Double Deck Cancellation Hearts Primer
©2003 Beth Weiss
One of the most popular card games—any kind of game—played
at RGs is Double Deck Cancellation Hearts. If you play cards at all, especially
if you play Hearts (even if you don’t really like it), you will probably love
Double Deck. It’s a fun and social game. It’s nowhere near as intellectually
challenging as bridge, and it’s a larger social group than euchre since you have
If you already play Hearts, Double Deck is easy to learn.
The game is played with two decks of cards (you probably figured that out from
the Double Deck part of its name). The game is played with 6-10 players. If
you don’t play Hearts, you’ll have a slightly higher learning curve. You might
want to play in Yahoo! for a while before your next RG!
There are those who will say that 8 is the optimal number
of players, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t played with more or fewer. Some
people will play with 11, although most of the time, if there are 11 people who
want to play, then you search out one more so you can have two tables of 6.
Sometimes, searching out the “one more” takes you to two tables of 8!
Someone volunteers to be scorekeeper (or is volunteered),
writes down the names (or Hearts nicknames) of the people around the table, and
the game starts. People just seem to acquire Hearts nicknames. If you play
enough, you’ll meet 4Q, Black Widow, Gloater, Pepper, Long John, Hazmat, and a
host of others.
The “dealer of record” is the person who shuffles the cards
and then spreads them all over the center of the table (and hopefully not the
floor). Everybody draws the proper number of cards from the messy pile. (How
many cards depends on how many people are playing. If there are 8 players,
everyone gets 13 cards. If there are 7 players, a joker is added in and
everyone gets 15 cards. The first dealer and/or the scorekeeper will figure it
out and tell everyone else.) This is called dealing. It’s a little less
formal than some other games, and unless the screw-up is extreme, misdeals are
dealt with by the person who is short a card pulling one from the player who has
Passing can be a bit confusing, but the scorekeeper
generally keeps track and will remind everyone at the start of the hand.
Passing (when it’s done) is always 3 cards. On the first hand, everyone passes
three cards to the person on their left. On the second hand, everyone passes
three cards to the person on their right. (Remember that what goes around,
comes around. The person you pass to is going to be passing to you!) On the
third hand, it goes “two to the left”, which means “three cards to the 2nd
person to your left”. Then on to “two to the right” (“three cards to the 2nd
person to your right”), and so on, until eventually there’s a “hold hand” (no
passing). And then it starts over again.
There are those who practice a certain level of “passing
etiquette”. For example, there are people who will not pass “doubles”, meaning
two identical cards. There are other people who always pass doubles, of
course. Some people try to keep their passes relatively tame, others will pass
to make the best hand for themselves that they can. It’s usually a bad idea to
pass low spades, just in case someone passes you the Queen and you need some
other spades to play until you can get rid of her. And if you have enough
length in spades in your hands, there’s no reason to pass off the Queen or other
The player to the left of the “dealer of record” leads. We
play Guts Rules (sometimes known as Killer Hearts), which means that any card
can be led or played on the first trick. And that does mean any card. In
regular Hearts, the 2 of clubs is always the opening lead, and blood (points)
can’t be played on the first trick. These rules do away with both of those
restrictions. The opening lead can be any card the person chooses—including the
Queen of Spades or the Ace of Hearts. The high card of the suit lead takes the
Here is where the Cancellation part of the game comes in.
If two identical cards are played on the same trick, they cancel each other out
and cannot take the trick. For example, if someone leads the Ace of Hearts, and
the next player plays the Queen of Hearts, the Ace is clearly “high” at that
point, and will take the trick. But then imagine that the third player plays
the other Ace of Hearts. Those Ace of Hearts cancel out, and now the Queen is
As a matter of strategy, many players will pass one of a
double to a player to their left, and then lead the one they kept. So, in the
example above, the player who led the Ace of Hearts may very well have passed
that second Ace of Hearts to the player to the left—and so has a reasonable
expectation of it being matched and canceling out.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that the player will
actually match you. It’s considered polite, but as one frequent Hearts player
points out, “There are no friends at the Hearts table.” If you are low (meaning
you have a low score), chances are that the person holding the other Ace of
Hearts will just let you eat the trick. And it isn’t uncommon for a player to
ask about the scores before choosing a card to play—deciding if they’re going to
match, and if so, who they’re going to match. There are many players who will
try not to hand the same player both Queens of Spades, especially on the same
trick, but if a player has low score, all bets are off.
The card-gathering etiquette is a bit different from
regular Hearts too. When you play your card, instead of putting it towards the
middle of the table, you turn it over right in front of you. When the trick is
finished and decided, only point cards (hearts and the Queen of Spades) are
passed to the winner. Other cards are just flipped over in front of the player
to make a nice little pile. (You can’t play from your discards!)
Scorekeeping is straightforward. When the last trick is
over, each player picks up the pile in front of them, and counts one point for
each heart and thirteen points for each Queen of Spades. Cards aren’t tossed
in until the scorekeeper verifies that all 52 points have been accounted for.
It’s not uncommon for a heart to be lost, or for someone to miss the Queen when
they’re counting, so don’t toss your cards in early!
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to play. Ask to
join a game. Ask a regular player if you can look over their shoulder and learn
during one game and then get into the next one. By the way, a Double Deck game
goes for about 2 hours. Which means that those of us who play until 5:00 a.m.
actually started our last game at 3:00.
Double Deck Scoresheet
Note: The Dayton 2003 RG,
DAMNations 16, Sixteen Tons, will have a Learn to Play Double Deck
Cancellation Hearts program!