Basic Hearts

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Joe Andrews
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Basic Hearts

Post by Joe Andrews » Wed Aug 30, 2006 1:33 pm

Having looked at some of the recent posts, I write this article.

In order to become an accomplished player, you must master the strategies and techniques of the game. Here are the five most common errors made by newer Hearts players.

1. Failure to pass a low or middle heart.

Note: This applies to hands that have a specific directional pass. Every fourth deal is a 'hold' or a keeper hand.

I wish I had a dime for every time a player failed to pass a heart. There are more successful 'Moons' made by players who pass two or three losing hearts than are passed NO hearts. You may rest assured that once a player knows that you will rarely, if ever, pass hearts -- they will wait for the next time you pass to them. Then, it's off to the races, as that player sets up a hand for a Moon! You have a pass of three cards. Surely, you can spare one measly heart. If anything, you know that player who you are sending the heart to will not try for the Moon, unless they have all of the top hearts, a high spade, and control of at least one of the side suits – a pretty tall order! A bit of advice: never pass the Ace of hearts, and never pass a singleton deuce of hearts. These cards are just too valuable to release. Most experts will tell the "newbies pass" to pass their second highest heart. Now, there's some good advice.

2. Failure to play high cards early.

Note - If you have the protected spade Queen, you will sometimes save high cards in order to draw the first heart discard, or to facilitate stripping suit(s).

A lot of beginners seem to employ a 'duck and dump' approach. They take the lead early with a high club, and then exit with a spade (if not in possession of the spade Queen), or a middle/low card in another suit. Now their strategy is to duck everything in sight -- bad strategy! Suppose that you hold a diamond suit which looks like this: A K 4 2. You must take the first lead of diamonds and start leading spades or start looking for a safe 'out' in another suit. Hopefully, you will get a diamond lead from your left-hand opponent. In the heart suit, the 'ducking' approach may land you in a lot of trouble, especially if the spade Queen is still outstanding. Take your high trick(s) early, and look for a safe alternative.

3. Failure to 'read' or analyze the opponents' plays.

After the pass is completed, observe the next play (trick # 2 of the hand) by the person who wins the first trick. If they lead spades, you may conclude that one of the other two players holds the spade Queen (unless, you, of course have the 'lady' in your hand). On the other side of the coin, the player who avoids spade leads usually holds the 'lady' in their hand, or has a spade problem (a weak Ace or King of spades). Be very leery of a player who drops low cards early in the hand, and then shows up with higher cards in the same suits, as the hand progresses. (This is the dead giveaway to a Moon attempt.) Finally, keep a close eye on the player who grabs a bunch of early tricks, gets a heart discard, and then tries to 'sneak' a middle heart through. If you passed that heart, you better take it quickly, or face the possible wrath of the opponents who might be victimized by a Moon. Of course, the score and your position (1st-4th) has a bearing on your decision.

4. Failure to count cards, or remember specific cards that have been played.

This is a constantly recurring motif. If you hold the spade Queen after the pass, you must do everything you can to prepare your hand for the unloading of the 'lady' I have seen more players get trapped at the end of a hand, because they failed to strip side suits, or just did not count. There are those who also lose track of suits only to lead the #13 card of that suit, and get blasted with the spade Queen!

You must have a plan for each hand (e.g., 'drive the Queen'; take the first heart; go for the Moon; safely discard dangerous cards; etc.) After the pass is completed, take a few seconds and chart a course. Don't fly by the seat of your pants, or you will crash land more often than not.

5. Failure to play by position, and 'aim' for the low player. (in a one-player 'advances' tournament or a single round rated game)

I have seen players in third or fourth place toward the end of a game, hammering the spade Queen on each other, or allowing unobtainable Moons to succeed. As I said previously, you must keep track of the score. Why blast the last place player from the game, only to finish in the third or second slot? Remember, Hearts is a game of collusion, and often, you must cooperate with an opponent (or two), in order to prolong the game. The good players have no problem in applying the 'team' approach. Their games often end with all four players with scores in the 80s or 90s. 'Runaway' games in which one player has a 70 point lead on their three fellow players are dreadfully boring!

In summary, Hearts can be fun if you make the effort to count cards, play good defense, make sensible passes, avoid being a 'hog' or 'ducker,' and work cooperatively with your tablemates.

And you will not have two of the the opponents showering you with profanities or insults because you drove the spade Queen out of the hand of the high person, while you settled for third place!

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Post by Luna » Wed Aug 30, 2006 1:48 pm

Thank you for these simple reminders. I remember these tips from your book. These are very basic principles, but are very effective.

#4 is my biggest weakness. If the suit is played on consecutive tricks I can count fairly well, but the tough part is when other suits are played in the mean time. When I get the lead back I have to try to sort out what has gone, and what may still be out there. That is the biggest challenge for me.

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Post by Dust In The Wind » Wed Aug 30, 2006 2:40 pm

Very good Post Joe and rules I go by, and I do tell others 2nd highest heart, I will give you king of hearts and keep the ace for myself. If i didn't pass you a heart it was because either I myself am mooning or all I have is a high heart to give you. Do not count on the next hand to be the same.

Deception is one of the best tools a player can use to better a hand that looks like a lot of points. If I get the queen or heart on a trick whether I am mooning or not will play one of my high hearts. Your choice take it or pay the price or the potential moon. A lot of players if spade rich and have the queen will lead spades to play the deception that they do not hold her (in their Heart(s)).

Yep you must take chances to win, unless you have one of those hands that no one can get inside it, playing that high card on the first or second round of a suit play. Look at the distribution chances of cards 13 divided by 4, look at what you have and what was passed can tell you a lot about where cards are.

WATCH the card play, if your not paying attention, looking for key cards in reference to your hand, what was passed then you will make a mistake. This goes for getting lowman as much as shooting the moon. If I am shooting I am watching for cards I need to see to make my moon a reality. Playing lowman you need to watch what they are playing are they out of a suit, what are they playing off, try not to lead spades so they can dump off that ace or king of spades without a chance to eat that queen. Passing to the lowman is YOUR best opportunity to set them up for the queen and if everyone is watching they know also where/how you set them up.

Counting cards in your head is key to good card play and if your real good you know WHAT cards have been played, who has what (or good probability) how to play the rest of your hand, how to get low (if possible) after the 2nd card played.

I also know exactly how I will go about playing my hand as the cards fall, when I have the lead, before the first card is thrown. Strategy is key in any card game and if you don't try to find and use one it will be difficult to win consistently. Do I get surprised yes not all plans work as you well as you hoped there are uneven card distributions, not well thought out plays and just plain old bad luck..... but that is only one hand.

Be prepared to sacrifice to stop the moon (and try not to dump queen on the savior). Give that Jack of Diamonds to highman rather than lowman if you know you can't keep it for yourself (keeps the game going until you can win). Let highman moon if it will help extend the game until which time you can win, if lowman wants to win they will stop the moon if they can.

When passing try to short suit or null suit yourself. Look at which suit you are covered in have a fair amount of low cards to high cards. Beware passing a moon. Look at what a player passes you, can tell you a lot of what you might expect next hand. All this depends on your hand and what you intend on what you wanting to do.

Don't try to moon each hand, your going to lose the majority of your games. And on the same point go for it atleast once in a while, how you will learn how and when. Do not use BOTS as your reference how live play will go, they are good if your just trying to learn the basics of the game but not how people will play or how you should determine how you should play. Playing with others will help you learn.

Each card you play can determine your destiny in this game and there is always another game to play, Melinda is holding a spot for me at her table when I get there a long long time from now!!!

JUST DUST

PS - I learned to play from my Dad and the finer points from many others here and other places I have played... including the NAVY, not just an adventure (played lots of games while waiting for something to happen).
TO BE OR NOT TO BE..... NOW WHAT KIND OF QUESTION IS THAT??? TO BE OF COURSE!!!!!

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Post by sandbar » Wed Aug 30, 2006 5:41 pm

:shock: My head is spinning, I knew there was a reason I played No Shoot games :P :wink: :wink:
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Thanks

Post by Becky2555 » Thu Aug 31, 2006 9:56 pm

Great post Joe, I will miss you this year at the Grand Prix, but have a good time and send me a kitten if you have any left. :lol:

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Post by Vidurr » Thu Aug 31, 2006 10:32 pm

Why blast the last place player from the game, only to finish in the third or second slot?
To protect ratings points.

An internet phenomenon for sure.

:-)

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Post by katie_smith » Sun Sep 03, 2006 10:00 pm

You forgot to mention that when a high heart is being played always play a higher heart if you have one. Ive seen too many Moons Shot because people dont want to play a higher heart because they dont want 4 points to their score. 4 is better than 26.

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Post by Dust In The Wind » Mon Sep 04, 2006 8:58 pm

Always stop the moon for the reason you gave there Katie, if I passed you the king of hearts you can be sure I have the Ace and will take that king.

JUST DUST
TO BE OR NOT TO BE..... NOW WHAT KIND OF QUESTION IS THAT??? TO BE OF COURSE!!!!!

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Post by Mr Nut » Tue Sep 05, 2006 6:51 am

the best part about hearts is it allows for some kind of freedom to play a wide array of styles..i have played and done well at most card games i have tried but always have come back to hearts because it is more difficult to "master"..your post is very good and a great tool for peeps that are trying to grasp the concept of this game but allowing points to be won by the 2d place player is the crutch that alot of people play by and in turn ruins alot of good players and makes them only care about finishing 2d..i'd surely prefer to play singles at sce but always feel that the game from the get go is lop-sided because few will play for lowman and alot of the topics you discussed go out the window as soon as the cards are dealt..hopefully in the near future the powers that be will finally make the changes and penalize 2-4th places the same amount and award points only to the winner..and better yet just compile records and let that show the player you r..tu for this forum..peace, Marc

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Post by omni_555 » Tue Sep 05, 2006 7:26 am

...Sorry, Mr Nut. AIN'T gonna happen! If HW keeps a rating system (and WITHOUT it the online game would not attract many people!) then it is going to HAVE to continue to reward 2nd and 3rd place finishers.

I agree with you that the dynamics of the online Hearts game is TOTALLY different from what you would expect to see in a live game. And there is really nothing that can be done about it UNLESS you want to play with an EXCLUSIVE group of friends who all have the same attitude towards the game.

For a number of years, 3 friends and myself would get together once or twice a week for a "card night". We mostly played cribbage, but the concept here is still the same. We all KNEW what was expected by way of playing etiquette, and we mostly adhered to that. SOMETIMES when one person was unable to make it, we would have someone else "sub" for the night. MAN!!! Was there ever a DIFFERENCE!!! That new person was not familiar with our playing conventions and "rules", and often did things during the game that would NEVER have been accepted with the original group playing.

The point is, people have different "styles" of playing, as well as different ability/skill levels. Not everyone (even some "veteran" players) can easily see the benefit to playing a pure lowman strategy when it means that they have to take a short-term hit for a long-term gain. And there is NO WAY that such play can be scripted or enforced other than among a group of people who have an agreement, and even then the only real enforcement would be to exclude that person from future games with the group...

Ideally, ratings are less of an indicator of the level of a player than his win/loss record. The reason for this is simple - a "false" high rating can be attained by getting a FEW lucky wins against high rated opponents, and a VALID high rating can get massacred by one or two losses against a LOW-rated player! But after playing several hundred games, if you see a player who has won most of his games, then you can USUALLY be pretty certain that he is at least a DECENT player!

The problem with using W/L record EXCLUSIVELY to determine a player's status in an online game is simply that it would be TOO EASY to manipulate - just think, all a person would have to do is have a "friend" make a throw-away nick and throw a whole bunch of games, and then discard that nick.

Sadly, one of the BIGGEST problems with online gaming is manipulation of records/ratings. If we could figure out some way to eliminate THIS, then we could have a MUCH BETTER online gaming experience for EVERYONE!!! ...Except those who NEED to manipulate things, of course! 8)
Playing games should be FUN - seek out your own level! Don't frustrate others unnecessarily. 8)

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Post by Vidurr » Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:47 am

...Sorry, Mr Nut. AIN'T gonna happen!

If HW keeps a rating system (and WITHOUT it the online game would not attract many people!)

then it is going to HAVE to continue to reward 2nd and 3rd place finishers.
It may indeed not happen.

Yes, ratings is an attraction.

No it does not HAVE to reward 2nd and 3rd place.


As with many HW game variations, HW could make rewarding of 1st place only, an OPTION, for players to select.

As an option, for those who wish to mimic the "live game"; they would have that option. For those that don't; set the game you prefer.

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Post by Luna » Tue Sep 05, 2006 10:04 am

Vidurr wrote:
...Sorry, Mr Nut. AIN'T gonna happen!

If HW keeps a rating system (and WITHOUT it the online game would not attract many people!)

then it is going to HAVE to continue to reward 2nd and 3rd place finishers.
It may indeed not happen.

Yes, ratings is an attraction.

No it does not HAVE to reward 2nd and 3rd place.


As with many HW game variations, HW could make rewarding of 1st place only, an OPTION, for players to select.

As an option, for those who wish to mimic the "live game"; they would have that option. For those that don't; set the game you prefer.
That would be an interesting option to be able to select. I'd be more inclined to sit at a table where it says Rated-1st Place Gain Only. Followed by the game specifics. Or have a "Live Game" room where ratings would be based on 1st only getting points.

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Post by Dust In The Wind » Tue Sep 05, 2006 11:36 am

When I first started playing here I got into a group of people that we played everynight, we played the same game and played winner take all. No it did not reflect in our rating because we didn't care about the rating. We cared about just having fun, which we did within our small group of players and our games were always close because that is how we played it. It came down to the last hand in most of our games. When we didn't have one of our usual players and had an unknown the game changed.

It worked out where that player either changed their play tactics or it was their last game at our table, nope we didn't need to get nasty or mean, we either asked them to leave or just set a new table if they didn't want to leave.

That nic has 614 wins to 538 2nds and only a 1607 rating 3rds and 4ths much lower. It does not matter because we had fun everynight. At one time it was at 1100 and it still didn't matter, we still had fun.

So to me bottom-line is to have fun, find friends or players that play the way you like, forget the ratings and play each night together, bring the new player in and show them how to play the game and how to have a blast at the same time.

To me there is nothing like players that will go out of their way to make that game come down to the final hand and still anyones game.

JUST DUST

PS - Pards is a whole diff. kind of game, I've been talking cuthroat here. Oh and by the way we never had trouble filling our game because we knew who we were playing and had subs waiting to fill the seat.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE..... NOW WHAT KIND OF QUESTION IS THAT??? TO BE OF COURSE!!!!!

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Post by omni_555 » Tue Sep 05, 2006 2:14 pm

Vidurr wrote:
...Sorry, Mr Nut. AIN'T gonna happen!

If HW keeps a rating system (and WITHOUT it the online game would not attract many people!)

then it is going to HAVE to continue to reward 2nd and 3rd place finishers.
It may indeed not happen.

Yes, ratings is an attraction.

No it does not HAVE to reward 2nd and 3rd place.


As with many HW game variations, HW could make rewarding of 1st place only, an OPTION, for players to select.

As an option, for those who wish to mimic the "live game"; they would have that option. For those that don't; set the game you prefer.
OK, one reason you are unlikely to see this sort of thing as a game option is simply that it would result in two VASTLY different sets of ratings. A player who plays exclusively in "Only 1st Wins" games and wins 25% of his games will have a MUCH lower rating than had he played the SAME GAMES with the option off.

I'm not saying that is a BAD thing. It might actually be BETTER for the game overall. But the two options cannot realistically exist side by side. It's bad enough now that ratings for partnership games are combined with ratings for singles games. Over the years, many have tried to get SCE to change this so that singles games produce ONE rating, and partnership games produce a SEPARATE rating.

If SCE were to separate ratings between single and partnership games, and further divide ratings between free-for-all and classic lowman games, I think that it would be a huge headache for someone!!!

Dust, what you described is EXACTLY what I was talking about!!! If you get together with a group of like-minded people who agree to meet regularly to play the game the way THEY feel it should be played, there is nothing at all wrong with that, and it makes EVERYONE happy! In fact, that group you spoke of would, I am willing to bet, have played the games non-rated since the ratings were NOT a big issue.

I have tried playing the games without giving heed to ratings. What I have discovered was that when I struck a patch of bad luck and lost a few games with lower rated players, and my rating ended up in the toilet, I had a VERY DIFFICULT time getting games with higher rated players since MANY of them did NOT want to take the same risk that I had taken in losing MY rating points. I will still occasionally take on a game with lower rated players, and if I accidentally end up at the wrong table I will NOT leave just because of the players' ratings. BUT it IS a factor that plays a part in my overall play simply because of how the majority of players view things.

Maybe if we ALL had a "group" that we got together with almost exclusively then we could dictate style of play a little more forcefully, but like Dust indicated in his example situation, when an "outsider" sat in on the game it changed the whole dynamics of the game.

"House rules" will ONLY work among a select group of people who WANT those particular "rules". Anyone else will be VERY resistant to being restricted by some artificial set of "rules" that the "clique" has set up. It doesn't MATTER whether those "house rules" make the game "better" - and "better" is a very subjective term. What is "better" for ONE person may totally SPOIL the game for another person. 8)
Playing games should be FUN - seek out your own level! Don't frustrate others unnecessarily. 8)

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Post by Vidurr » Tue Sep 05, 2006 10:23 pm

OK, one reason you are unlikely to see this sort of thing as a game option is simply that it would result in two VASTLY different sets of ratings. A player who plays exclusively in "Only 1st Wins" games and wins 25% of his games will have a MUCH lower rating than had he played the SAME GAMES with the option off.
The rating system is imperfect. Always will be. HW has chosen to not seperate game variations into multiple ratings lists. A good idea in my opinion.

But players continue to play. Players continue to come to HW.

Making 1st Place only a game option would be like playing the JOD or pass or partners; it's just another variation.

Same rating system applies.

If you don't want to play one of the variations then don't.

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