Hand and Foot

Hand and Foot is a North American variant of Canasta. Like its parent game, it is best for four players in partnerships. Hand and Foot adds a twist to the basic game of Canasta by introducing more cards—a lot more cards—and giving each player two hands to have to contend with. It gives a partnership more specific requirements to fulfill before going out.

Object of Hand and Foot

The object of Hand and Foot is to score more points than your opponents by forming melds of three or more cards and piles, which are melds of seven cards.


The players divide into two partnerships, sitting across from one another, so that the turn of play alters between partnerships when going clockwise. Set aside an area of the table for each partnership’s melds, and a neutral area accessible to all players for the stock and the discard pile.

Hand and Foot requires a 270-card deck consisting of five standard 52-card decks plus jokers, a truly impressive number of cards for a non-casino game. If you’ve got five sets of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, well, you’re one of our best customers and we love you. Shuffle the decks together (it might help to use the multiple-deck shuffling technique). Split the deck in two, forming the stocks, with a gap between the two halves of the deck for the discard pile.

Unlike in most games, in Hand and Foot, the players are responsible for dealing their own cards. Each player takes a small portion of one of the stocks and deals two piles of eleven cards face down in front of them. If a player managed to pull exactly 22 cards from the stock, they immediately score a 100-point bonus. Otherwise, any excess cards are returned to the stock. Each player selects one of the eleven-card piles as their hand, and the other eleven cards are passed to their right, forming that player’s foot. The foot is kept face-down in front of the player.

One card from one of the stocks is turned face-up and placed between them. This is the top card of the discard pile, otherwise known as the upcard. If the upcard is a joker, 2, or red 3, discard it face-down into one of the stocks and draw another card.

Game play

Card ranks and scoring

The following are the scores and special properties of all of the cards in the game:

  • Red 3s: Red 3s serve as a bonus card and are simply laid in front of the player and a new card is drawn to replace them. 100 points.
  • Jokers: Jokers are wild. 50 points.
  • Twos: Twos are also wild. 20 points.
  • Aces: 20 points.
  • K–8s: 10 points.
  • 7s–4s: 5 points.
  • Black 3s: Cannot be melded. 5 points.

Other than the colors of the 3s, suits do not matter. Both jokers are likewise equal.

Play of the hand

Before game play actually kicks off, any red 3s the players hold in their hand are placed in the partnership’s melding area and new cards are drawn to replace them. Likewise, any red 3s encountered throughout the game are laid down and new cards drawn to replace them.

The player to the left of the dealer goes first. The flow of the turn is to draw, meld if able and willing, and end the turn by discarding.

A player begins their turn by drawing. They may draw either the top two cards of one of the stock piles or the top seven cards of the discard pile (or the whole pile if it contains less than seven cards). In order to draw from the discards, the player must be able to immediately meld the top card of the discard pile with two cards from their hand. (The other six cards are inaccessible to them until they demonstrate that they can legally meld the top card.) If this is the partnership’s first meld for the hand, additional cards from the hand may be melded alongside it in order to satisfy the opening-meld requirement. Because black 3s cannot be melded, a player may never draw from the discard pile if the upcard is a black 3. If the top card of the discard pile is a wild card, then the player can only draw from the discard pile if the player is holding two other cards of the same rank (e.g. if there is a joker on the discard pile, you need two other jokers to draw from it, you cannot substitute twos for the jokers).

After drawing, the player may meld, if able. A partnership’s first melds of the hand must meet a minimum value, depending on the round of the game:

  • First round: 50 points
  • Second round: 90 points
  • Third round: 120 points
  • Fourth round: 150 points

A meld consists of three to seven cards of the same rank (traditionally fanned out so that the indices of all of the cards in the meld are visible). A meld can contain no more than one wild card in a meld of three, four, or five cards and no more than two in a meld of six or seven. A player can also make a meld that consists of all wild cards.

After a meld has been laid down, further melding by that partnership on that hand is not subject to the minimums. When a meld has been laid down, it can be extended by either player in the partnership, either by adding more natural cards to it or by adding wild cards. Players cannot move cards between melds, or establish two separate incomplete melds of the same rank. Players cannot contribute to their opponents’ melds.

A meld of seven cards is called a pile, so called because it is traditionally denoted by squaring the meld up into a pile. A pile with no wilds, or a pile with only wilds, is called a clean pile, while a pile with a mix of natural cards and wilds is called a dirty pile. This distinction is important because clean piles score higher. The type of pile is traditionally indicated by its top card; clean piles are squared up with a red card on top, and dirty piles with a black card on top. A pile cannot contain more than seven cards; once a pile has been completed, a new meld of the same rank can be established.

Picking up the foot

When a player has exhausted their hand, they may then pick up their foot pile and play with it. If the player manages to run out of cards before discarding (i.e. through melding), they may simply pick up their foot at that time and continue their turn. If the player gets rid of their final card through discarding, they pick up the foot at the beginning of their next turn.

Depletion of the stock

In the uncommon event that the stock is depleted before someone goes out, the game simply continues without a stock; play continues with players drawing from the discard pile, melding if able, and discarding, until a player goes out as normal, or is unable or unwilling to draw from the discard pile, at which point the hand ends and is scored as outlined below.

If, however, the final card of the stock is a red 3, special rules apply. The player taking the 3 declares it as usual, then does any melding possible, after which play ceases. This player is not entitled to discard.

Going out

In order to go out, a partnership must meet the following conditions: they must have completed two clean piles, two dirty piles, and one wild pile, both players must have played at least part of one turn with their foot piles, and the player wishing to go out must have received permission to go out from their partner.

Permission to go out is received by simply asking the partner “May I go out?” This is done to ensure that the partner does not hold an unduly high total value of cards, which will be charged against the partnership at the end of the hand. The answer given is binding. The only answer permitted is “Yes” or “No”—if any further information is given, the opposing partnership is entitled to answer the question “May I go out?” for the offending partnership, and their answer is binding, often with disastrous results.

After a player has gone out, the hand is scored. Each team scores the value of the cards it has melded, and the value of cards held in hand is deducted against the partnership’s score. The following bonuses, if applicable, are also scored:

  • Wild piles: 1500 points each.
  • Clean piles: 500 points each.
  • Dirty piles: 300 points each.
  • Red threes: 100 points each.
  • Going out: 100 points.

After all of the above has been accounted for, all cards are shuffled, and the deal passes to the left. The game ends after four hands have been played. The partnership with the highest score at that point is the winner.


Throughout the game, various penalties can occur, as set out below:

  • Attempting to go out anyway when a partner says no: –100 points.
  • Not being able to go out after having asked “May I go out?”: –100 points.
  • Attempting to draw from the discard pile when unable to use the upcard: –50 points.

See also


4 responses to “Hand and Foot”

  1. john says:

    For Hand&Foot players interested in making the scoring easier, here’s a very simple Android app:


    I wrote this app recently because I’m a big Hand&Foot fan. Would love to get some feedback from other H&F players!

    It’s a free app.

  2. Ken Michota says:

    There seems to be a lot of different rules as far as counting points at the end of hand when playing hand and foot canasta. In some versions of the rules, there does not appear to be any penalty for unplayed red threes, in other versions the penalty is -500 points. I was just wondering if “house rules”, for lack of a better term, allows for modifying existing rules for the game.

    Than you…


    • Hey Ken,
      The nice thing about card games is that because cards aren’t tied to the rules, you can make any house rules you want. If you do this, however, it should be clearly communicated and agreed upon by all players what rules you’re going to play by. I recommend writing them down so that they remain consistent from hand to hand and from game to game.

      Hey, a blog post on house rules might not be a bad idea. . .

  3. margie friend says:

    Do you have to have a discard card after you play your hand? Or can you play your cards and next go around you take your 2 cards and can also play both so then again you don’t have a discard card

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