The following section addresses more advanced strategies that can beemployed.
Having mastered the basic passes which will help you stay low, build voidsuits, get out of trouble, or help you shoot the moon, you can move ontodeveloping passes which will irritate, annoy, and beshrew the poor recipientof your cards. Here are some nasty passes that come one-by-one, two-by-two, orthree-by-three.
The following singles are pretty annoying:The two of clubs - You can't take the lead off the first trickwith it, and it makes any high clubs you hold look real ugly.A club - Passing a club, any club, prevents anyone from sloughingan ugly card on the first trick if they've decided to go void in clubs (afairly common occurrence). Passing them the two of clubs therefore servesa double duty toward annoyance.A low heart - Makes it real hard to shoot the moon.Especially effective when passed to a renowned shooter.A high heart that you can beat - They have to either work atgetting rid of it or suffer you stymieing their moon shoot should theytry.
The basic approach is to pair or couple a set of cards which amplify the annoying effects of each other. The following are examples of such troublesome twosomes:The two of clubs and the Ace of clubs - Can't take the lead on thefirst trick, and you've got that bloody Ace that you have to get rid ofsomehow.A club and the Ace or King of Spades - That high spade can be afright, and they won't be able to slough it off if they've tried to voidthemselves in clubs.A low heart and a high heart - Hard to shoot, and the victim has towork at getting rid of that ugly high heart.A club and a diamond - These are the two most common suits to go voidin, so passing one of each will fill either void. If you pass high ones,the result can be a suit with only a single, high card. Can be trouble.
The triples are just adding greater injury to the doubles described aboveThe two of clubs and two really high clubs - Can't take the lead offthe first trick, stuck with those ugly high clubs, and as an added bonus,if they've tried to go void in clubs, the only clubs they'll have afterthe first trick will be those two high ones you've passed, and they'llprobably take anything. Be sure to lead clubs at your first chance totwist the dagger a bit.A club (especially the two) and the Ace and King of spades - Thevictim is stuck with those nasty spades, and they can't slough either onebecause of that pesky club. Note: Passing a player the Ace and King ofspades can actually help them, and even hurt you, as described in thesection "Strategy Guidelines" under the sub-heading "Never Pass Spades".The best time to employ this meddlesome pass, therefore, is when you havea long run of lower spades which can withstand a siege.A pitifully low heart (say, the three) and a pair of high hearts, allof which you can beat (i.e. you keep hold of the Ace or similar topper) -Hard to shoot, because of that low guy, which anyone can beat, and thefact that you can stop any of them. Also, it's hard enough to try to getrid of one high heart, but getting rid of two is going to be a realchore,A club, a diamond, and a heart - These are the three most commonsuits to go void in, so passing one of each will fill any of those voids.Once again, passing high ones can make it more injurious.
Got Queen Trouble? Bleed out the Spades!
"Bleeding out spades" means that you are trying to draw all the spades outof the other players and take them out of play. You would most want to employthis tactic when you are holding the Queen and not many other spades besides.
Consider the following situation: It's the second trick in the round (i.e.only the first clubs trick has gone around -- spades haven't been led yet),you have the lead, and you hold only the 3, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace ofspades.Obviously, you won't be able to survive a spades siege for very long.Moreover, it won't take long before you have to start laying down your Kingand Ace, at which point it will be fairly obvious that you're holding theQueen. What, then, do you do?
Answer: Don't try to hide the fact that you're holding the Queen at all.Consider the numbers: You are holding 5 spades, meaning there are 8 more "outthere" amongst the other players. Since players don't normally pass spades,they tend to be more evenly distributed than other suits after the pass. Onbalance then, you can count on each player having somewhere between two tofour spades. The strategy then, is to bleed spades out of the other playersbefore the others can play them to bleed the Queen out of you.
Therefore, lead out with the Ace. You might get a few stares and grins,but it'll be worth it. You should take three spades, leaving only 5 more "outthere" amongst the other players. Lead next with the King.You'll probablytake three more spades leaving only 2 spades out there.Next, lead with theJack. Let's say that this time you only take one spade with the Jack, leavingonly one last spade "out there". Lead finally with the 3, and presto, thereare no more spades. At this point, you can simply hold onto the Queen, bideyour time, work on building another void, and take tricks as high as you want.(Because you know nobody can give you the Queen.)
As an added bonus, if you keep following and leading high, you'll be ableto get rid of your ugly high cards. You might even convince the other playersthat you're trying to shoot the moon, which could even discourage them fromplaying hearts on you, and maybe try to take the lead away. In the meantime,you can watch the other players squirm as they wonder: "How much longer..."and "Will I be the one?" When the time comes, be sure to drop the Queen on themost deserving player.
The situation described above could fail if one player is holding more thanfour spades. It is, however, not as likely that the spades suit would be sounevenly divided, especially considering that you are already holding five.Remember, the high degree of randomness means that we deal with probabilities,not absolutes. Building on the situation above, it would be easier still tobleed spades out of people if you were holding the 10 as well.
Furthermore, it is very important that you build at least one void suit asquickly as possible so that you have a place where you can dump the Queen. Itis likewise important in such a situation to get rid of any trouble cards asquickly as possible so that you don't end up taking the lead during the laststages of the round, because you wouldn't be able to easily lose the lead.Should that occur, you will eventually have to play the Queen end uptaking her yourself!
Three Against One
Hearts is dazzlingly fun when the three losers attempt to gang up on theguy in the lead. Hit-men coalitions of three players are not organized at thebeginning of a game; They don't share secret handshakes or decoder rings.Rather, such coalitions are formed an un-formed on an ad hoc basis as scoresrise and different players take turns being the winner. The formation of athree-man coalition is usually an unspoken agreement made by the three currentlosers, although it isn't unheard of for one of the losers (usually the guywho's trailing by the most points) to make an announcement in the form of"We've got to get Brian, guys."
Sometimes you don't get the cooperation of all three players in ganging upon the guy in the lead. If the second-in-place guy is only behind the winnerby half a dozen points, he might be more content to just sit back and "draft"behind the winner, letting him take all the heat from the other losers. Rightup until the last stages of the game, of course, at which point he'll pull adramatic move where he drops the Queen on the current winner and move intofirst place. Then when it's too late, he'll drop points on one of the otherlosers, cause them to bust, and win the game himself.
If three against one odds doesn't sound very fair to you, it's probablybecause you're the guy in the lead.
A well-crafted pass between two experienced players can communicate morethan a whole evening of table talk. The state of the scorecard is an enormousfactor here as it often is the skeleton key to the message in the pass.Typically, a contractual pass is exchanged between two losing players who wantto stick it to the player who is currently winning. This tactic comes underthe umbrella of "the losers ganging up on the winner" as described in theprevious section. As a general rule, any contract with lasting terms becomesnull and void should you become the player in the lead. You canhowever, count on the losers at that point making contracts to gang up on you.
The following are examples of contractual passes and their meanings:
The Queen of Spades and Two other Spades
The state of the scorecard is thus: Both you and the player you are passingto are losing, and somebody else is winning, probably by a lot. Basically whatyou are saying with this pass is:
"I really want to aim the Evil Wench at the guy in the lead, but I don'thave enough spades to hold out under any kind of serious siege. I thereforeagree to give you control of the Queen, as well as a generous spades buffer,which I hope that combined with any spades you posses, will keep you safeuntil you can stick the Queen to the player who most richly deserves it. Inreturn, I humbly request that you not stick it on me, especially if I getpassed an Ace or King which I am compelled to play in a spades trick becausethey are the only ones I've got, having passed you all my other spades."
Here's what you're assuming when you make this pass:The fellow you are passing to is rather experienced, and as such, hasnot passed any of his spades.(Especially if you're passing to the guy onyour left and he knows that you know that it's really not bright to passthe Queen to the left.) He wants to win just as bad as you do, and as such, would not be sofoolish as to dump the Queen on another losing player.
All the Materials you Need to Shoot the Moon
Naturally, these materials can come in a variety of forms, but is typicallyindicated with something to the effect of: Three high hearts (typicallyincluding the Ace, King, and the like); Or, a couple of high hearts (onceagain, likely the Ace and King), and the Queen of Spades. The state of thescorecard is thus: The fellow you are passing to is losing by a lot (say, inthe mid to high eighties), the other two losers are somewhere in the middle(around say, 40's or 50's), and the guy in the lead is skunking everyone (ataround 20 or 30). Moreover, the guy in the lead has been consistently droppingpoints on the guy in last place, in the hopes of pushing him over a hundredand quickly finishing as the winner.
This is basically what you're saying:
"I willfully encourage you to shoot the moon and will assist you fully inthe endeavor, by not sheriffing you. I recognize that I will take 26 pointsmyself, but I do this hoping to level out the scores and breathe new life intothis game. In return, I request that you remember me in the future, and keepsticking it to the guy in the lead, and not to me."
Here's what you're assuming with this pass:The guy in the lead will continue to wantonly dump points onto thefellow you have passed to (the passee) thinking to push him over ahundred, but this will turn on the winner's own head as it will enable thepassee to shoot successfully. Furthermore, we're hoping that the winnerwon't realize what's going on until it's too late. The other guy that's got points in the 40's or 50's will alsosupport the passee in shooting the moon, that the game be not over. You really hope that the passee has figured out that you might beup to something like this, and is already preparing to shoot the moon, andfurthermore that he knows a thing or two about shooting.
If all goes according to plan, you will have one, well-prepared shooter,two people supporting him, and only one guy (the player currently in the lead)trying to stop him. As you can see, you're hoping for a lot with this one,giving up a lot (you will take 26 points if it works), and because of thosereasons, coupled with the fact that the circumstances described are notaltogether common, this kind of contractual pass is not common.
Counting the cards will help you more than any single other strategy. Notcoincidentally, counting cards is also one of the most difficult things tokeep track of. Typically, the player with the best memory will be the one thatwins the most.
The following are a few approaches to counting:
How Many Times a Suit Has Gone Around
This is one of the easiest ways to count, as you are not keeping track ofthe number of cards but just the number of tricks of a complete suit. Sincethe numbers are smaller, it can be a lot simpler.Furthermore, if you want tofind the number of actual cards in a suit that have been played, simplymultiply the number of tricks by four and there you have it.
On the Lookout for Stoppers
If you're trying to shoot the moon, you want to be on the lookout to see ifany cards come out that would put a halt to your moon shoot. Once you see thestoppers have been played, you know your toppers can't be beat, and you canproceed more confidently with your moon shoot.
How Many Cards in a Suit Have Been Played
This counting tactic is a little more involved, as you are keeping track oflarger numbers. Most people can only feasibly keep track of one suit.
The most common suits to keep track of are:Spades, to see how much longer it will take before the Queen comesout . Hearts, to see how many have been played, and often to see how manymore you need to take --or in what sequence you should play your ownhearts-- in order to shoot the moon.Any suit that you are having trouble with, i.e. you don't have(m)any low cards in that suit, and you want to know how many more are outthere.Any suit that you are long in and you will use to try to shoot themoon
When you are keeping track of the number of cards in a suit that have beenplayed, it can sometimes be helpful to think of the game being betweenyourself and a nameless, faceless "out there" consisting of the rest of theplayers. When the number left "out there" starts getting low, however (i.e.when one or more players go void and begin sloughing off other cards), then itbecomes important to start paying attention to just who is void in thatparticular suit, and who is not. Your second priority then, will be to payattention to what cards are being sloughed off by those that are void.
Exactly Which Cards Have Been Played
This is Rainman stuff. Most people can't do this without a cheat sheet. Theheck of it is though, if you can count the number of cards that have beenplayed, and keep on the lookout for stoppers, you don't really need to keeptrack of every single other card that's been played. If you can pull it off,though, more power to you.