Best Hearts Game Ever

Kris and I played cards with Mac and Pam on Sunday. No big surprise there; we play whenever we can.

We played Bridge first, but Pam kicked our asses. Again, no big surprise there. She finished with 3700 points in three rubbers while the rest of us each had around 1400 points.

The game of Hearts that we played was more fun.

I started playing Hearts (rules, which are simple) when I was a sophomore in high school. When my family started attending Zion Mennonite Church, learning Hearts was part of the initiation into the youth social scene. (Learning Rook was, of course, the real initiation. Rook is the game of choice among young Mennonites.)

The Hearts that I’ve played with my Mennonite friends isn’t nearly as fun, or as challenging, as the Hearts I play with Mac and Pam. The Mennonite group plays: Black Lady and Passing variations, Two of Clubs opens, Jack of Diamonds is minus ten, a player receives minus three for taking no tricks, and no points may be played on the first trick. Also, the level of play is not as high as with Mac and Pam.

The version of Hearts that Mac and Pam play features: Black Lady and Passing variations, a four card kitty (which goes to the first person to take a point), the person to the left of the dealer opens, no bonus for the Jack of Diamonds or for avoiding tricks, and points may be played on the first trick. Also, the deal skips a player after the hold hand. (Kris and I have convinced them to play with the minus three point bonus for not taking a trick, and they seem to like the rule.)

The basic difference between these rules is that it is more difficult to Shoot the Moon with Mac and Pam’s rules. Removing the bonus for the Jack of Diamonds also eliminates an element of luck that is otherwise involved in the play. In all, their rules are much more fun.

Here’s the score card from the Best Hearts Game Ever:

Pam J.D. Kris Mac
-26 0 -3 0
-17 1 -2 15
-17 3 21 12
-11 23 21 9
9 26 24 9
6 23 45 14
6 25 66 17
27 22 69 19
49 27 69 19
46 36 82 23
43 43 85 39
43 56 89 48
40 74 86 56
41 74 86 81
61 80 83 81
77 77 86 88
96 83 83 89
100 100 86 91
116 106 86 95

Important things to know: Pam has an eidetic memory (or nearly so), so counting cards is easy for her. I go into nearly every hand with the intention of Shooting the Moon. I also tend to overanalyze the game. Kris doesn’t really like Hearts, and she really doesn’t like it when I overanalyze the game. The whole group is very competitive, but Pam and I are especially competitive with each other. Pam rarely loses at Hearts (or any other card game). This just makes me more eager to defeat her.

This particular game started with Pam Shooting the Moon, an event that caused groans around the table. She was likely to win anyhow, and spotting her a 26 point lead just increased the chance that she would be victorious.

For the next few hands, things were typical. Then, Kris hit a string of bad luck, falling far behind with 66 points. Pam continued to lead. But then she had a couple of bad hands, taking the Queen twice consecutively. Suddeny, the men were vying for the lead and the women were behind. Not very common in our group, and a state that both Mac and I relish.

Our taste of the lead was short-lived, however. Kris fell futher behind (and became more surly, sulking and snapping), but Pam stabilized in the low 40s and Mac and I fell nearly even with Kris in the 70s and 80s.

Then things began to fall apart for Pam. Within two hands, she and I were tied at 77, with Kris and Mac only ten points back. Pam took the Queen and suddenly found herself in last place. I was tied for the lead with Kris (who had looked a sure loser only a few hands before).

I felt confident. Victory was within my reach. Whether I won the game or Pam lost the game did not matter: either outcome was a victory. If both happened, it would be all the sweeter. On the pass, I worked myself a safe hand: low cards, Spades protection, few Hearts. I was ready. The first two tricks were typical, but then the bomb dropped. Pam had voided herself in Clubs (or had a singleton, I don’t recall), and was able to sluff the Queen on my lowly Seven of Clubs. The Seven of Clubs took the Queen on only the first or second Clubs trick! I was in agony! I was also now tied with Pam at 100 points; whichever of us took the most points the next hand would lose the game.

The game had lasted eighteen hands, which is extraordinary for a game of Hearts. We were all within fifteen points of each other, and each had over 85 points. I’ve never seen a game so close!

I dealt the cards, and we passed across. My hand was average. I would likely take a few points, but I hoped to avoid the Queen. Little did I know, Pam had passed Kris the Ace and King of Spades, but Kris had passed her the Queen, which was now her only Spade. She was doomed from the start.

As the first Spades trick went around, and Pam was forced to take it with the Queen. It then became only a matter of preventing her from Shooting the Moon (which wasn’t difficult, as she hadn’t the cards to do it), and the game ended with her as the Big Loser.

The game was a blast, especially after the first few hands. The leader changed often. The score was close. The game was competitive. This is the reason I love to play games.

It’s also the reason that I prefer interactive games to non-interactive games. Some games, Eurorails and Empire Builder for example, have little player interaction. These games are dull to me now, though I enjoyed them once. I’m interested in games that allow players to interact, to affect each other’s status within the game, games like El Grande and Settlers of Catan, and Tigris and Euphrates. (Tigris and Euphrates is my favorite of these, I think, but most people find the game too complicated.)

Game night in one week!

Who Owns the Memories?

Recently I’ve given a lot of thought to the responsibilities and obligations of a journalist. When I say journalist, I don’t mean a reporter; I mean a person who keeps a journal, or a weblog, or who writes a personal history.

Through this weblog, I share many of the important events in my life (and, some would say, many of the unimportant events in my life). To what degree am I obligated to edit what I write here? To what degree am I obligated to not edit what I write here? To what degree is this obligation to the truth different than the obligation to the truth when I create a scrapbook/album that contains my personal history?

These are tough questions.

I am generally an honest person. I see no sense in hiding the truth. However, I recognize that in some cases the truth a) may not be productive, b) may hurt somebody else, and/or c) may not be mine to share.

For example, I have a close friend who will likely change gender. While this is not a huge component of my life, it is a huge component this person’s life (obviously). When we spend time together, it becomes a rather large issue, for good or ill, between us. This is something that I’d normally be incline to share in this weblog, and certainly in my scrapbook/personal history. Is it something I can share, though? Is it something I should share? Tough questions.

In this case, I’ve opted not to discuss the subject in the weblog. However, I’ve asked (and been granted) permission from this person to incorporate this particular aspect of our relationship into my personal history. I have a greater degree of control over who accesses my personal history, as it is a phsical object, a scrapbook, that I alone grant permission to view. My weblog is open for the entire world to see (though I realize it’s only friends and family that actually read it).

Even the personal history raises questions of this nature. Where should the line be drawn regarding what I put in my scrapbook? I have another friend that is gay and semi-out. However, he’s not completely out. How much of this should I put in my personal history? It’s always there when I’m with him, it’s a huge component of who he is. It seems senseless to skirt the issue when I’m documenting my life. Yet, is it really my decision?

I have very strong feelings regarding my parents, both positive and negative. Whether I place my positive feelings in my scrapbook is not an issue. Nobody minds reading positive things about themselves. But what about my negative feelings? My father is dead, so it’s less of an issue. I don’t mind putting down the things that bugged me, the things that made our relationship difficult. But my mother is alive, and likely to be hurt by some of the things that I would say. Do I include them? Do I censor myself? Is it fair for me to write only the positive things about my mother and not mention the less flattering things (which are nevertheless a portion of her character, and a portion of my relationship with her)?

Similarly, I have a letter from a friend in which she confesses things that she might consider secret. The letter is very much meant to be communication between me and this friend. However, it is a huge component of my personal history. How can I edit it from my scrapbook? Yet, how do I handle its presence? Do I black out the most provocative lines, so that when others read the history they are left in the dark? Blacking out these lines makes the letter mundane, unworthy of inclusion in my scrapbook. Allowing the lines to remain raises issues regarding secrecy and trust and friendship.

Who owns the memories? How much honesty is too much?

Tony just said to me: “God, you’re wierd.” Like I haven’t heard that one before.