Hand and Foot is a great card game and is extremely popular. I have been playing for over 15 years now with family and friends. Hand and Foot is similar to Canasta but with a few differences in rules and game play. A player is dealt two sets of cards: one ‘Hand’ and one ‘Foot’. The object of the game is to build melds of cards to form ‘Books’, score as many points as possible, and play all of the cards in your Hand and Foot sets as quickly as possible.
If you don’t know how to play, simply visit my Hand and Foot Page to get a good summary of the rules. I’d like to discuss a few strategies that I have used and refined over the years. These really work! I taught them to my wife and she beats me quite a bit even though she is far less experienced than I am.
The key to winning Hand and Foot is creating as many melds and books as possible. Always try to keep playable cards including melds, pairs of cards and wild cards on the left side of your current set . Keep 3s to the right as they should be discarded first. Group the cards in between from the highest to lowest rank. As you continue to draw, discard the lowest ranked single cards first. Try to group pairs of cards into Red Melds by drawing at least one more of that type of card (this frees up the wild card(s) to be used for Black Melds).
When you are in your Hand, avoid playing Black Melds too early as these require a wild card. The best strategy is to wait to play any wild card until you are ready to ‘Run’ or ‘Walk’ into your Foot. The only time you should deviate from this strategy is if there are cards in the Discard Pile that you can effectively use and you need to play melds to pick them up (see Discard Pile Pickup Rules under my Rules menu). The ultimate goals are to create options by forming different types of melds and books and to pick-up your Foot as soon as possible.
When you are in your Foot, the first strategy is to start forming Red and Black Books as soon as possible. Try not to place wild cards into Red melds until you are ready to go out. Continue to organize your hand by melds, pairs, wild cards and ranked cards as the discard strategy is the same as when you are in your Hand.
If you see that another player has a Red and a Black Book and is in their Foot, it is time to ‘Evacuate the Foot’. This means you need to play as many of the cards in your Foot as possible since the other player is likely to go out soon. This will reduce the amount of negative points at the end of the round. This also applies if you are still in your Hand and you are holding cards that can be played.
Depending on the round and the point total of the other player(s), you may want to go out as soon as possible or you may want to continue building melds and books:
1. If your point total is nearly even with the other players and you have a similar amount of points played on the table, you will want to go out as soon as possible. The reason for this is you want to the other players’ cards that have not been played to count against them.
2. If you are ready to go out and one or more of the other players has not picked-up their Foot, then you want to go out immediately. The reason again is you want all of the un-played cards to count against the other players. If another player has not picked-up their Foot, there is a possibility that their Foot contains 3s, which will increase their point deduction and gives you a greater lead.
3. Round 3 or 4: If you are ready to go out and one or more of the other players has a large point lead on you, you will want to hold out and continue to build melds and books to increase your point total (unless the other player(s) has not picked-up their foot, in which case, strategy #2 applies).
Picking up cards from the discard pile is a great way to build-up large point totals. The Discard Pickup Rules under the Rule menu, explains how picking up from the pile works. If you are able to pick-up cards from the Discard Pile:
1. You should not pick them up unless at least three of the five cards are playable, or….
2. If one of the pick-up cards yields a Red Book, than at least two of the five cards must be playable.
3. You should never pick-up a pile with more than one 3 in it, as you will only be able to discard one and will be stuck with the other until your next turn.
If you have already played melds or books on the table, try to keep one matching, ranked card in your Hand or Foot when possible. This will yield more opportunities for you to pick-up from the Discard Pile.
Try these suggestions out next time you play to see if they work for you. Also, feel free to contact me with your own strategies, as I’m sure there are better Hand and Foot players out there than me!