How Do You Play Canasta

How to play a card game called Canasta. Article includes items needed for play, rules, and a brief history of the game.

What is Canasta?

Canasta is a variation on the card game of rummy. It developed overseas and landed in the United States in the mid 20th century. Canasta in the Spanish language means "basket". Canasta as a term probably represents the tray like container centered on the playing table. The Canasta, then, holds the cards and the discards. The game's history of origin has been closely associated with Five Hundred Rummy and it is probably rooted in that game itself.

What are the tangible items needed for play?

Uniquely enough this game involves two standard playing card decks of 52 cards each. It adds an additional four jokers to make a complete Canasta deck. You also need a Canasta tray. This is used to hold the decks and the discards. You will also want a pad of paper and a writing utensil to keep score. You will need four people to play. These participants will form partnered teams of two members each.

How Canasta games begin.

The dealer doles out eleven cards a piece (one card around the table eleven times). The dealer next places the remaining cards, called the "stock", face down with a top card face up in the Canasta tray. From this point players will attempt in a very patterned manner to form what are called "melds". This term should be thoroughly defined before going any further. The Meld is a grouping of three plus cards of the same kind. Jokers and Two's are wild. A meld may not include over three wild cards. A meld must always include two or more natural cards. A team can't have more than one meld of the same card. Additional cards played must be laid on the existing meld of that card rank/value. To be very clear, three natural sevens would constitute an example of an acceptable meld while three jokers would not. Two sevens and a wild card would be a meld where one five and two wild cards wouldn't be. You may lay cards down on the appropriate meld for your team anytime it is your turn. You may not lay cards on the other team's melds.



The first player left of the dealer starts by drawing a card from the top of the stockpile or the discard pile. That player continues their turn by melding if they can and want to at the time. They must end their turn with the discard of a single card face up. Play continues to the left.

Special cards and their nature in play.

Red threes are quite unique in play. These are your bonus cards. Place a red three face up and choose an extra at your first turn if it is found in your original hand of cards. If drawn a red three also calls for a replacement. A red card from the discards is not replaced but must be laid down also; the red threes are also not meldable as a set. All black threes are also called "stop cards". In all but one circumstance black threes may not meld together. If a black three hits the discard pile, it can't be selected. The exception to melding is when the party playing the meld of black threes is going out.

Points in general and in your first meld.

Scoring in general apart from the first meld of each deal goes like this: eights through kings are worth 10 points each; an ace is worth 20; black threes and fours through sevens are 5 points; twos are 20 and jokers are worth 50 points each. In the first meld to a team, they must meet the minimum score requirements. If the score in the previous deal was "minus" the minimum points are 15 to meld. If you had 0 (as in the first hand) to 1495, you must score 50 to form the first meld. If you got from 1500 up to 2995, you must score 90 points for your first meld of the current deal. If you scored 3000 plus, you have to get 120 points in your very first meld of this deal in order to meld at all. The first team to meld all cards and have a final discard wins that deal.

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