Lynne loves to share fun activities and games she plays with her children and grandchildren because family time is the best time.
Hand and Foot Is One of Our Favorite Card Games!
Hand and Foot is one of the best card games my family has ever played. We used to keep cards in the car so we could play in the hotel room when we were on vacation. With four players, each game takes forty-five minutes to an hour to play, but we love it.
My in-laws introduced this game to our family more than 20 years ago. Our daughters started playing by the time they were 11. During Christmas break, we would play for hours and only stop long enough for lunch! It's a very addictive game and easy enough for relatively young children as well as the elderly.
Our family loves it so much that my father-in-law and my husband built card caddies specifically for the game. But whether you have the caddy or not, keep reading! You'll find all the details on how to have a great time playing! So go ahead, grab one full deck of cards (including the jokers) for each player, and have a blast!
Recommended Player Count
2, 4, or 6
45 minutes to 1 hour
One standard deck of cards per player
Setting up the Game
You'll need an even number of players and a full deck of cards for each player (including the jokers). We use four red decks for four players and add blue decks for additional players. This helps when storing the game, so we don't have to count out the first four decks each time we play.
We never play with more than six players. If eight people want to play, we divide into two different groups. Otherwise, it seems like the game never ends! A hand and foot match consists of four rounds, and each round is scored (see how to score further below).
Shuffling and Creating Stacks
- Players sit around the table in teams of two, with team players sitting opposite one another.
- All players shuffle a deck of cards. We trade off 1/2 our shuffling deck to ensure a good mix.
- Each player deals two stacks of 11 cards each from their deck.
- Each player keeps one stack and then passes the other stack to the player on their left.
- Each player chooses one stack to play first. This is called the player's hand.
- The other stack should be set aside facedown where all players can see it. This stack comes into play later in the game and is called your foot. You may not look at your foot until all the cards in your hand are gone.
- Any cards not dealt go in the draw pile in the center of the table.
How to Play
This is where the fun begins.
- Any player may go first and draws two cards from the draw pile.
- The player should arrange their cards in sets of three or more, but sets must be kept in their hand until the minimum number of points has been reached. (See scoring below.)
- At the end of the turn, the player must discard one card into a discard pile next to the draw pile.
- The discard pile should be kept so that only the top card is visible at all times.
- Play moves around the table clockwise with each player drawing two cards from the pile.
- After the first round, if the player has at least two cards that match the top card in the discard pile, they may take the top five cards from the discard pile instead of two cards from the draw pile. The player MAY NOT look at what is under the top card of the discard pile, so you'll want to pay attention!
- As soon as a player reaches the minimum number of points for that round, they may begin to lay down their sets of three or more. Both players from the team will build on the SAME set of cards. Players may wait until they have more than the goal points for strategy if they desire. As soon as the first player from a team lays down their cards, every player on that team may add to those sets on their next turn.
- When a player lays down the last card in their hand, they can pick up their foot. If they pick it up before they discard, they can continue playing cards from their foot. If it is after they discard, they must wait until the next round to play those cards.
- Play continues until at least one team collects two "clean" piles and two "dirty" piles. A clean pile is a set of seven cards with NO wild cards. A dirty pile is a set of seven cards with at least ONE wild card. You can never have more wild cards than regular cards in a set. When seven cards of one kind are collected, that pile should be stacked so that only the top card appears. It is now marked as closed. A clean pile should have a red card on top to mark it closed. A dirty pile should have a black card on top to mark it closed. Cards MAY BE added to a closed pile.
- A player may not "go out" (discard their final card) until their team has the minimum number of dirty and clean piles.
- A player must have played every card in their hand, and foot, and have a discard to "go out."
- The game is over when the first player "goes out."
- A player may hold a discard until their partner is in their foot or has played cards. However, that player may go out as soon as they are able.
No game is complete if you can't name a winner, so here's how you tally the score. I've been told it's a lot like Canasta, but I've never played that game myself. Here's how to find the winner!
Minimum Points per Round
In order to lay down the first sets of three (or more) for their team, a player must individually have the minimum number of points in their hand as follows:
- Round one: 60 points
- Round two: 90 points
- Round three: 120 points
- Round four: 150 points
For example: In round one of the match, to lay down your first set(s) of three, those cards must add up to 60 points. You could have three aces, or a joker and two fours, or two sets of face cards, etc.
- Wild Card Joker: 50 points
- Wild Card Twos: 20 points
- Ace: 20 points
- 9-King: 10 points
- 4-8: 5 points
- Black Three: 0 points
- Red Three (in your hand when the game is over): –500 points (Yes, that's a negative 500 points if a red three is left in your hand after the first player goes out.)
How Cards Are Scored at the End of the Game
After the first player goes out points are added as follows:
- Every clean pile = 500 points (Seven of the same card with no wild cards in it—red card on top.)
- Every dirty pile = 300 points (Seven of the same card with at least one wild card —black card on top.)
- Every card that has been played is added to the player's score.
- Every red three in a player's hand or foot = –500 points
- Every card still in a player's hand or foot is subtracted from the player's score.
Keep track of points in each of the four rounds. The team with the most points at the end wins the match.
Strategy Tips for Hand and Foot
Avoid the temptation to lay down your matches before you've drawn at least a couple of times. This gives you time to make sure you don't have to use wildcards in every pile. But don't wait too long! Your partner may need you to lay your cards down so they can play theirs!
Try to be strategic in your creation of clean and dirty piles. Remember, you have to have at least two dirty (with wildcards) and two clean (no wild cards) before you can go out. Sometimes it's tempting to use the wildcards to create piles, but getting in a hurry and laying down all dirty piles can come back to haunt you later in the game.
On the other hand, if you need to get rid of wild cards to go into your foot, check every dirty pile to see which ones can afford an extra wild card and close up clean piles if you need to.
Get rid of red threes. Do not hold on to them. They are negative 500 points if they're still in your hand (or your foot) at the end of the game. It's also good to throw away black threes. Since you can't use them, they will keep you from completing your hand and going straight into your foot.
If you finish your hand with no discard, you may pick up your foot and continue play. If you still have a black three, you'll have to wait until the next turn to pick up your foot because play ends with the discard. At the end of the game, when I'm in my foot, I'll often hold a black three. If someone else goes out, and I only have a black three in my hand, there are no points off!
Questions & Answers
Question: Can I continue to add wildcards to a completed dirty book in Hand and Foot?
Answer: You can add wildcards as long as there are never more wildcards than non-wildcards
Question: Can you discard a wild card? And if so, can it be picked up?
Answer: You can discard a wild card. Sometimes you have to because you have too many or it's the last play of the game and you can close a pile (500 points) or play the wild card (50 points max). It can not be picked up because in order to pick up from the pile, you have to have two others AND be able to lay them down to form a new pile. You can't (nor would you want to) have a pile of wild cards.
Question: When playing Hand and Foot, can one team have 2 piles of the same card? For example: two piles of kings?
Answer: Yes; however, there are only 16 kings. If one team has a clean pile of them, it's impossible to get another clean one and a dirty. There just aren't enough cards. And it will be difficult to close two dirty piles. By the time you decide you want to start the second pile, generally too many have been discarded. We always just add them to piles already started making sure to put them on the bottom of closed piles.
Question: Can you go out before your partner gets in their foot in the Hand and Foot card game?
Answer: Yes, you can. But do it very strategically. If your partner has red threes in their foot, you'll lose 500 points for each one.
Question: I need a dirty pile. If, in hand and foot, I draw a card that makes a clean pile, do I have to play it or can I wait for a wild card?
Answer: You may hold your cards in your hand for as long as you like. The only reason I ever go down all clean is if the other team has been down a few rounds. Then I'll play all clean (or dirty) in hopes my partner can fill in the gap.
Question: Can I go out if my partner hasn't picked up his/her foot when playing Hand and Foot?
Answer: Yes. Sometimes it's a strategic move. Just be prepared to lose 500 points for any red 3's in your partner's foot.
Question: Where can I get a card stand?
Answer: My father-in-law made the one we have. My husband was making them sell, but other than that, I've never seen them.
Question: Do you play your foot exactly like you play your hand in Hand and Foot?
Answer: Pretty much. The strategy is a bit different because you may want to save a black three if you're getting close but can't go out because there are no points. In your hand you always want to discard all of the threes.
Question: Does a player have to already meld and have his cards on the table before he can pick up from the draw pile?
Answer: No, but you have to have two cards to match the top card, and the top card alone has to give you enough points to lay them down.
Question: When playing the card game Hand and Foot, can a player use a matching card and a wild card to pick up the discard pile or does it need to be two matching cards?
Answer: The two cards in your hand must match the top card of the discard pile, and you must pick up five cards from the discard pile.
What's Your Favorite Card Game? Have You Ever Played Hand and Foot?
Alicia on December 01, 2019:
I was taught that you need two clean and three dirty books to go out.
Lynne Modranski (author) from Ohio on September 02, 2019:
I have never played Hand and Foot without using traditional playing cards.
Edna Howard on September 01, 2019:
Where can I get Hand and Foot cards without the hearts, spades diamonds and clubs pictures ? The original Hand and Foot playing cards
Oz on May 13, 2019:
We’ve played Hand and Foot for years. It’s the best card game ever!
We use this android app for scoring hand and foot games, lots easier than trying to score on paper.
Dixiedoodle on January 23, 2019:
Love this game. It challenges the brain.
Lisa Jane from Maine on June 17, 2018:
I love this article. I also love this game. It is addictive. My parents and I played this game every night for hours except for Wednesday's.
RTalloni on October 19, 2017:
It's such a fun game! But it's been a while...need to hang on to your post.
Virginia Kearney from United States on October 15, 2016:
My family loves card games but we've never heard of this one. It sounds like it would take a while to learn but I think we are up for the challenge. Thanks for explaining it so clearly!
Natalie on August 10, 2016:
Never played it. It sounds interesting though.
nguongame on March 20, 2014:
really helpful suggestions, thanks
Amy Trumpeter from Oxford on March 17, 2014:
No, but I would love to! I am the 'Game Night' contributor on Squidoo and I have just given it a boost :-)
Edith Rose from Canada on December 20, 2013:
Yes, I have played the game Hand & Foot, and love it.
pratheeshomnitec on April 14, 2013:
@Teddi14 LM: Enjoy...
anonymous on January 20, 2013:
@Lynne-Modranski: Thank you .
Lynne Modranski (author) from Ohio on January 20, 2013:
@anonymous: We have always played that u can make a clean pile dirty at any time. So yes you can discard that clean card
anonymous on January 19, 2013:
we play hand and foot every Friday love the game but wanted to know if there was a rule about if we need one more dirty pile to go out and in my hand I have a card that would make it a clean pile I also have a wild card, can I use my wild card to make it dirty and discard my other card?
anonymous on August 19, 2012:
I forgot my email address . My friends and I have so much fun playing this, you have no idea. We live in an Over %0's Village, and one day I organised a Round Robin, and residents want me to do it again. My partner and I came 2nd. Great day, and a great game.
anonymous on August 19, 2012:
@JanetG LM: I am from Auatralia, and was introduced to this wonderful game, and my friends and I cannot get enough of it.Pity we could not play on line with you. Be woderful.
JanetG LM on December 03, 2011:
We love, love, love playing hand and foot. Our rules are similar to yours. Thanks for sharing. I love the caddy!
Teddi14 LM on March 12, 2010:
I loved this game as a kid! I have fav'd this. Thanks so much for sharing.