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How To Play Hand And Foot Card Game: Hand And Foot Card Game Rules

Overview

Hand and Foot is a fun card game with North American roots. It is related to another card game known as Canasta. There are several variants of the game with adapted rules as there are no standard rules for this game. The most common version is played by 4 people in teams of 2. The game can also be played by 6 people in three teams or by any number of people playing individually.

Objective

The objective of the game is to be the first to get rid of all your cards, starting with ‘Hand’ and then ‘Foot’.

Hand and Foot Card Game Rules

You must get rid of your ‘Hand’ cards first before moving to the ‘Foot’ cards.

A meld must have 3 to 7 cards of equal rank and must meet the minimum threshold for the round before it can be played.

There is no limit to the number of melds a team can have but a team is not allowed to have two incomplete melds of the same rank.

Playing a black three blocks the next player from drawing from the ‘Discarded Pile’

Note that there are no standard rules for the game and players are free to adapt the game as described in this piece to their taste.

Number of Players Needed

Any number of players can play but it is best to play the game with 2-6 players. The most common version is played by 4 people.

Equipment

5 to 6 standard card decks with Jokers are required to play the game. The number of card decks to be used must at least match the number of players.

Setting Up

First, the card decks are thoroughly shuffled. Players can pick up a card deck each and shuffle, after which the dealer deals out 11 cards to each player. This first set of cards dealt to each player is called ‘Hand’. Players are allowed to pick up and check out their ‘Hand’. The second set of 11 cards dealt to each player is called ‘Foot’. Unlike ‘Hand’, players cannot look at their ‘Foot’ and must be placed face-down. The rest of the cards are placed in the middle of the table and form the ‘Stock Pile’.

The top card on the Stock Pile is flipped and laid down as the first card in the ‘Discard Pile’. If this card turns out to be a red Three, a Joker, or a Deuce, it is returned to the bottom of the stock Pile and a new card is drawn from the top of the Stock Pile.

How to play Hand and Foot Card Game

Before learning how the game is actually played, you need to understand the concept of ‘Melding’ and the card value system for the game. Melding is the technique used for getting rid of cards in Hand and Foot. A meld is a set of 3-7 cards of the same rank placed face-up on the table. It cannot be less than 3 neither can it be more than 7. Melds belong to a partnership when the game is played in teams and not to an individual. Once a meld is started, both players in a team are allowed to add to it until its complete. A player can make melds of any card rank except for 3’s as those have special uses and cannot be melded like other cards.

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The red and black threes have special uses as stated above. The red threes count for the players only if they are laid out on the table with their melds. If not, they will count against the players. As soon as you notice you have a red three with you, place it on the table face-up and pick a replacement from the ‘Stock Pile’. If your opponents happen to go out before you have picked up your ‘Foot’ cards, any red threes in them will count against you, as well as all the other cards in your ‘Foot’.

Black threes are of no real use other than stopping the next player from drawing from the ‘Discard Pile”. You must endeavour to discard all the black threes with you before the game ends as every black three left with you at the end of the game will cost you 5 points each.

Let’s quickly discuss the card value system in Hand and Foot before continuing the discussion about melds. This is to help you better understand the next part of the meld discussion. Each card in Hand and Foot game is given a different point value as you will see below. There are Natural cards and Wild cards.

Natural Cards

8’s through Kings are worth 10 points

4’s through 7’s are worth 5 points

A black 3 is worth -5 points

A red 3 is worth either +100 or -100 points

Wild Cards

Jokers are worth 50 points

Aces and 2’s are worth 20 points

Back to melds, a meld may be clean, dirty or wild. If you are wondering what this means, I’ll explain. A ‘Clean Meld’ is a meld that consists of only natural cards regardless of suit, so far it meets the minimum point threshold for the round. You will find out about the minimum point threshold system later in this piece. So, if you have 3 to 7 natural cards in your hand regardless of suit (you can have a mixture of diamond, spade, club and heart) and meet the minimum point threshold for the round, you can play a “Clean Meld”. A ‘Clean Meld’ is worth more points than a ‘Dirty Meld’.

A ‘Dirty Meld’ is a mixture of both natural and wild cards that meets the minimum threshold point for that round. Here too, suit is inconsequential so far the minimum threshold point is met. ‘Dirty Melds’ are worth lesser points than ‘Clean Melds’ but they are easier to play. A ‘Dirty Meld’ must contain at least twice as many natural cards as wilds. A ‘Dirty Meld’ of 3, 4, or 5 cards can only have one wild card while a ‘Dirty Meld’ of 6 or 7 cards can have two wild cards.

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A ‘Wild Meld’ is made up of only wild cards and must also meet the minimum threshold point for the round. A ‘Wild Meld’ is not easy to form and attracts the most points.

Now to the minimum threshold system mentioned earlier. For a player to be able to play a meld, the meld must meet up a minimum point requirement which differs per round. Note that a traditional game of Hand and Foot has four rounds.

For round 1, a meld can be played only if it exceeds 50 points

For round 2, a meld can be played only if it exceeds 90 points

For round 3, a meld can only be played if it exceeds 120 points

For round 4, a meld can only be played if it exceeds 150 points.

A meld consisting of 7 cards is complete and is called a ‘Pile’. When a meld is complete, the type of card placed at the top shows the type of meld it is. A red card indicates a ‘Clean Meld’ while a black card indicates a ‘Dirty Meld’. A Joker or a 2 is used to indicate a ‘Wild Meld’.

Gameplay

Now that the ‘Melding’ concept and the card value systems have been explained, now it’s time to talk about how the game is played. Play starts with the player on the left of the dealer and goes round in a clockwise fashion. When it’s your turn to play, you are allowed to draw the top two cards from the ‘Stock Pile’. You will add these to the cards already in your hand and then discard one card from all the cards in your hand on top of the ‘Discard Pile’. You can form melds if you can or add to existing melds for your team. Once you are satisfied, your turn ends and the next player takes their turn.

A player may choose to draw from the ‘Discard Pile’ instead of the ‘Stock Pile’. In this case, they will take the top 7 cards of the ‘Discard Pile’ or the whole pile if there are less than 7 cards in it. There are conditions that must be fulfilled before a player is allowed to draw from the ‘Discard Pile’. First, the top card of the pile must not be a three. Second, the player must hold two cards of equal rank as this top card. Third, the player must immediately mend these three cards plus any other cards if possible. The player still has to discard a card on top of the ‘Discard Pile’ to end their turn.

Note that when you draw from the ‘Discard Pile’, you can only use the top card of the pile to meld at that point. The remaining 6 cards or less cannot be used. If you are melding more than 3 cards at that point, the rest must also come from the cards in your hand prior to drawing from the ‘Discard Pile’.

Each player must place any red threes with them face-up on the table (in front of them) and draw a replacement from the ‘stock Pile’ before taking their turn as red threes may count against you in the end if you hold on to them.

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When a player gets rid of all the cards in their ‘Hand’, they pick up their ‘Foot’ cards to continue playing. This can happen in one of two ways. One, the player is able to meld all the cards in their ‘Hand’. In this case, they can immediately pick up their ‘Foot’ cards and continue their turn, eventually discarding one card from their ‘Foot’ cards to end their turn. Two, the player manages to meld all the cards in their ‘Hand’ except for one. In this case, they can discard the remaining card and pick up their ‘Foot’ cards but they can’t play again until the start of their next turn.

A round is ended when either of two scenarios happens. One, when a player gets rid of all the cards in their ‘Hand’ and ‘Foot’ either through melding or by discarding them. This is called going out but before a player is allowed to go out, there are conditions to be met. First, the team the player belongs to must have completed at least 2 ‘Dirty Piles’, 2 ‘Clean Piles’ and 1 ‘Wild Pile’. Second, their partner must have picked up their ‘Foot’ pile and managed to play at least part of a turn from it. Third, they must seek and obtain permission from their partner to go out.

Two, when the ‘Stock Pile’ is completely depleted and a player wishes to draw from it, the round is concluded.

 Winning the Game

The game is played in rounds and the team with the most total points at the end of the rounds wins. In the traditional version, a total of four rounds are played. Here is how the game is scored.

Points are awarded for melded cards while points are deducted for any cards left with players (both ‘Hand’ and ‘Foot’) at the end of every round. The card value system is shown again below.

Natural Cards

8’s through Kings are worth 10 points

4’s through 7’s are worth 5 points

A black 3 is worth -5 points

A red 3 is worth +100 points or -100 points ( Positive if a player has it laid on the table face-up, and Negative if it is within the player’s cards, both ‘Hand’ and ‘Foot’)

Wild Cards

Jokers are worth 50 points

Aces and 2’s are worth 20 points

Teams also earn bonus points at the end of each round as follows:

Every completed ‘Clean Pile’ attracts 500 points

Every completed ‘Dirty Pile’ attracts 300 points

Every completed ‘Wild Pile’ attracts 1500 points

The team that goes out in each round also earns 100 bonus point for going out.

The team with the most points at the end of all four rounds wins the game.

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