Card Playing Terms for Hearts

By Neal Taparia - 6/13/2024

The free Hearts game is a classic online card game and one of the most popular digital games for elderly people and players who want to find a fun, cost-free game they can play on any device in any location. New players should familiarize themselves with the terms and phrases often used during gameplay–such as ‘trick-taking,’ ‘shooting the moon,’ and ‘picking a suit’ to start!

Let’s clarify all the most used terms in Hearts, ensuring you're well-versed in the phraseology and can focus on your game.

Terms Used in the Hearts Online Card Game

Hearts is a card game people have played and enjoyed since the 1880s. The first term to understand is a ‘trick’, which refers to the four cards from one suit, one from each player’s hand, that are set down on the table:

    The lead is the first card set down, which determines the suit all other players must select. If a player doesn't have a card from that suit, they are 'void' and can 'slough' or get rid of any card they like.
  • The next card is the follow. Any card put down by any player can also be called a ‘play,’ whether it’s a ‘lead,’ a ‘follow,’ or a ‘slough.’

If you're new to card games, a ‘hand’ means the set of cards each player holds at any moment. The suit is either Clubs, Diamonds, Spades, or Hearts. Once the game begins, you'll work in rounds, broken down into thirteen tricks played throughout the game.

Because there are four suits in a deck of cards, you'll play with the same suit more than once. The 'go around' refers to the number of times a trick within one suit has been played, or the number of times it has gone around.

Tricks and Plays to Know in Hearts

Onto the gameplay itself, and you might have a long or a short suit, depending on the number of cards you have in your hand that belong to the same suit. A ‘long suit’ refers to seven or more cards held by one player in the same suit. In contrast, a ‘short suit’ normally means two or fewer cards.

Hearts Card Game: Tricks

‘Taking a trick’ refers to a play when a person plays the highest card in the trick–they are then the player who leads on the next trick. If you find yourself under ‘siege,’ a player who doesn't have the Queen of Spades in their hand tries to force you to set her down by leading over and over with Spades.

This strategy tends to happen earlier in a game of Hearts, and a player with the Ace or King of Spades is less likely to want to lead with Spades.

Depending on the lead card, you might respond with:

  • A ‘low card’: This is a card that you accept which is likely to be beaten by another card in the trick.
  • A ‘topper’: This is a card that cannot be beaten. The Ace is initially the only topper in play, but if there has already been an Ace suit during the game, the King becomes the topper. If you have the Ace, King, Queen, and the number ten in your hand, then all those cards turn into toppers.
  • A ‘stopper’: This is a high card, normally a high-value Heart, that takes the trick to prevent an opponent from shooting the moon (more on that shortly!).

Another play is an ‘out card,’ which helps you pass the lead to another player. There are three out cards in a suit: cards two, three, and four. Like the transition between toppers, once those lowest cards have been played, the numbers above them turn into out cards.

Popular Plays Used in Hearts

Finally, you’ll need to understand these terms to become a great Hearts player:

  • ‘Bleeding’ or ‘broken hearts’ means that a Heart has been sloughed to somebody else when the player holding that Heart is void. Hearts cannot be used to lead until broken, unless the lead player has no other suit.
  • ‘Shooting the moon’ means the player tries to take all the points cards, ensuring that those points are all assigned to the other players.

Throughout the game, you could hear the Queen of Spades called the ‘Unlucky Lady’ and a myriad of other terms–this is because this card is worth thirteen points, and having her in your hand means you're unlikely to end up with the lowest points and be declared the winner.

Ready to try a hand of Hearts? Play for free at now!