The Hand and Foot card game is one of the card games that are a variation of Canasta. It originated in North America and is played with a hand and a foot pile, hence the name, vs. just a hand pile as with traditional Canasta. The game uses between four and seven full decks of cards and is designed to be played in teams.

Each team is normally made up of two players with only two teams playing at a time. That said, the game can still work with up to three or four teams. In some versions, the number of decks used is one more than the number of players, others call for equal numbers of players and uno deck. So, for example, if you have six players, use six to seven decks of cards.

The large number of playing cards makes forming piles much easier in the Hand and Foot card game than with the standard version of Canasta. For that reason, most people feel the Hand and Foot card game is suitable for beginning players. This article is designed to teach you how to play this fun and challenging speed card game.

Hand and Foot Card Game: Setting Up

To set up a Hand and Foot card game, the dealer will give each player two sets of cards. One set is used as the “hand” the other as the “foot.” You may encounter people who play in different ways since there is no set of “standard” rules as there are for some other card games like tri peaks solitaire. As mentioned before, playing in teams is most common, but there are single player variations too. Also, although teams of two are the status quo, teams of threes are acceptable. There are advantages and disadvantages to every option. Still, it is best to sort out the player layout everyone prefers early on.

The instructions below will deal specifically with playing with four people paired into teams of two with an equal deck to player ratio.

You will need:

  • Four full decks of playing cards for a ratio of one deck per player. The jokers should be included.
  • Pen and paper to keep score

​In the Hand and Foot card game, there are two dealing options the dealer/s can pick from, but once a method is chosen it should be kept the same throughout the game:

1) Choose which team will deal cards first. That team will shuffle all the cards thoroughly and then one of the members will act as the dealer. The dealer will take half of the available cards and deal them 11 cards per player face down. The first stack will be each player’s “hand” stack.

The other player on the team will then act as the dealer, taking the second half of the cards and dealing them 11 cards per player face down. The second stack will be each player’s “foot” stack. The two shuffled piles that were dealt from should be placed in the center of the table face down. All following deals will rotate clockwise to spread the deal.

2) Decide which player will have the first turn. That player will select a stack of cards from one of the center piles. The goal is to try to grab as close to 22 cards as possible without going over. That player then counts the cards they chose, separating them into two stacks of 11. One stack for the “hand” and another for the “foot. If they have too many cards, they have to replace or pull stacks from the center decks until they have a total of 22 cards (two piles of 11). Going clockwise, each player does the same.

*Note: In the event, a player actually pulls exactly 22 cards that player gets 300 points.

The Object of the Game

The object of the game is to get rid of all 11 of your hand and all 11 of your foot cards. That is accomplished through melding. Melding is when you place a set of three to seven cards face up on the game table. The cards must all be of equal rank. Melding is where working with your team members is essential. There are two types of melds:

1) A clean or natural meld is one that contains no wildcards2) A dirty or wild meld has wild cards and may become a black pile

Although melds are played fanned out and face up for all players to see, once meld is completed (thus becoming a pile) it is stacked up, and the card placed on the top of the pile identifies its type. A red card marks a red pile, and a black card marks a black pile.

The rules of melding are:

  • A meld must be no less than three cards
  • A meld can have no more than seven cards
  • Melds are a partnership activity, not one of an individual player
  • Once a meld has started all partners can build on it until the meld reaches its maximum of seven cards
  • Once a meld is completed, another of the same rank can be started
  • Melds can include any rank of cards between aces through 4’s
  • Threes of any suit can’t be used in melds
  • You only play on melds that belong to members of your team
  • A completed meld is called a pile

The rules for playing on a pile are:

  • Wildcards cannot be played on piles
  •  Cards of equal ranks can be played on piles

Wild Cards

Deuces and jokers are considered wild cards and can be used in all meld ranks. The only stipulations are:

  • There need to be at least twice as many genuine cards as wild cards in the rank when a wild card is used
  • There is a max of two wild cards per meld
  • Wild cards can not be melded alone
  •  Wild Cards cannot be played on completed piles 


​Now that we have covered the basic structure of the game, we will run through how an actual play of a Hand and Foot card game would look. As mentioned before, after the initial deal the remainder of the cards are placed in two piles face down in the center of the table. They are the game’s “stock” cards. The play begins with the person to the left of the original or first “dealer” and continues clockwise until a player goes out.

​The entire card game is four rounds long. Every round should have a meld point requirement that is raised in subsequent rounds. A team must put down enough melds to meet the minimum requirement before they are considered to be “in” the game. If a discard pile is used to meet the requirement of tonk the card game, you can only count the meld made with the top card toward the minimum requirement, no matter how many total melds the discard pile gives you.

During his or her turn a player:

  • Draws the top two cards off the stock OR takes the top five cards off of the discard pile
  • Melds any cards they can, or wish to, and/or add cards to their partner’s meld
  •  To end their turn, the player discards one card into the discard pile.

Rules for picking cards from the discard pile:

  • If the discard pile is fewer than five cards, the player can take the whole pile
  • No more than five cards can be taken
  • You must hold two cards that are the same rank as the top card in the discard pile, and those cards must immediately be melded

The other significant thing to mention about the discard pile is that it is risky to take cards from it. This is because red and black threes have no use in the ​spit card game, and each player will be trying to discard them into the discard pile. There is a point penalty for having threes in your hand or foot piles at the end of each round.

Things to remember about red and black threes:

  • Three red threes in your hand or foot at the end of a round will cause your team to be docked 300 points
  • Black threes cost five points per three off your team’s total score at the end of a round
  • There is no way to get rid of threes other than to discard them

​As mentioned earlier, you are allowed to pick up your foot once your hand is fully played. If a player completes their hand during a turn–without discarding the final card–they may continue with their foot until they discard. If a player’s hand is finished by discarding the final hand card, then they have to wait until their next turn to play their foot.

How To “Go Out” —The End Of A Play

The play is over when a member of a team goes out. That is accomplished by the team:

  • Completing at least two red and two black piles
  • The second partner must have picked up AND played from their foot
  • The team member going out must have consent from their partner before doing so

​If a player’s partner agrees to let them go out, the two team members must meld all of their cards and discard their final card. If all the cards can be melded, a discard is not required to go out.

Scoring is as follows:

  • Jokers = 50 points (Wild Card)
  • Deuces = 20 points (Wild Card)
  • Aces = 20 points
  • Eight through King (8-K) = 10 points
  • Four through Seven (4-7) = 5 points
  • King (8-K) = 10 points
  • Red three = minus 300 points
  • Black three = minus 5 points
  • Red Piles 500 points
  • Black Piles 300 points
  •  Player going out gets 100 bonus points 

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