Samba is a new version of Canasta that has quickly become very popular due to its variety of melds, which means that the game is always kept interesting.

Samba deck

Aim of the game

Discarding the cards held by placing them face up on the table to meld a Canasta or Samba and, during several partial games, to reach the minimum 10,000 points required to win the game before your opponents do.

Deck of cards

It is played using two 52 card English decks, plus the two wild cards or Jokers in each deck. In addition to the six wild cards, the twelve deuces have the same use.

Number of players

It can be played by two to six players. The most interesting game is played by four players, forming pairs, which is the game that these rules explain.

Order and value of the cards

For any of the four suits the value of the cards is as follows:
The value of the cards is given in the table below:

Wild card 50 Points
Deuce 20 Points
Ace 20 Points
K, Q, J, 10, 9 & 8 10 Points
7, 6, 5 & 4 5 Points
Each Black Three 5 Points

Dealing the cards

Four sequential cards of the same suit are drawn, one given to each player. The one who receives the highest card is the “hand”, with those holding the odd cards playing against those with the even cards. Each pair of players shows their cards together, but their melds are played individually.
The player preceding the “hand” deals out fifteen cards to each player, one at a time, placing the top card of the deck face up on the table to start the discard pile. If the said card is a wild card, 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.


The “hand” starts the game by taking either the two top cards 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:

  • 1 Have a natural pair matching the top card on the pile.
  • 2 That the value of the cards that have to be displayed for the first time, in one or more melds, reach the points required to go out, including the value of the card onto of the discard pile.

Only one player from each couple has to meet these conditions.
It is not necessary to meet this second condition if a player “folds” when going out, i.e., showing all of their cards all at once.
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, that couple can take the discard pile without meeting 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 never be taken by using two wild cards.

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. Taking the top card off the pile forces the player to take all the other cards that are 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 two top cards of the stock deck are taken, it is not necessary to display cards, however, if the top card of the discard pile is taken then the player must go out. 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 in turn must take the two top cards off the stock deck or take the discard pile with all the cards in it, provided that the first of these can be used immediately to display a meld, ending their turn by discarding one of their cards. In subsequent turns, each player may add cards to those already shown or show new melds, without having to comply with the conditions to go out.


Any meld can be started with a minimum of three cards and completed later by adding more cards.

  • Canasta.A meld of seven equal cards. It can be started with three or more natural cards. Wild cards cannot be added to a completed Canasta, however, natural cards can. A pure Canasta is one that has no wild card, whereas a mixed Canasta
    is one with them.
  • Samba. A straight with seven natural cards of the same suit in sequential order, it cannot contain wild cards or threes. No additional cards can be added to a completed Samba. On completing a Samba the cards are collected and turned face down. The initial Samba straight has to be made from cards being held, the top card of the discard pile cannot be used.

A player is only allowed to go out after their team has completed at least one Canasta or Samba. 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 has the opportunity to go out, they can ask their partner for permission to “Go out” but without giving them any other 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.

The last draw from the deck can be either one or two cards. If there is only one card left and this is a Red Three, the player must show it immediately and because they are not allowed to discard it, the game ends. 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.

Samba card value
Score reached Minimum value of the cards
Negative 15 points
Between 0 and 1495 50 points
Between 1,500 and 2,995 90 points
Equal to or greater than 3,000 120 points

If a player goes out by “folding”, this can be done even when the value of all the cards does not reach the minimum.

Samba play

These are bonus cards and are not used to form Canastas or Sambas. 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 during the game also lays it on the table face up and draws a replacement card.

In order to benefit positively from these Bonuses, the couple will have to have played at least two complete Canastas or Sambas, indistinctly, before finishing the game. Otherwise the points for these Bonuses will be negative.


These are not used to form Canastas or Sambas, nevertheless, they represent an important defence strategy, because when placed on the discard pile they prevent the next player from taking it. The effect of the Black Three 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.

Scoring in the game

A Samba match consists of the partial games necessary for one of the pairs to reach 10,000 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 or Sambas, 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. Once a score has been accepted and noted, it cannot be disputed.

The players can score points for the following Bonuses:

Samba 1500 points
Pure Canasta 500 points
Mixed Canasta 300 points
The six Red Threes 1000 points
Each Red Three 100 points
For finishing a hand 200 points

If a game ends because there are no cards left in the stock deck, the hands are scored normally but there is no bonus for finishing.
If any player incurs any of the following Penalties, the following points will be deducted:

For each Red Three still held at the end of the hand. 1500 points
For each Red Three that is played without having completed two Canastas or Sambas, indistinctly, by the end of a game. 500 points
For using three wild cards in a Canasta 100 points
For taking cards out of turn from the stock deck 100 points
For taking the discard pile out of turn 100 points
For playing cards during an opponent’s turn 100 points
For trying to finish after being refused permission by a partner 100 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 with displayed cards, and these penalty cards must be used to make the discard. When used to meld or added to melds already in play, they lose their status as penalty cards.

Penalties that stand:

  • Cards that a player shows accidentally or those that are put on the table in error and are seen by the other players.
  • Cards that are shown out of turn.
  • Cards used when first going out if their value is insufficient, or those that are left over after amending the initial going out.
  • If a player takes the discard pile without first showing the cards in their hand that link with the top card on the pile, any other player can request that this player show the cards in their hand as well as the cards in the pile to decide whether a penalty applies, and if so, those cards that formed their hand are penalized.
  • The card or cards that are shown to finish the game without forming or having a Canasta or Samba.

Any irregularities and their penalties are annulled if they are not announced before the player next to the player at fault finishes play.

Samba play

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