Game Rules

Black Widow is an American card game of the Hearts group. It emerged in the early 20th century as an elaboration of Hearts and was initially also called Discard Hearts. It is named after its highest penalty card, the Queen of Spades. 

The game is often called Hearts in America, although that is the proper name for the basic game in which only the cards of the heart suit incur penalty points. It is known by a variety of other names including American Hearts, Black Lady , Black Lady Hearts, Hearts, and Slippery Anne. In Australia it is known as Rickety Kate. It is sometimes misnamed Black Maria which, however, is the British variant of Hearts played with additional penalty cards. The game is played all over the world.

OBJECT: The aim of Black Widow is to avoid capturing heart cards or the Queen of Spades.
MATERIAL: Card deck of 52 cards (2 to 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace of all 4 playing card colours)
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 3-6 players


Cards are dealt clockwise one at a time until every card is dealt. Each player should have 13 cards to start.

One of the things that make this game so unique is the ability to “adjust” your hand (and your opponent’s hand) by passing a few cards before the start of play. Once all cards have been dealt, each player chooses 3 cards to pass to one of their opponents (they can be any 3 cards). The order of passing is as follows: on the first deal, each player passes 3 cards to the left. On the second deal, each player passes 3 cards to the right. On the third deal, each player passes 3 cards to the player sitting across from them. On the fourth deal, players hold their cards and pass nothing at all. The order of passing then starts over again for subsequent deals.


Play starts with the player holding the 2 of clubs, who places it, face up on the table. Play then proceeds to the left with each player playing one card from their hand. Players must follow suit, unless they are out (or “void”) of that particular suit, in which case they may play whatever they like. The exception to this rule is that no “point” cards may be played on the first trick (see “scoring” below for the point cards). When each player has played a card, the player who played the highest card in the suit that was led, wins the trick, and then starts the next trick by playing a card from their hand.

Play continues in this fashion, with the winner of each trick starting the next, however a player may not lead off a trick by playing a heart until hearts have been played (or “broken”) on another trick (meaning a player had none of the suit that was led and played a heart card instead). Play continues until all cards have been played.


Once the hand is over, and all tricks have been won, players receive 1 point for every heart they have taken, and an additional 13 points if they happen to have taken the Queen of Spades. Don’t rejoice at your points though, because unlike other trick taking games, in the game of Heart taking points is bad. Much like in the game of golf, the object is to keep your score as low as possible.

Shooting the Moon: This is the rule that really spices things up. Points are bad, yes…unless you manage to take all of them. If, at the end of a hand, a player has managed to take all 26 points (13 hearts and the Queen of Spades), that player does not get 26 points. Instead, all the other players get 26 points (in some variations, the player who “shot the moon” can elect to have 26 points subtracted from their own score).

End of game

The game is over when one or more players accumulate enough points to put them over 100. At that point, whichever one of the remaining players has the lowest score is declared the winner. In the event that 2 or more players are tied for lowest score, the game is a draw. Some variations allow a player to subtract points from their score if they hit 100 points exactly (usually they will subtract 50, or even reset their score to 0).

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