How to Play the Hand and Foot Card Game

I have loved to play the card game Hand and Foot ever since a family member taught it to me 15 years apilorm ago. Hand and Foot is similar to Canasta but with a few differences in rules and game play. A player is dealt two sets of cards: one ‘Hand’ and one ‘Foot.’ The object of the game is to build melds of cards to form ‘Books,’ score as many points as possible, and play all of the cards in your Hand and Foot sets as quickly as possible.


Hand and Foot can be played with 2-8 players (the game can be played in pairs, but I’ll just focus on the single player rules). You will need one full deck of cards, including jokers, per player (add an additional deck if there are 3 or less players). All card decks are shuffled into a single Draw Pile. Each game includes 4 rounds of play. In each round, a player is deals themselves two sets of cards: 13 cards per set for 2-4 players, and 11 per set for 5-8 players. Then, they pass one set to their left and the resulting two sets become their Hand and Foot. Un-dealt cards are placed in a Draw Pile in the center of the table. The goal is to get rid of cards from your Hand and then from your Foot, by creating Melds and Books. Cards are initially played in a Meld, which is a set of three or more cards of equal rank placed face up on the table. Once a Meld reaches seven cards, a Book is created. Points are scored from the Melds and Books played, and points are deducted when a Player does not play all of the cards in their Hand and Foot sets.

There are two types of Melds:

1. A Red Meld has no Wild Cards and may become a Red Book.
2. A Black Meld has Wild Cards and may become a Black Book.

You can create Melds from any of the Ranked Cards: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4. Only one meld of each type of Ranked Card can be played in a round. In other words, you cannot have two separate Melds or Books of 8s for instance. 3s cannot be melded or formed into Books as they represent negative points. 2s and Jokers are Wild Cards and can be used in Melds, as long as there is at least one more Ranked Card than Wild Card(s). You cannot meld Wild Cards alone. A minimum Black Meld consists of two Ranked Cards and one Wild Card. Melds are laid out face up for everyone to see, completed Books are piled up and the card placed on top shows the type – a red card for a Red Book, a black card for a Black Book. Cards of equal rank can be added to complete Books; however Wild Cards cannot be played on Red Books.


To begin, each player picks up their Hand. During each turn, a player must pick up 2 cards from the Draw Pile and end their turn by discarding 1 card into a Discard Pile to be located next to the Draw Pile. During a turn, a player can lay down Melds and/or Books if they meet our exceed the Minimum Round Points. Once all of the cards in a player’s Hand is either played or discarded, they can then pick up their Foot and continue forming melds. A player does not need to discard a the end of a turn if they have played all cards in their Hand (at which point they ‘Run’ to their Foot) or if they play all cards in their Foot and Go Out. A player must have at least 1 card in their Hand at all times unless they are going into their Foot and must keep 1 card in their Foot at all times unless they are Going Out. A Round ends when one player ‘goes out’. In order to Go Out, you must:

1. Have reached your Foot and played it completely, AND
2. Have at least one Red Book and one Black Book. You do not necessarily need to discard to Go Out.


You score points for cards you have melded and for each Book. If you are not the player who goes out, you lose points for any cards left in your Hand and/or Foot at the end of the play. Each Round ends when one player goes out. At the end of each Round, the points of each player are tallied, and the point total from all previous Rounds are added together to form the total points. The player with the highest score at the end of all 4 Rounds wins the game. The best Hand and Foot players are those who can accumulate large point totals and quickly go out to trap the other players with cards in their hands and thus leaves them with negative points.

You receive two scores per Round. One for the books and the other for the combined face value of all other melds played on the table. Once your books have been counted then all the cards you played, including those in the books, are added up at the card point value. For instance, seven 10s will count as the Red Book value of 500 points as well as 10 points for each card for a total of 570 points. This applies to the non-winning players as well. If you did not go out, and are caught with cards in your Hand and/or your Foot, those points count against you. If you did not go out and you have books and/or melds on the table, those points add up for you.

Minimum Round Points:

To start laying down cards into Melds, the point total of cards played must exceed the round minimum:

-Round 1, cards points must total at least 50 to play
-Round 2, cards points must total at least 90 to play
-Round 3, cards points must total at least 120 to play
-Round 4, cards points must total at least 150 to play

Card Points:

-Jokers = 50 points (Wild Card)
-2s = 20 points (Wild Card)
-Aces = 15 points
-Ks, Qs, Js, 10s = 10 points each
-4s, 5s, 6s, 7s, 8s, 9s = 5 points each
-Black 3s = -50 points
-Red 3s = -500 points

Book Points:

-Red Book = 500 points
-Black Book = 300 points
-The player Going Out each Round gets 100 bonus points

Discard Pile Pickup Rules:

During a turn, a player may pick up five cards from the Discard Pile instead of drawing two cards from the Draw Pile. In order to pick up the discard pile the following criteria must be met:

1. You must have two cards in your Hand/Foot that matches the top card in the pile,

2. You must meld the top card in the Discard Pile,

3. You must have the required Minimum Round Points. The top discard may give you the Minimum Round Points, but the remaining 4 cannot be counted until after the Minimum Round Points are achieved.

If a player already has a meld or book of a particular Ranked Card and that card is on top of the Discard Pile, they can pick up five cards from the Discard Pile as long as they have one card in their current set that matches the top card in the pile and that the top card and the matching card in their Hand/Foot are both played. The player’s turn ends in the same manner as other turns, by either discarding or Going Out. Drawing from the Discard Pile cannot proceed unless there are a minimum of six cards in the pile.

Well, this sounds like a lot to remember, but learning Hand and Foot is not difficult at all. I recommend that new players have a practice round, where you can quickly learn the rules and understand why the game is so popular!

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