Hand and Foot is a popular meld-making card game played mainly in the United States. It is exclusively a meld-making game without an aspect of trick taking. Instead, Hand and Foot is based on drawing cards from a large deck, or “stock” and discarding into a discard pile. Melds are also formed, and once a meld is played it is left on the table in a stack, known as a “book.”
The Hand and Foot card game is a variation of another rummy-style meld-making game known as Canasta. The differences are explained below in the FAQ.
How to Play Hand and Foot?
Hand and Foot is played with the Joker Variant of the Anglo-American Standard deck. This means that instead of 52, the game is played with decks of 54 cards.
More than one deck is needed in order to play Hand and Foot. Traditionally, 5 to 6 decks are combined into one when playing with five or more Players.
Instructions on how to play Hand and Foot are presented below.
To start the game, the decks are shuffled into one shoe and each Player is first dealt 11 cards. This first set of 11 cards are allowed to be looked at by the Player they are dealt to. Once each Player has been dealt their 11 cards, known as the Hand, then another set of 11 cards will be dealt.
This second set of cards cannot be looked at until the Hand has been emptied through normal course of play. The second set, known as the Foot, will only be turned over and looked at once the Hand is empty. Once the Foot has also been emptied through the course of play, the game will end.
Once each Player has been dealt their 22 cards, the remaining cards will be placed face down in the center of the area of play.
This deck is known as the “Stock” and will be the drawing area of the game.
Next to the stock, turn over the card at the top of the stock face-up. If it is a red (♦♥) 3, a 2 of any kind, or a joker, place it on the bottom of the stock and turn over another card. This upturned card represents the discard pile.
Each Player will take their turn, starting off by drawing two cards from the stock. The course of the Player’s turn, during which time they may lay out any melds on the table, will end with discarding a single card into the discard pile.
If a Player has a card in their Hand or Foot of the same rank as the top pile of the discard pile, they are allowed to “take the pile”, and draw the top 7 cards of the discard pile.
However, when doing this, the Player may only use that card which was on top of the discard pile for a meld that turn. The other 6 cards may not be played until that Player’s next turn.
In order to start playing melds, a certain number of cards must be placed down in order to meet a minimum point requirement.
Players must keep drawing and discarding until the requisite number of points have been placed down in the area of play. A Player may play a meld in order to meet this point requirement.
- Round 1, 50 points must be contributed.
- Round 2, the minimum is 90.
- Round 3 it is 120.
- Round 4 it is 150.
Melds in this game are finalized into piles called “books” that will be set out on the area of play. There are two kinds of books, Black or dirty books, and Red or clean/natural books.
Clean books are formed from any 7 cards of the same rank. For example, seven 9 cards. These cards may be any color, and any suit, so long as they are the same rank.
There are also dirty melds. Dirty melds are formed from at least 4 cards of the same rank, and up to three wild cards (Jokers and all suits of the 2 cards) in order to make up the remaining missing cards from the meld.
Once a meld or book is complete, it is placed on the table in a single-stack pile, with all cards turned face up. The top card of the pile represents the kind of meld. If there is a normal card on top of the pile, it is Red. If there is a Joker on top of the pile, then it is Black.
Points are scored both for books, and for the value of cards in the books. Kings, for example, are worth ten points per card, whereas 5s are only worth five points.
So, a Red book of Kings and a Red book of 5s both get the same meld score, five-hundred points. The book of Kings is better however because points are then scored for each individual card.
- Red book of Kings is worth 570 points in total.
- Red book of 5s is only worth 535 points.
The game continues until the first Player empties both their Hand and their Foot cards. The final card must be discarded at the end of the turn, following the normal discard procedure.
Playing with Partners
Hand and Foot may be played with Partners. The game will continue as normally, with each “team” acting as a single Player normally would. Each team will be dealt 11 cards for the Hand, and 11 cards for the Foot, and will work together to make their plays and deciding which cards to discard.
Hand and Foot Rules
- According to traditional rules of Hand and Foot, the top card from the stock must be discarded at the start of the game.
- When taking the pile, only the top card may be used for any melds within that same turn. Also, 7 cards must be taken when taking the pile.
- At the start of each turn, 2 cards are drawn. At the end of each turn, one card is discarded. In order to end a round, a Player must discard their last card in this fashion.
|Red Book/Natural Meld||500|
|Black Book/Dirty Meld||300|
Individual Card Values
5♦ 7♥ 8♥ Q♥ Q♠ Q♠ 4♣ 5♣ 9♣ Q♣ K♣ K♣
The above is a possible Hand that might be dealt at the start of a round.
This hand qualifies for “start play”, as it is considered to be round 1 and the required point total is 50 to “start play” round 1. There is already two possible melds being formed in this hand, a possible meld of Kings and a possible meld of Queens.
Strategy & Tips
- Strategy for Hand and Foot should include clever discards, and taking the pile at key times.
- Taking the pile adds 7 cards, so only use this tactic when you are behind in points but ahead in number of cards.
- Clean melds are worth many more points, but are harder to come by. If there is an opportunity to make a dirty meld, it may be advantageous to take it. There is always the possibility that perfect card doesn’t come up in the stock.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many cards do you deal in Hand and Foot?
Each player is dealt two different sets of 11 cards. The first deal, and the cards which must be played first, is the Hand. The second set, left face down until the hand has been totally melded or discarded, is the Foot.
Can you play Hand and Foot with three players?
Yes. However, traditionally Hand and Foot is played with five or more players, due to the number of cards in a six-deck shoe (Including jokers). If you are planning on playing Hand and Foot with less players, consider using less decks, perhaps only three or four instead of the usual five or six.
How much is a red 3 worth in Hand and Foot?
In Hand and Foot, the red (♦♥) 3 is worth five points when calculating the starting point value during the “in the game” phase.
How many points do you need to win?
The round (or game if only playing a single round) ends when the first Player discards their last card and empties both their Hand and Foot cards. Players then calculate their scores both for their melds, and the face values of the cards played.
The Players who have not discarded all of their cards must also subtract the point values of the cards still in their hand from their total meld and point score. In order to win, you must have more points than your opponents once the round ends.
What is the difference between Hand and Foot and Canasta?
There are several key differences between Hand and Foot and Canasta, most significantly the mechanics in Canasta about “freezing” the discard pile, and the specific rules around play etiquette, particularly with one’s partner.