Hearts was developed during the 1800s (The Diagram Group 94). It was based on a game played during the 1700s called Reverse. It's called Hearts because winning cards from the hearts suit in tricks costs players points (Morehead and Mott-Smith 62). In a way, the object of the game is the opposite of the object in Whist because Hearts players are trying not to win tricks, especially the ones containing hearts cards.
The rules for this game come from The Key to Hoyle's Games, pp. 66-67, with some further information from The Way to Play by the Diagram Group, p. 94. Although penalty points can be given to players who fail to follow suit in the game, I recommend going easy on beginners.
Players: 3 to 7 people, although 4 is best (Players play as individuals, not teams.)
Object: To get rid of all your cards in the hearts suit.
The Deck: A regular 52-card deck
Other Equipment: Pencil and paper to help keep track of the score, possibly poker chips or similar markers. (See the Scoring section to decide which method to use.)
The Deal: Start by dealing all of the cards out to all of the players in a clockwise direction. It is important for all the players to have the same number of cards.
Important Tip: To make the deal come out evenly when you're not playing with four players, remove some of the low-ranking cards before dealing them. Just make sure not to remove one of the hearts cards.
Be sure not to remove the two of hearts if you have to take out deuces!
Tricks: The player sitting to the left of the dealer begins the game by laying a card down on the table (this is called "leading"). The other players take turns laying down cards also. If a player has cards in the suit that the first player led (the "leading suit"), he must lay down one of them (this is called "following suit"). If a player does not have any cards in that suit, he can lay down a card from any other suit (this is a good way to get rid of hearts cards, see the Strategy section below). The cards that the players lay on the table are the "trick." Once everyone has laid down a card, the cards in the trick are given to the player who put down the highest-ranking card in the leading suit. Ace is the highest-ranking card in the game, followed by king, queen, and jack. All the other cards rank according to their number after the face cards. Twos rank the lowest. The person who won the trick lays the trick cards upside down on the table in front of him, and he gets to lead in the next trick.
Note: Unlike in Whist and similar trick games, there is no trump suit.
Strategy: Don't worry about winning tricks. The less tricks you win, the better because you won't get as many hearts. The whole object of the game is to not end up with any hearts cards, so you want to make sure that other players win those cards instead of you. If you are leading a trick and you have some low-ranking hearts cards (ex. two of hearts, three of hearts, or four of hearts), lay down one of them. The others will have to lay down hearts cards themselves (if they have them) in order to follow suit, and most likely, their cards will be higher than yours and will take the trick. Another way to make sure the other players will take your hearts cards is to lay them down when you don't have a card of the leading suit left in your hand. Because only a card of the leading suit can win the hand, someone else will win your card along with the trick. This is a good way to get rid of high-ranking hearts cards, like the ace and the king, which would be likely to take a trick where the leading suit is hearts. If the leading suit is hearts, just play the lowest hearts card you have and hope for the best.
Players continue to lay down cards for tricks until all of the hearts cards have appeared in a trick. (Keep track of the hearts cards as you play.) Then, the hand ends (The Diagram Group 94). Everyone counts the number of hearts they've won in tricks to determine their score.
The dealer for the next hand of the game is the player sitting to the left of the last dealer (The Diagram Group 94). You can play as many hands as you like.
Scoring: Players do not win points for the tricks that they win. Instead, points are counted by the number of hearts that players do or do not have. There are different methods for keeping track of the score. I recommend the first two methods because they're the easiest.
Penalties: If a player does not follow suit when he has a card of the leading suit in his hand (this is called "revoking"), he doesn't receive a penalty if he corrects his mistake before the cards are given to the person who won the trick. If he doesn't correct his mistake and the other players catch him revoking, he gets a penalty of 13 points. The hand ends immediately, and the none of the other players receive a penalty for the hand (The Diagram Group 94).