How to Play Hearts with 6 Players

By Neal Taparia - 4/4/2024

How to play 6 player Hearts

Hearts can be a fantastic way to bond with family and friends. While it’s typically played with four people, you can play with 6 people. Continue reading to learn how.

What is Hearts?

Hearts is a trick-taking game developed in the early 19th century. It’s derived from another older variation called Reverse, popular in 17th to 18th century Europe.

The game comes in many names, including Black Lady, Black Maria, and the Spanish Reversis.

How to Play 6-Player Hearts

The classic Hearts game typically needs four players. But you can also play it with two to seven players, but with a slight twist in its basic rules.

What You Need

First, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck to play Hearts with six people. Each player will need a pen and paper to record their scores.

Your Goal

The primary goal of the game is to avoid scoring points. You can score points by winning tricks and collecting penalty cards (usually the hearts cards) or the queen of spades.

By the end of the game, the player with the lowest score wins. The game can consist of several rounds, depending on the score ceiling the players agreed upon before the game.

Card Score

Here’s how the scoring system in Hearts works:

  • Heart cards – Each of the thirteen heart cards is worth one point regardless of rank.
  • Queen of Spades – The queen of spades, also called the Black Maria, is worth 13 points.
  • Other cards – Every other card is worth zero points.
  • Shoot the Moon – A strategy where a player attempts to collect every heart card, including the Black Maria, to add 26 penalty points to the opponents.

Most Hearts players place 100 points as the agreed-upon score ceiling for the game. Once hit by one of the players, the game ends, and the lowest-scoring player wins.

Setting Up

To set up the game, remove the three and four of clubs and the two and three of diamonds. This way, each player gets eight cards each.

One player must deal the cards face down and clockwise to each player.

Card Passing

After receiving their hand, the players must choose two cards to pass along. The passing rotation in 6-player Hearts goes like this:

In the first deal, all players pass two cards face down to the player on their left. They’ll then receive two cards from the person on their right.

By the second deal, the rotation reverses. Each player will pass two cards to their right and get the two cards from their left. Then, vice versa in the third deal.

The players will stop passing cards in the fourth deal but restart in the fifth deal. The game starts after the passing rotation.

The Play

The player holding the two of clubs after the passing rotation will lead the first trick. All players MUST follow suit unless they don’t have any card in the suit led.

For example, if player two doesn’t have club cards in the first trick, they can discard diamonds or spades except for hearts and the queen of spades.

The individual with the highest card of the led suit will win the trick. They then collect the cards, pile them face down in front of them, and lead the next trick.

Trick winners can’t lead with the heart suit until no player discards a heart card (called “breaking hearts”) or the queen of spades. They can only lead with the heart suit if no other alternative is available.

Breaking hearts happens if one of the participants (except the lead player) lacks any card of the suit led and throws out a heart or the Black Maria.

Players can lead with the Black Maria anytime after the opening trick. A round will end when every player discarded all cards in their hand.

Counting Score

Scoring basic in 6 player Hearts

The players keep track of their score after each deal or round. They can tally their points individually or use a score sheet with a column for each player.

Each player must count the number of hearts in their trick pile after every round. They also count the Black Maria worth 13 points.

For instance, if you have three heart cards in your trick pile, you’ll receive three points. But if you have the queen of spades, you’ll get 13 more points in addition to those three.

Game Penalties

Penalties happen if a player doesn’t follow the suit led by the trick winner even though he has a card of that suit. In such a case, the player will receive all the hearts cards, including the Black Maria, worth 26 penalty points.

The other participants will receive zero points in that deal, and the game moves to the next round.

Hearts Beginner Tips to Remember

Raring to win your first Hearts game? Here are some practical gaming tips to remember:

Never Lead With Ace

Don’t lead a trick with an ace. Remember, you want to lose as many tricks as possible, and leading with the highest card in a suit is a surefire way to get the dreaded Black Maria!

Void Your Diamonds and Clubs

Voiding is a tactic that involves discarding all your cards in a particular suit. By voiding your diamonds and clubs early in the game, you can eliminate unwanted cards faster.

Pay Attention to Your Opponents

More than wit, Hearts is a game of attention. By observing your opponents, you can understand their strategy and adjust your game accordingly.

Here are some examples:

If a player passes cards with the same suit on the passing stage, there’s a high chance they’re creating a void. If they pass low cards to you, they could be attempting to shoot for the moon.

Final Thoughts

That’s it! That’s how you play Hearts with six players—from its goal, passing setup, basic rules, scoring system, penalties, and strategies.

Hearts is a simple yet engaging way to spend time with family and friends. Now, you don’t have to spend your weekends hunched down on your phones!