Hand and Foot is a traditional card game for 2 or more players, acting either individually or in teams. It uses a large number of card decks (typically one or two more than the number of players), and is a rummy-style meld-building game based on Canasta.
Game duration and number of players
A game is divided into rounds, each consisting of the play of one deal of cards. Play can either be for a set number of rounds (typically 4), or until a team reaches a threshold score. The team with the highest score wins the game.
A typical four-round game with four players takes about two hours to complete. The BGA version of the game supports from two to seven individual players, and up to 12 when playing in teams.
Players are seated so that partners are opposite each other at the table. If teams have more than two players, they are seated so team members are equidistant from each other.
The number of decks used is typically one or two more than the number of players, with the jokers included. For faster play, non-joker cards with proper card backs can also be mixed in; in BGA this is represented as allowing more than two joker per deck. The decks are all shuffled together, and each player is dealt two piles of cards. House rules differ on the number of cards: some dictate the piles are 11 cards, others say 13. One pile is not looked at, and is the foot. The other is picked up by the player and is the hand.
The undealt cards are stacked into a draw pile. Optionally, one card is turned over to start the discard pile.
The objective of the game is to create melds consisting of 3-7 (or sometimes more, depending on house rules) cards of the same rank, possibly including wild cards. Wild cards are deuces and jokers. Melds of seven cards (or more) are considered to be complete, and may be referred to as books; bonuses are awarded for these melds. Melds with less than 7 cards are considered open. A book with no wild cards is considered clean or red, and will score a higher bonus than a dirty or black book, which has at least one wild card. If the house rules allow or require, a meld of all wild cards may be formed, which will score an even higher bonus than clean books. Melds are depicted in the BGA version of the game by red cards with blue borders if they are clean, black cards with brown borders if they are dirty, and jokers bordered by gold cards if they are wild.
A team must reach a predetermined contract before a round can be ended. The contract is typically for a set number of clean, dirty, and wild books, and is the same for each team and each round of play. A common contract for teams of two is two each clean and dirty books, and one wild book.
Scoring and card valuation
Cards are valued by their rank:
- Jokers are worth 50 points
- Aces and deuces are worth 20 points
- 8 through King are worth 10 points
- 4 through 7 are worth 5 points
The values of 3s depend on house rules. In common variants, red 3s are worth 100 points, and are played automatically and replaced with a new card when it is the player's turn. Black 3s are typically worth 5 points, and cannot be melded at all, or taken from the top of the discard pile (but see Taking the discard below).
Cards played on the board are scored for the team, while those left in the hand (and foot) are scored against the team.
Going out and meld completion bonuses
The team that goes out to end a round of play is awarded 100 points for doing so. If the draw pile is exhausted, the round ends and no team gets this bonus.
Meld bonuses are awarded when a meld reaches seven cards in length, and is denoted in the BGA version of the game by displaying the meld sideways. The most common meld completion bonuses are:
- Clean books score 500
- Dirty books score 300
- Wild books score 1500
Order of play
The player to the left of the dealer begins play. Each player's turn includes the following steps:
- Play and replace any red 3s in the hand
- Either draw two cards (playing and replacing drawn red 3s if necessary), or take the discard
- Optionally create new melds for the team, or play cards to existing team melds, assuming opening criteria are met
- If still holding cards, discard one
If the player runs out of cards without discarding, they can pick their foot and immediately continue playing from it; this is called running to the foot. If the player discards their last card, they can pick up their foot, but not play from it until their next turn; this is called walking.
The round ends when a team has completed the required contract, and one of its players plays out both their hand and their foot. Some house rules require the last card to be discarded, while others allow it to be played.
A team must meet certain criteria in order to open play on their board. The requirement is that the opening player must put down cards with a minimum card point value, and typically varies by either which round of play (increasing with each successive round), or by the team's score. The most common opening criteria are:
- Round 1: 50 points to open
- Round 2: 90 points to open
- Round 3: 120 points to open
- Round 4: 150 points to open
If a tie-breaking fifth round is needed, it will also require 150 points to open. The point score does not include meld completion bonuses, or any played red 3s. For example, a completed book of 5s scores 35 points, with a bonus of 500 points for being complete, but is insufficient to open even round 1.
Playing red 3s
A common house rule requires that red 3s are played into a special pile, and immediately replaced when it is the player's turn. This may occur before the draw when the player first plays from either their hand or foot, or when they draw a red 3. Red 3s played in this manner do not count toward opening criteria.
Once a player has played any red 3s in their hand, they may choose (or be forced to) draw cards. This takes place in BGA by clicking on the draw pile, and delivers two cards into the hand.
Taking the discard
If the player is allowed by the house rules, they may pick up the top discard. Common house rules require the player to (1) have two cards of the same rank in their hand, and (2) be able to immediately play all three cards to the board. Among other things, this means that their team either (a) has already opened its board, or (b) the player taking the discard can meet the opening criteria for the round. It also means that the top card is not a black 3, or any other card where it is forbidden by house rules to take it. (Some house variants forbid the taking of wild cards, and house rules requiring red 3s to be discarded also typically forbid their taking.)
Once the player has taken and played the discard and associated meld cards, most rules require the taking of additional cards from the discard pile. This is generally six cards, or the entire pile if it is less, but there are house rules that require the pile to have at least six more cards in it, or that require the taking of the entire discard pile in the manner of traditional Canasta rules. A discard pile rich in black 3s can discourage the taking of discards.
Playing cards to the board consists of selecting a group of matching cards (all of the same rank with optional wild cards), and clicking on either the "New Meld" panel or the meld of the given rank on the team's meld board. If melds are limited in size, you will not be allowed to make a meld have more than seven cards.
You can have only one meld of a given rank open at any time. In order to create a meld, you must have at least three cards to play to it. You must always have more non-wild than wild cards in a meld, and common house rules limit the number of wild cards in a completed meld to either 2 or 3. The BGA version of the game enforces this by a "ratio rule", requiring a certain percentage of the cards in a meld at any given time to be non-wild.
The card plays you make (other than the required play of red 3s) are not shown to other players until one of several actions take place. These actions include:
- Discarding to end your turn
- Playing out, either to end the round or to run to your foot
- Taking extra discards
It is possible to undo moves up the last instance of one of these in your turn. This may become necessary for three reasons. First, if you attempt to open, but do not have sufficient points to make the opening criteria, you must undo your moves and make a discard instead. Second, you cannot play the last card from your foot unless your team has made the contracted melds. The game will not allow you to play out, so you must undo your moves. Third, if the game rules require you to discard the last card from your foot, you will not be allowed to play it. If you do not have the contract, you will also not be allowed to discard it. In the latter two cases, you may be able to repeat some of the undone moves, but you must be able to make a valid discard to end your turn.
To discard, select a single card, and click on the discard pile. If it is the last card of your foot, you will not be allowed to discard it if your team does not have the contracted melds. In that case, you will have to undo your moves, and play so as to have at least one card remaining in your hand after discarding.
Permission to go out
If a player sees that they are able to go out, before or after drawing, the player may say "Partner, may I go out?" The partner must answer "Yes" or "No," and the answer is binding. A player may not ask "Partner, may I go out?" after having melded any card or having indicated the intention to take the discard pile. However, they may go out without asking permission.
Round and game summaries
At the end of each round, a scoring summary is displayed, showing how each team made its points in the round. At the end of the game, the report includes all of the game rounds.