History of Hearts

By Neal - 3/15/2023

Determining the origins of Hearts is messy, to say the least. The game has a rich lineage and deep roots that many believe trace back to 17th-century Europe. The modern game of hearts that players would recognize today was invented sometime in the 1850s. During this time period, the rules of the game were more straightforward but evolved significantly over the last century.

Along with most other evasion-type trick-taking card games, some believe Hearts originates from an older game called Reversin, which was later renamed Reversis. The earliest accounts of Reversin date back to the year 1601 in France.

According to French philologist Jean-Baptiste Bullet, the game dates back even further. He theorized that the game's creation was during the reign of Francis I, who ruled over France from 1515 to 1547. Others believe the origins of Hearts came from Spain, which suggests that people first played the game with a traditional 48-card Spanish deck and counter-clockwise rotations.

However, most agree that the game's true origins lie in Italy. This is where a series of evasion-type trick-taking games originate, including Tressette games such as Rovescino that remain popular with many Italians today.

The Evolution of Hearts

Hearts eventually spread to the USA in the 19th century, and over the years, it gained more intricate rules, which intensified competition among players. In the original version, hearts were the only penalty card, and each heart was worth one penalty point.

Later, another game by the name of Black Maria evolved. This version adopted the same rules of the original Hearts card game, with the exception that capturing the queen of spades would penalize players with 13 points.

The rules of Black Maria became so popular that players all over the world adopted them, and they became the standard rules that most Hearts players know and love today. Soon after the queen of spades became the most infamous and dreaded card to capture, players also developed a new rule called "Shooting the Moon."

"Shooting the Moon" requires a player to collect all 13 heart cards and the queen of spades. Doing so scores the player zero points, while all other players score 26. This can give the player a decisive advantage but is risky and difficult to pull off.

Over the last century, other variations to the rules have been included. In the 1920s, a variant was introduced in which the jack of diamonds card provides minus 10 points, meaning that you should try hard to capture it. However, this version is less popular than the standard one with just hearts and the queen of spades. Hearts also became very popular in North America, to the point where most people learned how to play from a very young age.

Its popularity eventually reached its peak in the 1990s when it was included in Microsoft's Windows Operating System Version 3.11, in a software package that included other popular card games like FreeCell, Minesweeper, and Solitaire. After a few decades, the internet age brought about the development of online Hearts, in which you are able to play against other players around the globe.

Today, online Hearts games continue to entertain and delight millions of mobile and PC users with free-to-play games and money-based games and tournaments. While the history behind the game's creation, development, and evolution are undoubtedly fascinating, it is not as entertaining as actually playing the game!