Canasta is a recently developed game that originated in Uruguay, gaining popularity amazingly quickly throughout the American continent.
It consists of getting rid of the cards held by placing them face up on the table to form combinations of seven cards, Canasta, and reaching the minimum 5,000 points required to win the game before your opponents during several partial games.
It is played using two 52 card English decks, plus the two wild cards or Jokers in each deck. In addition to the four wild cards, the eight deuces have the same use.
It can be played by two or more players up to a maximum of six, though it is best with four players, playing in pairs, the rules for which are explained below.
For any of the four suits the value of the cards is as follows:
|Wild card||50 Points|
|K, Q, J, 10, 9 & 8||10 Points|
|7, 6, 5 and 4||5 Points|
|Each Black Three||5 Points|
The red threes are bonus cards, and are not meldable.
Each player draws one card, the two players with the highest cards play against the other two. The player seated to the left of the one who drew the highest card, the “hand”, is the dealer. The dealer shuffles the cards and the deck is cut by the player on the dealer’s left, the dealer then deals out eleven cards to each player, one by one, in an anti-clockwise direction, with the next card being placed face-up on the table. This card starts the discard pile. If the said card is a wild card, a deuce, a Black Three or a Red Three, then another card is taken, placing it on top of the first card until the said card is none of the ones mentioned. Only the top card of this pile can be seen, and no player can examine the cards that are in it.
The “hand” starts the game, taking the top card off the stock deck or the card or cards from the discard pile. To take from the discard pile for the first time, two conditions are necessary:
Because each pair plays their hand together, the two conditions need only be met by one player from each pair.
The other cards that go to form the discard pile cannot be used until the cards held have been played and the points needed to go out have been reached, using the top card of the pile. After going out for the first time, the pair who did it can take the discard pile without fulfilling the second condition, and as for the first condition, it is sufficient to have a card equal to the card on the top of the pile, with the other being supplemented by a wild card.
The pile can also be taken when it is not frozen or when its top card is equal to that of a completed Canasta or that of an initial Canasta meld being played. When the pile is frozen, that is to say when it contains a Red Three or wild card, it is necessary to have two natural cards in the hand equal to the top card on the pile in order to take it.
The pile can never be taken by using two wild cards. Taking the top card off the pile forces the player to take all the other cards that were in it. If a player’s hand is reduced to one card, they are obliged to announce this fact by saying “Pumpa” out loud and may not take a card from the discard pile unless the stock deck is finished.
If the top card of the stock deck is taken, it is not necessary to display cards, however, if the top card of the discard pile is taken then going out is required. Taking cards from the discard pile is not obligatory, it is possible to go out using the cards held if they reach the required valuation. Play is completed with the forced discard of a card from the player’s hand.
The game continues in strict left to right turn and each player, when their turn arrives, must take the top card off the stock deck or take the discard pile with all the cards in it, ending their turn by discarding one of their cards. Once a player has gone out, in subsequent turns both they and their partner may add cards to those already played or play new melds, without having to meet the conditions to go out.
Each meld must contain at least two natural cards of the same rank and not more than three wild cards.
Once a Canasta is completed the cards are squared up. A red card is placed on top to indicate a pure Canasta and a black card on top to indicate a mixed Canasta. A player is only allowed to go out after their team has completed at least one Canasta. Having achieved this, they play their remaining cards in one or more melds or on cards already played, finishing as soon as they have no more cards in their hand.
If the player still has one card left, they can also end the game by discarding it. When a player sees the opportunity to go out, they can ask their partner for permission to “Go out” before displaying the cards that remain in their hand, but without giving them any information, and their partner can only say “Yes” or “ No”. The player can go out without asking their partner for permission, but if they do ask for it, the answer is binding.
When a player takes the last card from the stock deck and discards it without finishing play, the next player must take the discard pile if the top card matches their meld. If they cannot take the discard pile, then play ends If they do take the pile and discard it without finishing play, the game continues until a player finishes or cannot take the pile. Play also ends when someone lays down a whole hand of cards all at once.
The minimum value of cards necessary to initially go out varies in relation to the score that is reached during the course of the game, with only the cards being counted, not the Bonuses. If when going out all the cards are displayed at once, this can be done even when the value of all the cards does not reach the minimum..
In short, the objectives that the Canasta player must pursue are:
|Score reached||Minimum value of the cards|
|Between 0 and 1,495||50 Points|
|Between 1,500 and 2,995||90 Points|
|Equal to or greater than 3,000||150 Points|
These are bonus cards and are not used to form Canastas. A player finding a red three in their hand must, on their first turn, put it face up on the table and draw as many replacement cards from the stock deck as Red Threes held. A player who draws a red three from the stock deck also lays it on the table face up and draws a replacement card. In order to score points from these Bonuses, at least one completed Canasta must have has been played before finishing the hand. Otherwise the points for these Bonuses will be negative.
When a player takes the discard pile and finds a Red Three in it, they must place the three face up on the table but do not draw a replacement card from the stock. If the last card in the stock deck is a Red Three, the player who takes it lays it face up on the table and continues play, without having to discard, and then finish the hand.
These are not used to form Canastas, nevertheless, they represent an important defence strategy, because when placed on the discard pile they prevent the next player from taking it. Their effect lasts only one turn, until it is covered by the next discarded card. Black Threes can only be melded to end the game, and a meld with
Black Threes cannot contain wild cards.
As with Black Threes, the jokers and deuces prevent the next player from taking the discard pile.
A match consists of the partial games necessary for one of the pairs to reach 5,000 points.
The score is common to both players in the pair. At the end of each partial game, the Bonuses are counted and scored, subtracting the total for Penalties. Below are the values for all the cards played by the winning pair, including cards that form completed Canastas, and the value of the Black Threes played to finish. The value of the cards still held by the winner’s partner and the two opponents is negative and is deducted.
If there are any unused penalty cards, these are counted as negative.
The players can score points for the following Bonuses:
|Pure canasta*||500 Points|
|Mixed canasta*||300 Points|
|Each Red Three||100 Points|
|The 4 Red Threes||800 Points|
|For playing the 4 Black Threes to finish||500 Points|
|Bonus for Going out (end a hand)||100 Points|
|Canasta of canastas**||2000 Points|
|Five Canastas**||500 Points|
* Plus the value of the cards that form them.
** Plus the value of each Canasta and the cards that form them.
With a concealed Canasta , the points for Bonuses are as follow:
|Playing all cards at once without help from cards played by the partner||1000 Points|
|Playing all cards at once with help from cards played by the partner||500 Points|
|Playing all cards during the game without help from cards played by the partner||500 Points|
|Playing all cards during the game with help from cards played by the partner||200 Points|
If any player incurs any of the following Penalties, the following points will be deducted:
|If , when finishing a hand, a player has the four Black Threes in their hand.||500 Points|
|For each Red Three still held at the end of the hand.||500 Points|
|For taking the discard pile before showing the cards to which it is linked||200 Points|
|For playing cards during your partner’s turn||200 Points|
|For taking a card out of turn, mixing it in with those held.||200 Points|
|For taking a card out of turn from the stock deck||100 Points|
|For playing cards during an opponent’s turn||100 Points|
|For taking the discard pile out of turn||100 Points|
|For requesting permission to go out and not being able to.||100 Points|
|For taking two cards instead of one.||100 Points|
|For taking a card from the discard pile and not being able to go out||50 Points|
|For returning a card just taken||50 Points|
Penalty cards are those with which an irregularity has been committed and are left on the table in front of the player who is at fault. They may be considered as if they were cards in the player’s hand and can be used to take the discard pile or used to meld. When used to meld or added to melds already in play, they lose their status as penalty cards.
Penalties that stand:
Any irregularities and their penalties are annulled if they are not announced before the player next to the player at fault finishes play.
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