I love playing cards, and I love that online games allow me to play absolutely whenever I want. But I have come to the conclusion that something vital does get lost when you play with people who ONLY play online, especially for precision games like hearts. They haven’t endured the gentle (and not-so-gentle) browbeatings of beloved friends, sitting around a table carefully explaining the concepts. Instead, an entire set of imagined rules seems to have sprung up, quickly brought out the moment things go wrong.

The issue of covering (preventing a shoot or moon) in hearts is frequently misunderstood and often devolves into quite a bit of negativity. The online standard for many novices is “You must pass a heart every time, and you must make sure the person you passed to does not shoot the moon specifically by taking the heart you passed them with a higher heart.”

Now, passing (and playing) with the idea of preventing a moon is assuredly a fine idea. But let’s look at the differences between the novice rule and the realities of actual gameplay.

1. Stopping a moon is almost always in your own best interests. So refusing to stop a moon because “it wasn’t your job since you didn’t pass to the shooter” is silly. You don’t know what the person who passed had in their hand. Maybe they can’t stop the shooter through no fault of their own. Maybe they made a mistake. Maybe they are just a ducking jerk. It still doesn’t help you to refrain from stopping it just to whine about how it wasn’t your job.

2. Passing a heart just to follow the alleged rule can leave you unable to cover. Consider a situation where you have the K and 8 of hearts. If you keep both, you have a good chance of feeding the 8 to the Ace and using the K to take a trick. If, however, you passed your 8 just to follow the rule, you have left yourself with one heart that can get eaten by the Ace.

3. Passing a heart is not the only way to pass cover. Sometimes you are void in hearts, short as described in #2, or passed a heart to someone who already had all the top hearts. It happens. You may well be better off voiding another suit or keeping high cards you would usually consider undesirable like high clubs. And, if you have to risk eating the Queen, deal with it. It is still better than allowing the moon.

4. Perhaps most importantly, never lose track of the big picture. If, in a game to 53, you have 28 points already, then it is in my best interest to stop either of the other people from shooting no matter whose pass it was or what cards you have. Similarly, if you are at 49 and trying to stop the shooter puts you at risk of going over, then I should take care of it if I can. Placing any burden on high man to stop people is unreasonable and counterproductive.

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