The OFFICIAL IncreduHearts Rules Page


IncreduHearts is a card game developed in the late 1970s for luchtime play by the computer programming staff of the Duke University Registrar's Office. The rules have been codified on this web page maintained by C. M. Register.


IncreduHearts is a variant of the traditional Hearts card game. A working knowledge of the basic game of Hearts is helpful when learning IncreduHearts. There are several good Internet references on Hearts and its many variants, including:

If you're not comfortable playing the traditional Hearts game, you'll probably hate IncreduHearts. On the other hand, if you're somewhat bored by Hearts, you may love IncreduHearts.

IncreduHearts is distinct from Hearts in that it is played with two decks of cards, perhaps with a joker included (see below). Although the game can be played with as few as four players, it is best with five, six or seven. There are also some subtile (and not so subtile) features of play that make the game more interesting.


— Rules —

Players —

IncreduHearts is best played by 5, 6 or 7 people, although it can be played by a few as 4 or as many as 8. There are no formal partnerships, though there are times when players will find it in their interest to help each other, usually by working in temporary partnership against an opponent with a big lead in the score.

Cards —

A deck is prepared by combining two identical (same back design) standard 52-card packs.

The total number of cards in the deck must be evenly divisible by the number of players in the game. With 5 or 7 players, add a Joker to the pack to make a deck of 105 cards; with 4 or 8 players, replace one Two of Clubs ([Clubs Symbol] 2) with a Joker (104 cards); with 6 players, remove one Two of Clubs ([Clubs Symbol] 2) and one Two of Diamonds ([Diamond Symbol] 2) to make a deck of 102 cards.

It is desirable to have two such decks available (with different color backs) so that one can be shuffled while the other is being dealt.

The cards in each suit rank as usual from ace (high) down to two (low). There is no trump suit.

Each Heart is worth one point, each Queen of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q) is worth 13 points, and each Jack of Diamonds ([Diamond Symbol]J) is worth -10 points. The other cards have no value.

Object of the Game —

The object is to have the lowest point total when someone else exceeds a predefined point total. Most games are played to end when the first player exceeds 100 points. Some play that the game also ends when a player's score goes below a certain number, such as -100.

Deal —

The cards are spread face down on the table and each player selects a card a random. The player drawing the highest card becomes the first dealer. In case of a tie, the tied players draw again until a first dealer is identified. The player to the left of the dealer shuffles, and then the player to the dealer's right cuts the deck. Deal passes to the left after each hand.

All the cards are dealt out clockwise one at a time, so that everyone has an equal number of cards (with 4 players, each person gets 26 cards; 21 cards for 5 players, 17 cards for 6 players, 15 cards for 7 players, 13 cards for 8 players).

To speed up the deal (this started as a lunchtime game, after all) the pack may be divided into two approximately equal stacks and each shuffled by the dealer and the player to the dealer's left, with the latter shuffling the whole pack at least twice before the deal. The deal can likewise be shared, with the pack being divided in two parts (they don't have to be equal). The chosen dealer deals one pack normally, and the player to the dealer's left dealing counter-clockwise starting with the dealer.

Passing —

After each hand is dealt, each player passes a number of cards face-down to another player. With 4 players, five cards are passed; with 5 or 6 players, four cards are passed; with 7 or 8 players, three cards are passed. On the first hand, cards are passed to the first player on the left; on the second hand the cards are passed to the first player on the right; on the third hand the cards are passed to the second player on the left (or to the player across of there are 4 players). This pattern continues on subsequent hands until all player/direction combinations have been used, whereupon a "hold" (no pass) hand is played. The number of pass combinations, counting the "hold", is the same as the number of players. After the "hold" hand the cycle repeats until the end of the game.

Play —

Opening lead: After the pass, with 5 or 7 players, the player holding the Joker (called the "One of Clubs") makes the opening lead. With 4, 6 or 8 players, the Joker is not used and the player holding the Two of Clubs ([Clubs Symbol]2) leads. Play continues clockwise to the left, and each player must follow suit if possible.

If a player is void of the suit led, a card of any other suit may be discarded.

No garbage on the first trick: However, if a player has no clubs when the first trick is led, it is not permitted to discard a Heart, the Queen of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q) or the Jack of Diamonds ([Diamond Symbol]J).

First highest card wins (usually): With one exception, the earliest (first played) highest card of the suit led wins a trick.

Second Queen takes it: The single exception to the previous rule occurs when the suit led is Spades and the highest card played is the Queen: in this case, the second Queen of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q), if played, will take the trick (unless, of course, a higher Spade is played on the trick).

Play continues with the player winning a trick leading next. There is no trump suit. The winner of the trick collects it and places it face down to form a neat "book" or stack of cards. Once a trick has been played, anyone may look at the cards until the first card to the next trick is led. Play continues until all players are out of cards.

Hearts may not be led until a Heart or the Queen of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q) has been discarded (this is called breaking hearts). The Queen of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q) does not have to be discarded at the first opportunity. The Queen of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q) can be led at any time.

If a player has the lead and nothing but Hearts in hand, or nothing but Hearts and one or more Queen of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q), it is permitted to lead and break Hearts.

It is a normal tactic to lead lower Spades to try to drive out the Queen of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q). This is sometimes known as smoking out the Queen.

Scoring —

A separate column on a score sheet is kept for each player. At the end of each hand, players examine the tricks they have taken and count the number of Hearts as well as the Queen(s) of Spades and Jack(s) of Diamonds. Hearts count as one (+1 "to the bad") point each, the Queen(s) of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q) count as +13 points "to the bad" each, and the Jack(s) of Diamonds ([Diamond Symbol]J) count as -10 points "to the good" each.

It is important to emphasize that scoring is based on the cards a player has taken in tricks, not the cards they originally had in their hand.

Shooting the Moon: If a player takes at least one Queen of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q) and at least 18 Hearts, they are said to "Shoot the Moon." Taking a Jack of Diamonds ([Diamond Symbol]J) is not required to shoot the moon, but it still counts to the favor ("to the good") of the player taking it). Their point score is 10 ("to the good") for each Jack of Diamonds ([Diamond Symbol]J) taken, 13 ("to the good") for each Queen of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q) taken, and the net ("to the good") of 18 minus the number of Hearts taken in excess of 18 (unless all 26 Hearts are taken in which case the Heart score is 26 "to the good").

The player may either subtract this point total from their score or add it to the score of all opposing players. (This adds a subtle meaning to the term "to the good.")

Shooting the Universe: If a player takes all of the tricks, they score a point for each card in the deck (either subtracted from their score or added to the scores of the opponents).

Example "Moon" scores:

  1. Player takes 1 Queen of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q=13) and 20 Hearts (18-[20-18]=16). Score is 13+16=29 points
  2. Player takes 2 Queens of Spades (2x[Spade Symbol]Q=2x13=26) and 1 Jack of Diamonds ([Diamond Symbol]J=10) and 24 Hearts (18-[24-18]=12). Score is (2x13)+10+12=48 points.
  3. Player takes 2 Queens of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q) and 2 Jacks of Diamonds ([Diamond Symbol]J) and 26 Hearts. Score is (2x13)+(2x10)+26=72 points.

No Tricks: A player who takes no tricks in a hand scores -5 ("to the good"). This may not be scored if another player shoots the moon.

Hitting 100: If, after a hand's scores have been recorded, a player's score is exactly 100 or -100, then that player's score is immediately changed to zero. This is a way for a player with a very high score to "get back in the game" by carefully taking a few Hearts. Players may also work in temporary partnership to drop a Jack of Diamonds ([Diamond Symbol]J) on a player with a very low score (less than -90) in an attempt to bring them back to zero.

Comparison with the traditional Hearts game —

The double deck of 102-105 cards makes counting cards a significant challenge; there are two of everything to track, and the scores are often more extreme than single-deck Hearts. The "second Queen takes it" rule often adds an interesting twist to the play, and provides some protection for the player who has had his Queen "smoked." Perhaps the greatest distinction is the provision for shooting the moon, where only 18 Hearts, rather than all 26, are required to be taken along with at least one Queens of Spades ([Spade Symbol]Q). This puts more pressure on the defenders, and generally makes the play more interesting.


The name IncreduHearts and these Rules are Copyright ©2002 Charles M. Register, Durham, North Carolina, USA

Charles M. Schultz's "Peanuts"™ strip, above, was published on June 21, 1970. I wish I could say it was the inspiration for IncreduHearts, but it wasn't.