Hand and Foot is a card game related to canasta, but with a significant number of differences. It is played mainly in North America, especially by those people in college. There are truly no standard rules, just a number of variations. I'll write the rules down as I learned them, with any variations I am aware of as footnotes. (There are countless variations, and I am certain to have missed some of them, my apologies if I didn't get any of your favorite rules)

Number of Players: Ideally four, in two teams of two, but can be played with more teams, or even as individuals if so desired.

Supplies: One deck of cards, including jokers, per person. Paper and pencil are useful for keeping scores.

Setup:

Shuffle the four decks of cards together. Note that this is no small task, and usually two or three people will work together to try and make sure they're all sufficiently mixed together.

When determining seating, remember that partners must sit across from each other.

After shuffling, the cards are put together in a stack. Each player will deal themselves two piles of 111 cards. Then one pile is taken and set aside - this is the foot. The other pile can be picked up and looked at - this is the hand.

Object:

The object of the game is to score points by making "books" or "melds" of cards, played from your (and your partner's) hand and foot. After playing out all the cards from your hand, you are allowed to immediately pick up your foot. The round ends when one player has played all of the cards from their hand and foot into books and the discard pile. At that point, points are gained for cards played into the books, and lost for cards remaining in your hand and foot.

A book of cards is at least three cards of a rank (A, K, Q, down to 4 - the others have special uses), played face up on the table. A team shares the books, with usually only one player keeping the cards in front of them. When a book reaches 82 cards, it is considered "closed", and extra points are earned. Cards may continue to be played into closed books.3

Twos and jokers are considered wild cards, allowed to be played into any book.4 A book without any wild cards is known as a "clean book", and is worth more points. A book with wild cards is known as a "dirty book", and worth fewer points. There is a limit on the number of wild cards that may be played into a book, usually limited to being less than half of the total cards in the book.5 (If there are four "fives" in a book, there can be at most three wild cards) You cannot have more than one book of cards of the same rank.

Threes are "special" cards. A black three is a "useless" card, worth no points, and it cannot be played into a book - the only option is to discard a black three at the end of your turn. A red three similarly cannot be played into a book, and must be discarded - but is worth -500 points if you have any in your hand or foot at the end of the round.

The process of playing out all of your cards to end the round is known as "going out". To go out, a team must have at least one clean book, and one dirty books completed (that is, up to eight cards). Also, your partner must give you permission to go out - you cannot do so if they refuse.

Scoring:

The individual cards have the following point values:

    Joker - 50 pts.
    Aces and Twos - 20 pts.
    Eight through King - 10 pts.
    Four through Seven - 5 pts.
    Black Three - 0 pts.
    Red Three - -500 pts.

    Clean Book - 500 pts.
    Dirty Book - 300 pts.

There is a bonus of 100 points for the team going out.

Initial Point Requirements:

When a team starts laying down cards into books, there is a minimum number of points that must be laid down to do so. The number of points is calculated using the point values above. (For example, laying down three Jacks would be worth 30 points, if a pair of fives and a joker were played along with it, that would be a total of 90 points.)

    First Round ......... 50 pts.
    Second Round ... 90 pts.
    Third Round ........ 120 pts.
    Fourth Round ..... 150 pts.

Play:

Each player takes their turn in normal clockwise succession.

First, a player will either draw two cards, or elect to pick up the top eight6 (or fewer, if less than eight) cards from the discard pile. To be able to pick up the cards from the discard pile, the player must be able to play the top card of the discard pile immediately, based only on the cards the have in their hand, and books on the table7. (For example, if you have two sixes in hand, and the top card is a six, you can pick up from the discard pile. If you only have one, and no wild cards, you cannot pick up, even if you know there's another six in the pile) Obviously, you cannot pick up if there is a three on the top of the pile.

Then, a player may put cards from their hand into the books on the table, and open any new books whenever possible. After playing all the cards she wish/can play, the player must discard one card onto the discard pile. Note that this applies to even the last turn a player takes - you have to discard your last card.8

Winner:

After the four rounds have been completed, the team with the highest score is the winner.


1 - Commonly also 13 cards in each, or 11 in your hand and 13 in your foot.
2 - 7 is also a common variant considering books closed.
3 - It appears this is a less common variant we used - most seem to require further cards of that suit to be played into a new book. Some variants that don't limit the size of a book will allow a "double book" when 14 cards area reached, worth double the points.
4 - Some variants allow a book to be made of only wild cards - some even require it.
5 - This may also be restricted to as few as 1 wild card per two real cards per pile, rounded down. (If there are 4 "fives", only 2 wild cards)
6 - It's also common to make this seven cards, and less common variants include picking up only the top card, or picking up the ENTIRE discard pile.
7 - Another variation is for the player to have two cards of the same rank of the top card, and be able to play the top card immediately - this is only used when allowing books of all wild cards.
8 - Some variations do not require the last card to be a discard when going out.

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