10 Variations of Hearts to Try

By Neal Taparia - 3/28/2024

Hearts variations

Hearts is a classic and popular card game we all know and love. Also known as “Black Lady” and “Black Maria,” this game has many variations to accommodate three to six players.

While you may be familiar with some Hearts variations, other versions can still be worth learning.

After all, it’s fun to try and change things up a little. That’s especially true when the same old routine becomes a bit too familiar.

In this article, we explore some of the common variations (official and invented by random players) of this fun card game to play with your friends.

  1. Dragon Hearts
  2. Hearts for Two
  3. Four Queens
  4. Cancellation Hearts
  5. Spot Hearts
  6. The Kitty
  7. Joker Hearts
  8. Reverse Hearts
  9. The Wilson System
  10. Individual Card Variants

1. Dragon Hearts

Dragon Hearts

This Hearts variation adds a spin to the classic game by swapping three cards with jokers (red, black, and extra) to maintain the standard deck of 52 cards.

Usually, those cards are the 2 of spades, the 2 of diamonds, and the 3 of clubs. This way, each player of the four still gets 13 cards per deal.

Card Passing

After dealing, each player selects three cards from his/her hand to pass to another player.

In general, you can’t look at the cards passed to you unless you place the cards you chose to pass face down.

Just like in the the classic Hearts game (Black Maria), the passing order alternating with each hand is left, right, across, and no pass.

Primarily, if you’re not happy with that order, you can discuss it with the other three players before beginning.


Initially, the player with the two clubs starts the first trick. If possible, all players must follow suit.

When a player has no cards of the suit led, he/she can play a joker of the same color. Otherwise, they can play any card (including hearts).

Whatever the case is, the player with the highest ranking card of the laed suit wins the trick and leads the next one.

Note that you can only start a trick with a heart card after hearts have been broken (except for a player with only hearts in hand).

Moreover, you can never play the queen of spades or any card of hearts on the first trick.

The Extra Joker

The extra joker functions as the lowest-ranking card of any trick it’s played in. That said, you don’t have to play it even if you have no cards of the lead suit.

On the other hand, if that joker is led to a trick, it automatically wins it. This gives the chance for the other players to play any card they wish.

In all cases, the only time you have to play the joker is when you have the lead, the hearts aren’t broken, and the only other cards you have are hearts.

Black and Red Jokers

The black and red jokers function as the highest-ranking cards of their color. For example, if clubs are led, you can play the black joker to win the trick.

For such a trick, when you have neither clubs nor the extra joker but the black joker, you must play it.

When leading a trick with a black joker, the following players may choose to play a club or a spade. When it comes to playing a red joker, it’s the same case.

Having said that, if you lead with a red joker while hearts aren't broken yet, players must follow with diamonds or the extra joker.

However, if the following player has no diamonds, he or she may break the hearts.


  • The Queen of Spades (Penalty Card): +55 points
  • Hearts: 14 minus the face value of the card. This means the score of the Ace is 13, the Queen is 2, the Nine is 5, etc.
  • Jack of Diamonds: -21
  • Other Cards (Including Jokers): zero

Shooting the Moon

Shooting the moon goes just like it does in the classic game. However, the players who fail to protect the moon get +125 points.

The Winner

Just like in the classic game, the player with the lowest score wins.

2. Hearts for Two

Hearts for Two

It may be hard to imagine playing this game with two players. After all, if you have half of the cards, you know what the other player has.

However, this version utilizes a “dummy” player that gets 16 cards, just like the other two. As for the remaining four, they’re dealt face down into the blind.

How to Play It

  1. Order the cards in the dummy hand by rank and suit.
  2. Each player should pass three cards (face down) to the other.
  3. The 2 clubs leads the game (if neither player has it, they can go to the three, four, etc.).
  4. The leader starts the trick, followed by the opponents.
  5. The opponent gets to play a card from his/her hand and a card from the dummy hand.
  6. If any of the cards played beat the card that led the trick, the opponent collects the trick and leads the next one.
  7. If neither card beats the leading card, the leader collects the trick and leads again.
  8. In all cases, the dummy hand can never collect a trick (only the player who chooses the card).
  9. The player who wins the first trick containing a penalty card collects the four blind cards dealt at the beginning.


Principally, counting the score for this Hearts variation is almost the same as the classic game.

However, in the case of shooting the moon, the player has the option to give the opponent an extra 26 penalty points or subtract those points from his/her score.

3. Four Queens

Four Queens

This is a much simpler variation than the previous one. Overall, the basic rules are the same as the classic game of Hearts except for a few changes in the scoring, which are:

  • The number of queens taken in tricks by players can affect the total score.
  • The cruel queen (the queen of spades) scores 13 penalty points.
  • The generous queen (the queen of diamonds) decreases ten penalty points.
  • The mischievous queen (the queen of clubs) reverses the value of your earned points. This means penalties become reductions, and reductions become penalties.
  • When combining the loving queen (the queen of hearts) with the queen of spades, they cancel out the penalty points.
  • Shooting the moon means collecting all hearts plus any of the queens. When it happens, you give your opponents the penalty points you would’ve scored otherwise.

4. Cancellation Hearts

Cancellation Hearts

A popular variation that’s been around since  1950 is Cancellation Hearts. Usually, it’s  played with two decks of cards and over six players.

The name “cancellation” comes from the possibility of playing two identical cards in one trick due to having two decks.

When this happens, the two cards cancel each other out, and neither of the two players gets to win the trick.

In another case, the whole trick gets canceled if two of the identical pairs appear in the same trick.

When this happens, these cards get rolled over to be collected by the winner of the next trick.

5. Spot Hearts

Spot Hearts

This is another popular variation of Hearts. Thus, you might be familiar with it.

Primarily, all the standard rules of the classic games are applied as usual. However, in this version, each heart card is worth the value of its number instead of one point per card.

This means the 2 of hearts scores two penalty points while, the 5 scores five penalty points. As for the jack, queen, king, and ace of hearts, they score 11, 12, 13, and 14 consecutively.

Usually, this game is played to reach a maximum of far more than 100 points. That’s because you can accumulate many points quicker than in the classic version.

Although it’s almost the same, these small changes can alter your passing and trick-taking strategies completely.

6. The Kitty

The Kitty

This version of Hearts works when there are only three players. Instead of altering the number of playing cards, you place the remaining 13 cards into a “kitty.”

Usually, the winning player of each trick takes a card from the kitty until there’s none left. In other versions, the winner of the first trick is the one who collects all the cards in the kitty.

It’s a fun variation because you can take a heart card even on the first trick. So, no one is safe from scoring penalty points from the beginning.

7. Joker Hearts

Joker Hearts

This is another simple version that can add a fun spin to the original game. Whether using single or double-card decks, all you need to do is add jokers to act as free cards (up to four).

Primarily, these jokers don’t count in the total score and can’t win a trick. Yet, you can play one as a leader card to force the next player to lead.

So, they’re perfect for when you don’t want to play a specific card (the queen of spades, for instance).

Furthermore, what’s great about having a joker in your hand is that you can play it whenever you like. In fact, even if you can follow suit, you can play a free card instead.

Such an interesting rule increases the challenge and makes it even harder for a player to shoot the moon.

8. Reverse Hearts

Reverse Hearts

The Reverse Hearts variation is a four-player game. This game has a partnership concept where you, as a player, partner with the person sitting across from you.

Principally, it’s the opposite of the classic Hearts (Black Maria) game. So, when it comes to counting scores, you and your partner get a positive point for each heart card collected.

As for the queen of spades, it scores you 13 positive points. Consequently, this means that the jack of diamonds deducts ten points from your score, which is a penalty card.

In the case of Reverse Hearts, the winning team is the couple that first collects over 100 points.

That said, you have complete freedom to reverse the shooting the moon rule as well. As such, if one team collects all the hearts and the queen of spades, it loses 26 points.

9. The Wilson System

The Wilson System

Although it’s just the same as the classic Hearts, counting the score is what sets this specific version apart.

All you do is play as you normally would, scoring a penalty point for heart cards, 13 for the queen of spades, and -26 for shooting the moon (or adding them to the opponents’ score).

After ending the game with one player passing the 100-point mark, you start calculating the final score.

The final score is determined by the difference between each player and the next lower-score player (and the next higher-score player), if applicable.

For example, if the scores are A: 110, B: 85, C: 20, and D: 5, the final scores are:

A: 0 - (110-85) = -25

B: (110-85) - (85-20) = -40

C: (85-20) - (20-5) = 50

D: (20-5) - 0 = 15

10. Individual Card Variants

Individual card variations

Aside from the various versions of the game, there are also changes made based on collecting certain individual playing cards. For instance:

  • The ace of hearts scores five penalty points instead of one.
  • The 10 of diamonds gives ten reduction points instead of the jack of diamonds.
  • Collecting the 10 clubs doubles the score for each heart card.
  • You can shoot the moon with the 10 or jack of diamonds instead of the queen of spades.
  • The Queen of Spades doesn’t add any penalty points.
  • Adding a blank card (a bonus card) can help the player who plays it avoid collecting the trick.
  • Removing the 2 of diamonds allows for a seamless game with three players.

Final Thoughts

Hearts is quite a pleasing game to play with friends and family. Although playing it on repeat is rarely boring, you can always try other versions of the game.

Luckily, Hearts variations are uncountable, with the possibility of creating your own rules whenever you like.

From the playful Dragon Hearts to Cancellation Hearts, the different varieties of the game make it more interesting.

All in all, you don’t have to only stick with the examples we provided. Instead, you can always come up with rules that transform the game completely.

So, grab your friends, shuffle those cards, and let the challenges begin!