Card Games

How to Play the Hand and Foot Card Game

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"How to Play the Hand and Foot Card Game"
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As a child, I remember that my parents often got together with friends for an evening of card games. Usually the game was poker, spades, or canasta. Everyone brought a dish of food for a "potluck" supper, after which the kids went off to watch television and play kid games and the grownups gathered at the card tables. It was an inexpensive evening of entertainment and camaraderie, although I do remember that sometimes the grownup's card games got rather cutthroat.

Lately, in the interest of saving money, we have been reviving the tradition of Game Night with our friends. We were introduced to a card game that everyone seems to enjoy. I've searched for it on-line, but wasn't able to find it until I joined Helium. Mystery Lady calls it "hand and foot," and plays in teams.

We call it "Footsie" and everyone is on their own. Footsie is a variant on Canasta, but much more relaxed, because half of winning the game is just dumb luck. We use so many decks of cards (I have 20 decks purchased at the Dollar Store shuffled together) that there is no way to guess what is in another person's hand. That's not to say that you don't have to use strategy to win, but it's very different from the one used in Canasta.

To write the rules down for Footsie, I looked up "Canasta" in The Games Treasury by Merilyn Simonds Mohr (Chapters Publishing Limited; 1993. ISBN # 1-881527-23-9). I was interested to see that Canasta (a type of Gin Rummy) originated in Uruguay in about 1940 then spread to Argentina and eventually the United States. Mohr stated "Canasta is the Spanish word for basket and refers to the main thrust of the game: to collect melds of three or more cards of the same value." She had a tip I thought amusing: "caution-this game can be hazardous to relationships.
More than one couple has had to forswear the game to preserve a marriage."

So far, Footsie doesn't seem to have gotten nearly so vicious in our crowd, but it is like Canasta in that it is easy to learn but difficult to master. My husband and I often play "open-handed" Footsie in the evenings so we can talk about card strategies. It's also easier to teach the game by playing an open-hand game in the beginning. I learned that way, but my husband didn't, and I caught on a lot quicker.

Here are the rules. Try it with friends and see what you think.


The object of the game is to lay down "melds" of three or more of a kind, striving for canastas (seven of a kind). Jokers & 2's are wild. Each hand of the game, every player actually has two sets of cards to play. The second set is called the "Footsie," and it may not be played until the player can go out with his first set. Card points are counted when a player goes out of his Footsie. To go out a player must have at least 1 Red (or Natural) & 1 Black (or Mixed) Canasta + a discard. The game ends after four hands of play, and the winner has the most points.

Start with multiple decks of cards (4-6 decks for 4 persons).

1. Each person draws a stack of cards to divide, hoping to pick up exactly 22 cards (earn 100 points for picking up exactly 22 cards).

2. The player divides the cards into 2 piles of 11 cards and passes both hands to the player on the left.

3. One hand of 11 cards is played first (the other deck is the "Footsie"). Organize the hand numerically in sets. Sequences and suits are of no consequence.

4. Start playing with a large stack of cards (the stockpile) for players to draw from.

5.The first player starts by drawing 2 cards from the stockpile and arranging them by sets into his hand. One card is discarded face up.

6. Obviously, you don't want to break up a pair if you don't have to do so. Once a player melds, they may pick up 7 cards from the stack, assuming they can play the top card on the stack with a matching pair from their hand. The deck is "frozen" with a discarded 3. The next player can't pick up the card, because one cannot meld with red 3's and can only meld with black 3's when going out.

7. The first hand is played until one has all cards laid down with one card as a discard. That player may then pick up his Footsie to play that hand at his next turn. Other players continue with their first hand until they, too, can lay down all cards with one discard.

8. When a player can finish playing the Footsie and lay down all cards with one discard, the player "goes out" and the hand is finished.

9. Card point totals are counted. The score for the hand is the total of Red & Black Canastas and the points of all cards in your meld and canastas. Players left with cards in their hands at the end of play must total those points and subtract that from their score.

10. For each round of play use "clean cards." In other words, use cards that have not been in play. It's hard to shuffle multiple decks and mix the cards enough to play the game properly.

To "MELD" is to play down at least 3 cards (3 of a kind or 2 of a kind + a wild card). 3's are the exception. Red 3's cannot be melded (caution: if a red 3 is in your hand when a player goes out, they are a huge deficit). Black 3's can only be used as a meld when going out.

1. 1st hand: cards to play must =50 points to meld
2. 2nd hand: cards to play must=90 points to meld
3. 3rd hand: cards to play must =120 points to meld
4. 4th & final hand: cards to play must= 150 points to meld

A "CANASTA" is at least 7 cards of the same kind (although you can add extra cards for the points).

Jokers = 50 points
2's = 20 points
Aces = 20 points
Face cards & 10's = 10 points
All other cards = 5 points except 3s
Black 3's = 0 points
Red 3's = NEGATIVE 1000 points if remaining in hand at the time another player goes out

Red - 7 cards of same a kind = 500 points
Black - 7 cards with at least 4 of a kind + wild cards = 300 points
Wild -7 wild cards; any combination of 2s & Jokers = 2000 points

Picking up 22 cards on the deal: 100 points
Going out: 100 points

More about this author: Shelly Kneupper Tucker

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