Whenever I play the QS on the 3rd or 4th round everyone gets mad at me and says that's a low down nasty thing to do! I thought the QS should be dumped asap so as not to get stuck with it myself - which has happened more times that I care to recall, even when I have 4,5 or 6 Spades backing her up. What is the proper etiquette for dumping the QS in Hearts?
There is no etiquette required when playing the QS. It is worth half of the available points in the hand. Anyone expecting you to be "polite" with it (whatever that means) is unrealistic and should go back to playing against the computer.
There are strategic exceptions. For example, it may be advantageous to pass on an opportunity to play the Queen if you are trying to stick a specific opponent with it and think you can do so safely later in the round.
That being said, are you sure they are actually upset? Maybe they are trying to trash-talk or joke about their misfortune and just not doing a very good job of it.
It can be risky to throw it very early (before any hearts have been played), as if you throw it to a player with a heart-strong hand you may be making it easy for them the shoot the moon. Of course, they're likely call you nasty names when you throw it, just to conceal the shooting possibilities...
Because some people worry that others will "get control" (aka "shoot the moon"), they have a personal rule not to play the QS before hearts are not just broken, but have been taken by two different people. That's their personal rule and they're welcome to have it. Then, especially if they are not playing against a wide variety of people, they may get it into their heads that everyone does that. This may lead them to feel that it's relatively safe to take a trick before two different people have taken a heart, since the QS is not going to be played. Then they take a trick like that, feeling happy that they've got rid of a high card and the worst that will happen is one heart, you play the QS, and they get a rude reminder that not everyone plays that way, and they react strongly to what you did. This doesn't make them right, I'm just explaining the emotions of someone who wasn't expecting you to ding them.
For your own purposes, if you're getting zinged with 26 points at least once every time you play, you might consider being a little more conservative with getting rid of that QS. (And perhaps your tablemates are partly objecting that "you just made it so Steve can give us all 26 points, thanks a lot, next time think about the whole table not just getting rid of your hot card.") But if you're not, then you're doing nothing wrong and don't worry what people happen to say.
Hearts is a game of doing low-down, nasty things. Your opponents need to grow a skin (or a pair) and learn to turn the tables on you by "hunting the bitch"; instead of trying to void Diamonds or Clubs early as they're apparently trying to do, they should be leading low Spade after low Spade to force you to "eat" that Queen by following suit with it.
If that becomes the group's formulaic play, the antidote to that is either to be long in Spades with the Queen and "lead" the hunt yourself to void everyone else in Spades, then lose the lead and play the Queen offsuit, or to not have the Queen at all, be long in Hearts and short (and low) in Spades, void Spades early and break Hearts during the hunt to punish the hunters for beating up on a woman.
Your hand, and your group's strategy, determines your own:
- If you have the Ace of Clubs, you shouldn't also have the 2 if you had any chance to get rid of both. Play the Ace on the first trick and you control the hand from there; you can start a Diamond or Club-voiding binge or a Spade hunt.
- If you don't have the Ace of Clubs, play your highest one and hope the person immediately to your right doesn't have the Ace.
- The lead to the second trick usually determines the basic strategy of the hand unless someone has an unbalanced-enough hand to quickly say otherwise.
- Another Club typically results in someone voiding Clubs, so be wary of leading the third Club trick in the hand as you'll likely pay for it.
- Diamonds are safer as the first hand didn't have them, so statistically speaking that tends to be another safe hand or two.
- Once a Spade is led it usually starts the hunt, and until at least three Spade tricks are played or Hearts are broken, attempting to stop it by winning one safely and leading low in Clubs or Diamonds will either get you flagged as the Queen-holder, or whomever does hold the Queen will have tried to void Clubs or Diamonds, and the odds of the QS being foisted off-suit become very high.
- Once Hearts are broken, the next trick is usually "revenge"; whomever won the first Heart will lead the lowest Heart they have, both to lose the trick and the lead, and make sure someone else gets 4 points (unless someone is void in Hearts).
- From there, it all depends on who has the lead, whether that person's paid attention to what's been thrown, and what they might be able to do to lose the lead. Usually, someone ends up a little too long in one suit after the first few tricks, and if they win a trick it's pretty much over unless they managed to keep a few low cards in a second suit that hasn't been exhausted yet.
There is one house rule I forgot to mention; it is common in some locales that the Queen of Spades, like any penalty Heart, should not be played off-suit until Hearts have been broken (obviously it can and should be played to follow suit). Your group might be playing with this as an unwritten rule, so your sluffing the Queen early might be messing with their mojo as they feel you're playing a different game than they are.
However, this rule makes the Queen harder to lose, making the game more luck-based and scripted. If Hearts have to be broken to play it off-suit, then "hunting the bitch" is the natural next move for the two or three tricks after the initial Club trick, and your only defense is to be the longest in Spades. So, I don't use this rule, and neither do most computerized versions of the game. I do, however, count the Queen for the "no bleeding Hearts" rule, which states that a penalty card may not be played on the first trick unless the player only has penalty cards (which is an extremely rare situation).
When you go to pass cards prior to the hand, you need to make a decision with respect to spades. You might only have few, and worse, some of those cards are the A,K, or Q.
I prefer to play the role of "Distributor of Pain" in any hand of Hearts. To do so it is ideal to have at least 2-3 (more is always better) other spades (other than the Q). If you do have the A or K, look to play them when playing last, or second-to-last if your left is known to be out of spades. Then, sit back and plot who deserves it the most.
On the other hand, if you are not well imbued with spades all bets are off. Get off the sinking ship ASAP. There is no chivalry in this scenario; you would have liked to drop the Q to conform to the appropriate storyline, but you don't have time to wait around for it to happen.
Hearts is not a partnership game but each player for themselves.
Sometimes you aim to target the leading player, but your primary aims are:
- Avoiding taking the queen of spades and hearts, unless you are aiming to shoot the moon
- Preventing opponents from shooting the moon
- Trying to ensure you are in the best position you can be in when the game is over.
Choosing which cards to pass is an interesting matter. According to the popular rules because it's the ones that came with Microsoft Windows, you have one round passing to the left, then one to the right, then one across and one with no passing. The game ends when one player or more reaches 100 and if you shoot the moon the other players all get 26 points. I've seen a variant where, when you shoot, you can choose between having 26 added to everyone's score or having that many removed from your own, the latter a good option if someone will bust and you won't be winning if everyone gets 26.
If you are dealt the queen of spades and are deciding whether to pass it, passing it to the left is always the most dangerous, to the right the least dangerous. Often one will pass an intermediate heart to ensure that player is not void in hearts. voiding yourself in hearts is one way to try to shoot the moon.
The rule is normally that you cannot drop a heart or the queen of spades on the opening trick. (2 of clubs is always led). You can otherwise play it at any other time (as long as you are not avoiding following suit). You can only lead a heart once they have been "broken" or if you only have hearts left.
So, morals aside, what is your best tactic if you have the queen of spades?
Well firstly, make sure you are not going to take a trick with it, unless you think you can shoot the moon. In general, let someone shoot the moon even rather than take it. (Maths: your average loss on each player by taking it is 13. By letting someone shoot your average loss is 26/3 which is 8.67, less than 13). "In general" depending on the score in general and that of your own and the opponent who might shoot.
Assuming nobody is shooting the moon, if you don't discard it, might you win a trick with it? If part of a suit of 5 cards or longer, with some small ones so you are not stuck on lead at the end, probably not. As part of a 3 card suit, whether you have AK or not, you are in big danger of that happening. 4 card suit is a "maybe" situation.
So, if that's the danger, get rid when you can.
If there is no danger, you look at the score and decide who you prefer to hit upon. Usually the player in the lead, or 2nd placed if you are in the lead.
Now assume it's the early stage, and you don't know if someone is going to shoot the moon. Actually getting rid now may work. The earlier a "break" happens, the more likely it is to prevent someone setting up their hand to take the rest.
So there you go - some tactics to consider.