Hand, Knee, and Foot, or Triple Play, is a card game in the Rummy genre. More specifically, it is a variation on the game Canasta. In that game, players have two hands, one they must empty before they can empty the second to “go out”.
Hand, Knee, and Foot includes an additional hand that must be emptied, hence the name of the game.
Key rules at a glance:
- Play in partnerships, alternating turns between teams
- Deal 3 hands to each player: Hand (15 cards), Knee (13), Foot (11)
- Meld sets of 3+ cards of the same rank to empty your hands
- Sets with 7 cards are “Canastas” worth bonuses
- Partnerships need minimum meld points to “break” and meld freely
- Take the discard pile if you can immediately meld the top card
- Ask your partner before “Going Out” by emptying your Foot
- Unmelded cards deduct points, bonuses for Canastas and red 3s
- Highest total score across 4 rounds wins
How to Play Triple Play?
Triple Play is best played as a Four-Player game. The four players should form two partnerships, sitting opposite from each other, such that the turn order always alternates between the two partnerships.
Hand, Knee, and Foot requires a significant amount of cards, due to the Triple-Handed nature of the game. There are 39 cards dealt per player, in a game for 4 Players for a total of 156 cards in play at the start of a round.
In order to form such a large complement of cards, a large number of decks is required. To form a proper Triple Play deck, six 54-card Joker Variants of the Anglo-American deck should be used. These six decks combine for a total of 324 cards.
A Dealer should be chosen at random, at which point they will begin the deal.
In subsequent rounds, the Dealing position will move to the left, such that each Player will be given the chance to act as the Dealer over the game’s four rounds.
The Dealer will shuffle the deck, and distribute the three hands of Triple Play: The Hand, Knee, and Foot.
- The Dealer will deal each Player 15 face-down cards for their “Hand.”
- Once each Player has a Hand, thirteen cards will be dealt for the “Knee.” These cards should also be face-down, and generally dealt in front of the fifteen Hand cards.
- The process repeats, the eleven-card “Foot” is dealt in front of the “Knee.”
All the remaining cards are placed into the center of the table, face-down, in a single stockpile. The top card of the deck is milled, turned over, and exposed. This milled card represents the first card of the discard pile.
Players should not inspect their cards until all three hands have been dealt, and Players may not inspect their Knee or Foot after they have been dealt, only the Hand.
Once all of the cards have been dealt, Players should inspect their Hand for any red 3. This would be any 3 card suited in ♥ or ♦.
Red 3s are worth an immediate 100 points, awarded to the partnership that plays them. These cards should be laid out on the table, face-up, in front of the Player who revealed them. Players then draw one card for each red 3 placed. Any Red 3 drawn during the game follows this same procedure.
The Player to the immediate left of the Dealer begins the first turn of the game. Each turn follows the same procedure.
At the start of their turn, Players will draw two cards from the Stock, or, they may draw the entire discard pile.
In order to draw the discard pile, Players must be able to meld the top card immediately.
It is good form to place the other components of the meld down first, then take the top card from the discard pile and add it to the meld, and then draw the remaining discard pile into the hand.
This way, Players cannot cheat by using other cards from the discard pile to meld with the top card.
After Drawing, Players are able to make any legal melds onto the table. The aim of Triple Play is to empty each hand of cards by melding them. Unmelded cards count negatively towards a Player’s score at the end of a round, known as “deadwood.”
There is only one type of meld in Triple Play, the Set. A Set is a combination of at least three cards of the same rank.
- Players can add up to seven cards into a single meld.
- Once a meld has seven cards, it becomes a Canasta.
The Jokers and Deuces (2s) are wild cards, able to take the place of any card in a meld.
However, each meld must have at least two non-wild cards in it, and a meld can never be composed of more than three wildcards at a given time.
Each card has its own associated value, both for scoring, and for determining “the break”. In order to meld, Players must have broken.
In order to break, a partnership’s first meld must be composed of a certain point threshold. This threshold varies from table to table, but the most common one is:
- 50 points for round one
- 90 for round two
- 120 for round three
- 150 for round four
The values of each individual card is given below in the “Scoring” section, with each card in a meld being scored for its card-score.
Once one of the Players in a partnership has broken by playing a meld that reaches or exceeds the threshold of that round, that partnership may meld freely.
Players may also place individual cards into their own, or other Player’s melds that have already been laid out on the board. Players may meld or drop individual cards as many times as they wish.
Once a Player has exhausted their hand of legal melds and drops, their turn ends by discarding one card from their hand into the discard pile. Keep in mind that black 3s (♠♣) cannot be melded with any other card, and as such serve as a “safe” discard.
Ending and Going Out
Turns continue in this way, with each Player following the same procedure.
- Players must empty their Hand first.
- Once that has been done, they may begin playing with the Knee cards.
- Once the Knee has emptied, Players must empty their Foot.
On the turn a Player may empty their foot, they must ask their partner if they may “Go Out” and empty their Foot. They must abide by their partner’s decision.
Once they have received approval from their partner, a Player may then Go Out and empty their hand of cards, thereby ending that round of play. Scores are totaled, and a new round begins.
Each card is scored individually, each having its own associated score. This score is the same value, whether subtracted or added to a partnership’s final total.
Remember that Black 3s cannot be melded, and as such have no associated value positive or negative. The following table demonstrates the value of each card in a game of Triple Play:
|4s, 5s, 6s, 7s
|8s, 9s, 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings
|Red 3s (Always Unmelded)
Players may also receive bonuses based on their melding performance, with certain melds awarding unique bonuses.
These bonuses are known as the “Basic Book.” Each special meld in the basic book can be achieved multiple times by either partnership in the course of a single round.
The melds in the basic book are as follows:
- A Natural Canasta of 7s, with no Wildcards. Each of these awards 5,000 points.
- A Natural Canasta of 5s, with no Wildcards. Each of these awards 3,000 points.
- A Canasta composed entirely of Wildcards (2s and Jokers). Each of these awards 2,500 Points.
- A “Canasta” of seven Red 3s. This Awards 300 Points, in addition to the 100 Points for each Red 3, for a total of 1000 points.
Players are also awarded additional bonuses from the Basic Book for any Canasta melded that is not composed of 5s or 7s.
- Natural Canastas without wildcards grant 500 bonus Points.
- Mixed or “Dirty” Canastas award 300 Points each.
- Being the Player to Go Out also grants an additional 200 points.
Scores have no upper limit. The winner of the game is instead determined at the end of scoring after the fourth round of gameplay. The partnership with the highest total score wins the game.
Let’s have a look at a possible in-game scenario of Triple Play.
- Suppose that it is your partner’s turn, and they ask you for permission to go out.
- Suppose that the whole table is playing from their Foot hand.
- Now suppose that the following cards remain in your hand:
K♠ 8♦ 9♠ 6♣ A♥ 4♠ 10♥ Q♦
The total point value of this hand is 80 points. This means that if your partner does Go Out right now, the score for your partnership will have to be subtracted by 80 points during the scoring phase.
However, consider the following information: The Player who goes out is awarded 200 Bonus Points.
This means that simply by going out, your team will still gain an additional 120 points, rather than losing 80 due to your deadwood in the hand. This means that in this scenario, the best option is to allow your partner to go out.
Since all Players at the table are on the Foot, it is just as likely for your opponents to go out on their turns, if given the chance. Do not risk that possibility, and instead take the 80-point penalty.
Remember that melds must have at least two natural cards, and cannot be composed of more than three wildcards.
Instead of using two wildcards to make a five-card meld, put one wildcard into two different three-card melds. This melds 6 cards, instead of 5.
Black 3s serve no purpose aside from discarding. They have a score of 0, and as such there is no danger in keeping them in the hand for as long as possible.
Save your black 3s for when you do not want to discard any of the other cards in your hand.