Sevens from Hell is a card game for four or six players. Its style of play is most similar to Canasta or Hand and Foot. A full game consists of four rounds, each running thirty minutes to an hour. The origins of the game are not known.

The object of the game is to initially "meld" (play cards to the table), then create a set of "books" (sets of seven cards of identical rank), then play all remaining cards in the hand. These different phases of the game lead to a varied and interesting gameplay, with strategy that changes with the phase. The name comes from the fact that one of the required books must be made up entirely of sevens, which can be very difficult to obtain (thus, the one thing often holding a team back are those infernal sevens).

This introduction to Sevens from Hell will describe how the game is played through its different phases, from dealing until a player plays their last card. First, however, some initial guidelines and point values are required. The sheer number of rules for the game may appear daunting, but the game becomes very intuitive after a couple of hands. The game requires a fairly large table on which to play, so a typical card table may not be enough. A square table approximately a meter on each side is suggested.

Basic Rules

Generally, the game is played with two teams of two people each. It can also be played with two teams of three people each. For these modes, a total of six poker-style decks are required, including the jokers. To play a larger game, use two-player teams and a number of decks totalling the number of players plus two. That is, for a six-player game with three two-player teams, use eight decks.

Players seated across from each other are on the same team (i.e. they are partners).

Deuces (twos) and Jokers are wild. They can be played as any rank, but cannot be played with sevens.

Threes cannot be used to create books.

Sevens cannot be discarded.

Books may contain a mix of wild cards and "natural" cards, but in this case, they must always have one more "natural" card than "wild". For instance, if a book-in-progress contains two 8s and one wild card, then no more wild cards can be added until another 8 is added first. Note that a book made up entirely of wild cards does not have any such restriction.

Cards are valued as follows:

Books contain seven cards of the same rank (including one or more wild cards), or seven wild cards. Duplicate cards (for instance, two Queens of Hearts) are allowed in books. Clean books are defined as either books containing no wild cards (for instance, a book of seven Kings), or a book that is made up entirely of wild cards. Note that the required book of sevens must be clean: no wild cards can be played with the sevens. Dirty books are defined as a book containing at least one wild card (but not all wild cards). Note that as above, the most wild cards that can exist in a dirty book is three, since there must be at least one more "natural" card than wild cards in the book. Books are valued as follows: To first "meld", or play cards to the table, a player must play enough points at once. The number of points required is as follows: Only one member of each team needs to meet this requirement. Once one member of a team plays out the required number of points, then on their turn, the other members can play freely until the end of the round.

To start a book, a player must play at least three cards at once. After that, cards can be added one or more at a time until the book reaches seven cards, at which point it is closed. After closing their first book, each player must wait for the rest of their team to close a book before they are allowed to close another. After each player on a team has closed a book, all members of the team can close books at will.

Before a player can play the last card from their hand (and foot), their team must have the following closed books:

Any books that a team is lacking when another team finishes will count against them for their normal value. For instance, if a team is missing their book of sevens, wilds, or their clean book, they lose 500 points. They lose 300 points for each missing dirty book.

A player will add their "foot" to their hand under the following circumstances: they close a book (which allows them access to their foot after they discard), they discard the last card in their hand (which allows them to use their foot starting on their next turn), or they play the last card in their hand before discarding (which allows them to use their foot immediately).


Each player is dealt two piles of cards. The first is a 13-card "hand" that they use at the beginning of play. The second is an 11-card "foot". The foot stays face-down on the table, and the player is not allowed to look at the foot until the conditions listed above ("Basic Rules") are met. Traditionally, to start, each player deals out a 13-card hand and an 11-card foot, passes the hand to the player on their right, and the foot to the player on their left.

Traditionally, if a player cuts exactly the 24 cards required to deal a hand and foot, without counting, then they are awarded 100 points.

The remaining shuffled cards are arranged into two play decks of approximately equal height and placed in the center of the table. Discarded cards are placed between the play decks.

One player is chosen to go first (usually by drawing cards randomly or cutting the deck and selecting whoever picks a high card). The player to this person's right then deals out the start of the discard pile: five cards are drawn alternately from the two play decks, face up, for all players to see. Any sevens that are drawn in this manner are put back into the deck randomly (there can never be a seven on the discard pile). This ensures that the first player has five cards to pick up from the discard pile (as will be discussed below).

Play then begins with the starting player and continues to that player's left. On each subsequent round (that is, after the next deal), the starting player is the player to the left of the previous starter.

Discard Pile

At the beginning of their turn, each player has the option to pick up the top five cards from the discard pile. The player may only do this if the following conditions are met:
  1. The player has two cards matching the top card on the discard pile
  2. The player can immediately play the top card with the pair of cards they already hold (that is, they have melded, or the top card on the discard pile will allow them to do so). Only the top card matters for this condition: the remaining four cards that the player will get are not allowed to change whether the player can meld or not.
When the player chooses to pick up from the discard pile, the top card immediately goes to the table, along with the two matching cards from the player's hand. The next four cards from the discard pile are then added to the player's hand and can be played normally. If the discard pile does not have enough cards left, then any additional cards are taken from the play decks.

Wild cards can only be matched with other wild cards when picking up the discard pile. For instance, if a player holds a pair of Jacks and the top card on the discard pile is a wild card, the player may not pick up the wild card to play with the Jacks. Similarly, if a player has one wild card and one Jack, and a Jack is on top of the discard pile, the player may not pick up the discard pile to play two Jacks and a wild card.

Since threes cannot be played to create books, it is not possible to pick up a three on top of the discard pile (see "Basic Rules", above). Thus, any time a player discards a three, it effectively freezes the discard pile until a non-three is discarded. (Note that the player may end up with threes from the discard pile, but only if they are not on the very top when the player begins drawing from the discard pile.)

Sevens cannot be discarded under any circumstances. Thus, a seven cannot ever appear in the discard pile.

As for strategy, note that it is often safe to discard cards that the opposing team needs to close books that they have started. If the players have already played whatever cards they had to fill out the book as much as possible, they won't have the two cards necessary to pick up off the discard pile.

Player's Turn

Each player starts with 13 cards in their hand and 11 cards hidden in their foot. Game play falls into phases, described below, and the player's actions will depend on the phase.

Each player can start their turn either by drawing one card from the top of each of the two decks (a total of two cards), or by picking up the top five cards from the discard pile (see "Discard Pile", above, for when this is allowed).

The player plays whatever cards they can (see below), and ends their turn by discarding one card, placing it face up on top of the discard pile. Sevens cannot ever be discarded, and threes keep the next player from picking up from the discard pile.


If neither the player or their partner(s) have melded, then the player works toward getting enough points in their hand for the first meld (see "Basic Rules" above).

Suppose that it is the second round, so 120 points are required to meld. The player holds two jokers and a 2, all of which are wild. The player can play these three cards together to start a book: the jokers are worth 50 apiece, and the 2 is worth 20, for a total of 120. Similarly, if the player had three Aces (60 points), three 4s (15 points), and a joker (50 points), then they could play these for their meld (at a total of 125 points). The discard pile can only be picked up at this point if the top card will give the player enough points to meld immediately (see "Discard Pile", above).

Traditionally, the player that makes the first meld for their team plays the cards out in front of them, with each partial book spread out so that the number of cards in the book is visible. When the book reaches six cards, it is collected into a tidy stack; this is a sign that one more card will close the book. Closed books are passed across the table and stacked in front of the partner. Clean books are designated by placing a red card at the top of the book; dirty books are topped by a black card (and a book of wilds is always clean).

Post-meld, pre-foot

Once one member of a team makes the initial meld, then the rest of that player's team can play cards (starting new books or adding to what has already been played). The point limit for the initial meld no longer applies to that team; those players can play at will. There is only one set of books per team; the entire team plays on the same books.

At this point, the player will focus on closing a book by filling it out with seven cards.

The first player(s) on a team to close a book must wait for their partner(s) to also close their first book before they are allowed to close another. For example, if Alice and Bob are partners and Alice is the first on her team to close a book, she cannot close a second book until Bob closes at least one. After each player on a team has closed their first book, all members of the team can close books at will. In the above example, after Bob closes his first book, he or Alice may close as many books as their cards will allow.

A player will add their "foot" to their hand under the following circumstances: they close a book (which allows them access to their foot after they discard), they discard the last card in their hand (which allows them to use their foot starting on their next turn), or they play the last card in their hand before discarding (which allows them to use their foot immediately).

The recommended strategy at this point is to get as many books as close to being closed as possible, and to start a book of wilds almost immediately. When a player is waiting for a partner to close their first book, the player can try to get books up to six cards so that their partner only needs a single card to close the book.

The book of sevens is usually started after a player gets into their foot (often, one or two needed sevens are found there).

Post-meld, post-foot

Once each member of the team has closed a book and added their foot to their hand, they focus on completing their required books (sevens, wilds, one clean, two dirty). After these books are closed, players try to play the rest of the cards out of their hand. The round ends when a player plays or discards their last card, which is only allowed when they have the required books.

At this point, the player should try to minimize the points remaining in their hand and close any books that their team has left unfinished.

Once a team has their book of sevens, the players on that team want to avoid drawing more of them, because it will be difficult to empty their hand of sevens (sevens cannot be discarded, and to play them requires either three at once or an unfinished book to add to). Drawing from the discard pile is safe, because sevens cannot appear there.

If the bottom of the two play decks is reached before any player empties their hand, then the round ends.


After a round is played, points are deducted for each missing book (see "Basic Rules"), and for each card in the hands (and feet) of each player. Points are then awarded for each closed book (see "Basic Rules"), which includes the values of the individual cards in the books. The cards in unfinished books are also counted as points. The team whose player emptied their hand is awarded 100 points.

It is typical for each round to score between 3000-5000 points.

The team with the most points after four rounds wins.


Each player is responsible for remembering to play into their foot. If a player forgets that they are allowed to add their foot to their hand, other players cannot remind them.

Teams are allowed to have multiple completed books of the same rank, including sevens, but they can only have one partial book of any given rank at a time. For example, a team can close a book of Kings and begin a second book of Kings, but they cannot have two unfinished books of Kings at the same time.

Extra completed books beyond the required five are still worth points. The more books a team has, the more points they will get.

If a player is holding a seven, it is not unusual for them to discard cards that they could otherwise play, because they cannot discard the seven under any circumstances. Although it is theoretically possible for a player to be unable to discard (e.g. their only card is a seven, their team has 5 sevens in an unfinished book, and they draw two sevens, so they close the book and are left with one undiscardable card), this is unlikely enough not to worry about.

An automatic card shuffler is recommended for handling the six or more decks required.