, however, surprised and pleased at your intrepretation of using cards with pre-arranged 'cues' for signaling certain cards or plays.

As you may have noted, we have a lively discussion going here about this very issue -- and the camps are split nearly 50-50 between those who see this as 'cheating' and those who see it as 'normal conventions and smart playing'.

I can't wait to see the responses to your comments. You have, however, made my day!
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Post by Gray Goose » Wed Jan 14, 2004 11:56 pm

hehehehe, we gotcha now, Joe. You finally made it to the forum, now get your bad self over to Euchre and say hi.

http://www.hardwoodeuchre.com/ That’s all you need – 30 day free trial – we’ll have that much time to turn you into a regular – a true HardWoodie, lol.

Welcome to HardWood, Joe. You’re gonna love it here!

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Post by omni_555 » Thu Jan 15, 2004 8:49 am

Joe Andrews wrote:As for the Cheating Controversey, any private "carding" agreements in Partnership Hearts between the members of the same team is a form of Cheating. This is an exchange of information. In the game of Bridge, these private agreements are noted on a convention card, and alerted to the opponents.
Just a quick question here on that matter Joe...

In the example you mentioned (Bridge), is there ANY way of telling if a partnership is using an agreed-upon signal that WASN'T noted on their convention card? If so, is it grounds for disqualification? And if ONE team discloses ALL their "signals" to the other tema, but the second team is not as forthcoming, does not that put the first team at a BIG disadvantage?...

I keep thinking back to a comment that Just_Ice made in the "other" thread to the effect that this is something that is TOTALLY undetectable at a live table, UNLIKE body language, actual TALKING, or other forms of communicating information. And unlike those other forms of communicatin, "card signalling" is VERY MUCH dependent on the cards that are dealt in any given hand, and thus are NOT a DEFINTE communication between two players.

In light of what you said (and accepting your credentials) I am going to hold off on using any such "signals" in the future (actually, playing mostly with "pick-up" partners, I seldom had the chance to use those signals ANYWAY! ;) ), at least until this controversy can be resolved. But I will add that I STILL don't see WHY this is wrong... 8)
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Post by duffer36 » Thu Jan 15, 2004 11:19 am

Wow, I am shocked by the post from Joe. While fully expecting his response to private "carding" agreements, I did NOT expect his response to card "play". I myself thought that signals during the card play was considered legal. I was also not aware of the rules in Bridge to disclose card conventions to be used by the teams. Sorta defeats the purpose of using them if you have to disclose them. Hmmmmm, perhaps that's the intent!

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Partnership Hearts

Post by Joe Andrews » Thu Jan 15, 2004 5:57 pm

Hello once again. I stand corrected as to the Format of Partnership Hearts. I am very please to hear that the "Classic" (original) version is
played here in Hardwood. This is great news. I recall the days (early 1970's) when the New England Hearts Players' Association conducted Tournaments which drew as many as fifty Partnership Hearts Teams.

The question is "Does the use of (card) signals constitute cheating? Before I pass my final judgement, let me discuss a few points.....

Firstly, let's turn our attention to Conventions and "Carding" systems, often referred to as "signals". In the Bridge World, each Partership is required to state or declare their system - bidding , defense, and opening leads. The American Contract Bridge League requires this. At "live" events, each Team must complete a detailed Convention Card. The on-line Bridge Sites also enforce this Rule. Granted, a lot of bidding and defensive systems have become standardized over the years; however,
both Teams have the right to know what their opposition is doing.

As for Hearts, the use of Conventions is not normally a problem, as Hearts is usually played in a "cut throat" format. In Partnership Hearts, which is really a "variation" of the game, "private" agreements between the members of a Partnership gives their side an edge. Can anyone out there deny this onservation?? For example, if we agree that on the first trick of clubs, that if discard a high club or an odd numbered club, it shows the Queen of Spades in my hand. That is an exchange of information. - And if the opponents don't have this information, we are at an advantage. If we decide that that an even numbered heart played on the first round of hearts (or discarded on a side suit) shows the Ace or King of hearts, that is information. Some Pairs have agreed to a passing system on the across pass. (One player passes spades to his partner, who in turn, passes hearts.)

Would an alerting system work here? Probably not. There is no Official Hearts Organization. How could it be enforced? It could not be policed. And, if there was an alerting procedure, any pair who wanted to cheat could use the trusty old phone, ICQ, headphones, lagging, two computers, etc. etc. Partnership Hearts is not played at the very few "live" Hearts events which are organized.

In summary, the use of special discards or plays which are part of a Partnership understanding are a subtle from of cheating. However, I would not certainly not say that it is a blatant form of cheating. This issue will continue to draw commentary.

- And, if we are competing for glory or a place on a Rating Ladder, is flagrant cheating worth it? If you have any comments, interest in the "live" events, or want to chat about Hearts with me, please send an e-mail to - heartsmoon@aol.com

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Post by Just_Ice » Thu Jan 15, 2004 8:46 pm

Hmmm.

Very interesting.

Hi Joe... James here (not sure if you know me by my nic name).

I hold your commentary in the highest regard, Joe, as I have told you on the phone. I would however like to ask a few questions...

Does it not make a difference that both sides are allowed this same opportunity to signal?

Why would you penalize one side simply because the other side chose not to do it?

Can you show me the rule in Hearts where it expressly forbids the use of pre-arranged signaling?

Next, I would like to speak about Spades for a moment, as I am not very familiar with Hearts. I happen to know that card signaling is taught and recommended in the game of Spades. Heck, it even talks about the most common conventions (if you want to call them that--like hi-lo) in YOUR book "Advanced Win At Spades." The obvious question is...

What is different about Spades and Hearts that allows it in one game and not the other?

BTW, thanks for responding to my e-mail and posting here. It is very much appreciated, as you can see.

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Post by omni_555 » Thu Jan 15, 2004 10:36 pm

Joe, I would like to pose a question for you on this topic.

You say that a team should not use pre-arranged card signals in Hearts or Spades. My question relates to this situation. You are playing in a gamewith a partner against a couple of opponents who have been playing togetner for quite a while. Would you (or anyone else monitoring the game) have any way of knowing whether that team is using card signalling in their play, either deliberateoy or unconsciously? What I mean here is, is it totally against all likelihood that they will have learned or discussed at some prior time strategies that they have used in the past, and that these strategies (which would involve a knowledge of each other's approach to playing, or in other words, signals communicated by the playing or passing of cards) would come into play at some point in the game?

Further, would YOU not make use of facts that YOU knew about YOUR partner's approach to playing to glean information from the way that HE plays or passes his cards? I mean OTHER than the LOGICAL "if he bids nil in Spades and passes me the 2 and 2 of Spades, that means he is now void in Spades!"

I am not trying to impugne YOUR integgrity in playing the game, but just to understand the reality of the situation.

As Just_Ice has pointed out numerous times in this debate, there is NO WAY TO DETECT this type of playing, AND it is available EQUALLY to BOTH teams. If it were the fact that ONE team were using card signalling, but the other team were PROHIBITED from using it, then I would have NO argument that it would be cheating. But since it is IMPOSSIBLE to regulate such a style of playing, I can see NO good reason why it should be denied to ANYONE wanting to use it.

...Another question regarding the concept of notifying the opponents of your "playing conventions" in Bridge. HOW is it possible to enforce this rule??? Is it not possible - or even LIKELY - that a team would submit ONE set of conventions to the judge and then use a slightly different set??? If I have told the judge that I will play a low club to indicate strength in Hearts, and then when I have a strong holding in Hearts I lead off with the K of clubs, is THAT an actionable play? Can I be disqualified for "breaking convention" if I have seen that I might benefit MORE by playing DIFFERENTLY than I had stated prior to the game?

I really don't see ANY logical approach to this question other than to allow EACH TEAM to use whatever skills and techniques they have at their disposal in playing the game, as long as they let the CARDS do the talking for them. 8)
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Grrrrr

Post by 1TOP MUSH » Fri Jan 16, 2004 9:34 am

Again, Omni & Just_Ice, you seem to make NO distinction between

1) what you pick up by your own observation while playing or watching the game, and,

2) What you and your partner PRIVATELY AGREE TO, in advance of playing the game.

To me, that is the heart of the discussion.

If I observe that one opponent always leads low cards in the first few hands when they are trying to moon -- well good for me if I use that information to help thwart their attempt. If I observe that my partner or an opponent ALWAYS leads spades UNLESS he has the queen, then I can plan my passes and plays accordingly. These are not "signals" or "conventions" -- this is just watching the game closely and trying to read my opponents' and partner's cards.

If, on the other hand, my partner and I talk in advance, and lay out a series of "signals" to let each other know what cards we hold (or don't hold), then that is where I have the problem. Such 'signals' are not always detectable (they are DESIGNED to be secret), and, as such are an exchange of information between partners during the playing of the game.

It is the secret exchange of information that bothers me. Of course such secrecy is AVAILABLE to all the players, but if I think this kind of signaling is cheating (and I do), then I am to be penalized for not wanting to violate my own standard of ethics?

Simply to say such signaling is available to all, and some choose to use them while others do not, IS NOT accurate or fair. Some think signals are smart playing, others think they are cheatiing -- it is not a simple 'CHOICE" between "styles of play". Cheating is not a "style of play" to me. My only CHOICE in my own mind is between what seems WRONG and what seems RIGHT. I cannot choose what seems WRONG, so my only CHOICE is that I CHOOSE not to play in a way that seems like cheating to me.

P.S. Total votes so far are 31 votes on this poll and 31 on my tourney's newsletter poll: 57% say it is cheating or makes them uncomfortable( the tally: 32 cheating, 27 not cheating and 3 unsure but uncomfortable).

P.P.S. And yes, it does make me a little angry when I feel condescended to or that your responses are designed to make me and others feel ill-informed, ignorant, unskilled players, and downright stupid.
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Post by Just_Ice » Fri Jan 16, 2004 10:55 am

What I see as a major difference is the backgrounds of those who have commented. This is a Hearts thread and Hearts is a singles game by design. My guess is that you are polling primarily Hearts players? Spades is a partner game with no passing by design where the background is more along the lines of Bridge, Canasta, Pinochle, etc.

Mush, if you read my earlier response to Pokey, you will see that I make an absolute difference between the 2. My comments were summed up like this...

Signaling and convention has to be determined and communicated before the game ever begins. It's not anything you can learn as you go. So, I think there's an implied difference between "standard signal" and "common sense".

There certainly is an obvious and glaring difference between the 2. One takes planning and communication before the game and the other does not. It's not that I don't see a difference. What I don't see is where in the rules does it say this preplanned signaling can't take place?

It's the same question I asked Joe. I hope he responds. However, we can not ignore Steve's comments either.

Mushy, I hope that through my efforts to communicate my thoughts and feelings you have not taken it as a slam on you. My opinion is different. You can see that I questioned Joe just the same as I questioned you. It's not your feelings or morals (or any one else's for that matter) that I'm questioning. It's not intelligence or credibility that I'm questioning. This is something that I have not see discussed in cards from that point of view in 30 years. I don't know about you, but after 30 years it takes quite a bit for me to warm up to a different idea.

There is no doubt you feel as strongly about your point of view as I do mine. I would never belittle you for your point of view.

Maybe it's a matter where Hearts and Spades need to remain seperate.

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Post by duffer36 » Fri Jan 16, 2004 1:19 pm

omni_555 said:
As Just_Ice has pointed out numerous times in this debate, there is NO WAY TO DETECT this type of playing, AND it is available EQUALLY to BOTH teams. If it were the fact that ONE team were using card signalling, but the other team were PROHIBITED from using it, then I would have NO argument that it would be cheating. But since it is IMPOSSIBLE to regulate such a style of playing, I can see NO good reason why it should be denied to ANYONE wanting to use it.
OK, omni, it's time for me to use your own argument against you. Using your same logic as quoted above: Team A and Team B engage each other in a match. All four players have yahoo messenger. Does this mean it is Ok for them to IM their partners with their cards? It is impossible for each team to detect the other's use of such, it is available equally to both teams, and no one team is allowed to use it while the other is prohibited. Does this mean you think it is OK for players to use IM's to alert their partners of their card holdings? Is it OK to direct your partners plays based on the cards you hold? Using your own reasoning it is. But is this how you TRULY feel? I anxiously await your response.

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Post by Just_Ice » Fri Jan 16, 2004 1:21 pm

I'm not sure if you want me to respnd. But, I have an answer... and it has already been mentioned. But, I'll wait for omni... I have full confidence we'll hear from him :)

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Post by Lace » Fri Jan 16, 2004 1:50 pm

Just - Many of our hearts games are now Partners...with at times, up to more than 50% so it has become a definite problem and Hearts is not just singles game.

Let me ask the question a bit differently to see if you understand it this way:

You know enough about hearts to know that you avoid the Queen of spades, and would also want your partner to avoid it unless you were trying to take all the tricks and shoot the moon.

Now say for instance before the game started, you tell your partner that you'd foom him the shamrocks twice if you had the queen, and he'd do the same if he had the queen, so you'd know not to lead spades and end up with the Queen. Now is that fair? To me, that's a definite disadvantage fo the other team and cheating in my book. It's the same as calling them on the phone or IM'ing them and saying "This is what I have in my hand".

We're not talking about knowing the style of your partner or parding with them so long, you pretty know what they will play....we're talking about giving direct signals to let them know before hand what you have in your hand.

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sigh

Post by 1TOP MUSH » Fri Jan 16, 2004 2:15 pm

Just_Ice, hunnnnn, this is a HEARTS thread, and I run a HEARTS tourney, so YES, my tourney poll's responses are from HEARTS players.

As Lace points out, partnership hearts is VERY popular here (and is my own favorite form of hearts these days). Our tourney and another league I play in have 'regular' hearts tourneys two days a week; other tourneys have 'spot' hearts, or 'omni (jack of diamonds)', or other variations 7 days a week.

My poll was directed to Hearts players only, though I believe it applies to Spades as well (though the signaling takes a different form there).

And, while I think we all agree that Lace's example of foom use to signal certain cards is cheating (and my tourney prohibits all fooms in partner games, for this very reason), the issue here is pre-arranged signals which, while not so visible, do THE SAME THING.

In my mind, pre-arranged signals -- by foom, by intentional delay before playing your first spade, or by playing a certain card -- are all designed to give your partner information THEY WOULD NOT OTHERWISE KNOW by just playing the cards as dealt. And that, to me, is not fair. It may not be against any written 'rules' -- I've not seen any 'rule books for partner hearts' -- but it still strikes me as 'secret partner communication' -- just another variant of 'table talk'.
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