Typically, a partnership will have several melds, each of a different rank. You can add further cards of the appropriate rank to any of your side's melds, whether begun by yourself or by your partner, but you can never add cards to an opponent's meld.
Wild cards jokers and twos can normally be used in melds as substitutes for cards of the appropriate rank. For example Q-Q-Q-2 or joker would be valid melds.
There are, however, restrictions on using wild cards, which vary according to the type of Canasta being played. Threes cannot be melded in the normal way.
They have special functions, which are different depending on whether you play classic or modern American canasta. A meld of seven cards is called a canasta.
If all of the cards in it are natural, it is called a natural or pure or clean or red canasta; the cards are squared up and a red card is placed on top.
If it includes one or more wild cards it is called a mixed or dirty or black canasta; it is squared up with a natural black card on top, or one of the wild cards in it is placed at right-angles, to show that it is mixed.
In some versions of Canasta you may create a meld of more than seven cards, simply by continuing to add more cards of the same rank to an already complete canasta.
If it is allowed, a meld of eight or more cards is still regarded as a canasta. If any wild cards are added to a previously pure red canasta, it thereby becomes mixed black.
For each partnership, the first turn during a hand when they put down one or more melds is called their initial meld.
When making the initial meld for your partnership, you must meet a certain minimum count requirement , in terms of the total value of cards that you put down.
You are allowed to count several separate melds laid down at the same time in order to meet this requirement. In some versions including Modern American , the initial meld must be made entirely from your hand; in others including Classic you are allowed to use the top card of the discard pile along with cards from your hand to satisfy the minimum count, before picking up the remainder of the pile.
The initial meld requirement applies to a partnership, not to an individual player. Therefore, after either you or your partner have made a meld that meets the requirement, both of you can meld freely for the rest of that hand.
However, if the opponents have not yet melded, they must still meet the requirement in order to begin melding. Canasta was standardised in the late 's and is still played in more or less this classic form in many parts of the world, including some parts of America.
However, those who prefer the "Modern American" game may prefer to skip this section , since many of the Classic rules are not relevant in that game.
As usual, there are four players in fixed partnerships, partners sitting opposite each other. Two 52 card standard packs plus 4 jokers are shuffled together to make a card pack.
The first dealer is chosen at random, and thereafter the turn to deal rotates clockwise after each hand. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's right cuts.
Each player is dealt 11 cards, and the rest of the cards are placed in a face-down stock pile in the centre of the table. The top card of the stock is taken off and placed face up next to the stock pile, to start the discard pile.
If this first face-up card is wild or a red three, another card is turned and places on top of it, continuing until a card which is not a wild card or red three is turned up; the wild card or red three should be stacked at right angles to the rest of the pile, to indicate that it is frozen see below.
Each player must immediately place face-up in front of them any red threes they were dealt, and draw an equal number of cards from the top of the face-down pile to replace them.
Every meld must contain at least two natural cards. The smallest meld, as usual, consists of three cards, which could be three natural cards such as or two natural cards and a wild card such as Q-Q Melds can grow as large as you wish.
A meld of seven or more cards counts as a canasta. No meld can contain more than three wild cards - so a six card meld must include at least three natural cards, and a canasta must contain at least four natural cards.
There is no limit on the number of natural cards that can be added to a complete canasta. A wild card added to a pure canasta of course makes it mixed.
Once a canasta contains three wild cards, no further wild cards can be added. It is not allowed for one partnership to have two separate melds of the same rank.
Any cards melded by a partnership which are the same rank as one of their existing melds are automatically merged into that meld, provided that the limit of three wild cards is not exceeded.
It is however quite possible and not unusual have a meld of the same rank as one of your opponents' melds. As usual, each turn is begun by either drawing the top card from the face-down stock or taking the whole of the discard pile.
The player may meld some cards and must do so if taking the discard pile. Each turn must be ended by discarding one card face-up on top of the discard pile.
A player may always opt to draw the top card of the face down pile. You can only take the discard pile if you can meld its top card, combined with cards from your hand if necessary.
There are additional restrictions on taking the discard pile if it is frozen against your partnership see below. But first let us consider the case where the discard pile is not frozen against you.
In that case, if the top card of the pile is a natural card from four up to ace , you can take the pile if either:.
The procedure for taking the pile was described in the general rules. You must show that you can use the top card in a valid meld before you are allowed to pick up the rest of the pile.
After picking up the pile, you can then make further melds. For example, if there is a five on top of the pile and another five buried, you cannot use a single five in your hand to take the pile and meld the three fives.
But if you have two fives in your hand you can meld these with the five on top of the pile, take the pile, and then add the other five to this meld.
Note that you can never take the discard pile if its top card is a wild card or a black three. Note also that it is not necessary to take the discard pile in order to meld.
If you wish, you can meld after drawing from the stock. When the discard pile is frozen against you, you can only take it if you hold in your hand two natural cards of the same rank as the top card of the discard pile, and you use these with the top discard to make a meld.
This meld can either be a new one, or could be the same rank as an existing meld belonging to your partnership, in which case the melds are then merged.
For example, suppose the pile is frozen against us and our team already has a meld of 4 sevens on the table. If the player before me discards a seven, I cannot pick up the discard pile unless I have two further sevens concealed in my hand.
If I do have 2 sevens in my hand, I can add them and the discarded seven to our meld making a canasta , and take the pile.
If your partnership has not yet melded, then in order to meld, the total value of the cards you lay down must meet a minimum count requirement.
This requirement depends on your partnership's cumulative score from previous hands as follows:. To achieve this count, you can of course put several melds at once, and the melds can be of more than the minimum size of three cards.
The standard values of the cards you play are added to check whether the requirement has been met. We have seen that if you have not yet melded, the discard pile is frozen against you.
Therefore, in order to achieve the minimum count, you must either meld entirely from your hand after drawing from the stock, or you must use two natural cards from your hand which match the top card of the discard pile.
In this second case, you can count the value of the top discard, along with the cards you play from your hand in this and any other melds, towards the minimum count.
You cannot count any other cards in the pile which you may intend to add in the same turn. You have two kings, two queens and a two in your hand.
If your initial meld requirement is 50, you can meld K-K-K, Q-Q-2 using the king from the top of the pile, for 70 points.
You can then add the king and queen from the pile to these melds in the same turn if you wish. But you could not make this play if you needed a minimum count of Bonuses for red threes, canastas and so on cannot be counted towards meeting the minimum.
Even if you have a complete canasta in your hand, you are not allowed to put it down as your initial meld if the total value of its individual cards does not meet your minimum count requirement.
There is just one exception to the minimum count requirement. Suppose that your team has not yet melded, and that having drawn from the stock you are able to meld your entire hand including a canasta.
In this case you may meld you whole hand with or without a final discard and go out without having to meet any minimum count requirement.
In doing this you will score the extra bonus for going out concealed. This option remains available to a player who has exposed red threes, provided that they have not melded anything else.
The play ends as soon as a player goes out. You can only go out if your partnership has melded at least one canasta. Once your side has a canasta, you may go out if you can and wish to, by melding all of your cards, or by melding all but one and discarding your last card.
It is legal to complete the required canasta and go out on the same turn. If your side does not yet have a canasta, you are not allowed to leave yourself without any cards at the end of your turn: It is against the rules in this case to meld all your cards except one.
You would then be forced to discard this last card, which would constitute going out illegally. Note that it is not always an advantage to go out as soon as you are able to; the cards left in your partner's hand will count against your side, and you may in any case be able to score more points by continuing.
If you are able to go out but unsure whether to do so, you may if you wish ask your partner "may I go out? This question can only be asked immediately after drawing from the stock or taking the discard pile, before making any further melds other than the one involving the top card of the pile if it was taken.
Your partner must answer "yes" or "no" and the answer is binding. If the answer is "yes", you must go out; if the answer is "no" you are not allowed to go out.
You are under no obligation to ask your partner's permission before going out; if you wish, you can simply go out without consulting your partner.
Another way that play can end is when there are no more cards left in the face-down stock. Play can continue with no stock as long as each player takes the previous player's discard and melds it.
In this situation a player must take the discard if the pile is not frozen and if the discard matches any previous meld of that player's side.
As soon as a player is entitled to draw from the stock and chooses to do so, but there is no card in the stock, the play ends.
If a player draws a red three as the last card of the stock, the red three is placed face up as usual and then, since there is no replacement card that can be drawn from the stock, the play immediately ends.
The player who drew the red three is not allowed to meld nor discard. After the bonuses have been calculated, the cards melded by each team are counted using the standard values - see general rules.
Black threes are worth 5 points each. For ease of counting and checking, the usual method is to group the cards into piles worth points each.
Note that in a canasta, the values of the cards themselves are counted in addition to the bonus for the canasta, so for example a natural canasta of seven kings is really worth points altogether - for the canasta and 70 for the kings.
The cards remaining in the hands of the players are also counted using the same standard values, but these points count against the team and are subtracted from their score.
A cumulative total score is kept for each partnership. It is possible to have a negative score. When one or both partnerships have a total of 5, or more points at the end of a hand, the game ends and the side with the higher total score wins.
The margin of victory is the difference between the scores of the two sides. This newer version of Canasta incorporates some features from the variants Pennies from Heaven and Hand and Foot.
Those who have adopted it enjoy its stricter rules and find the classic version too easy in comparison. I am not sure how widespread this version of Canasta is, but there are significant and growing numbers of players in New York, New Jersey and Florida.
It would be interesting to know whether it has taken root in other regions as well. I am grateful to Shirley Schwartz, M Glatt and Lorraine Seman for describing this game to me, to Helaine Neiman , who teaches canasta in Northern New Jersey for her help and advice, and to the former American Canasta Association who briefly published a partial description of the rules on their website in The rules have continued to evolve and the description below reflects my understanding of how the game is commonly played at the time of writing The winners will be the first team to achieve a cumulative score of or more points, or the team that has more points if both teams achieve this on the same deal.
Sometimes a special tray is used to hold the draw and discard piles but this is not essential. The dealer shuffles, the player to dealer's right cuts.
The undealt cards are placed face down in the centre to form a draw pile. No card is turned face up to start a discard pile - the play begins with the discard pile empty.
The ninth card from the bottom of the draw pile is turned at right angles to the pile. This is known as the turn card. During the game, a player who draws the turn card must announce it so that all players know that there are just 8 cards remaining in the draw pile - the "bottom 8".
One procedure for dealing is as follows: Meanwhile the dealer takes the cards that were left by the cutter and deals 13 cards to each player, one at a time, placing any remaining cards on top of the draw pile, or taking cards from the top of the draw pile to complete the deal if needed.
The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand. Normally the player to dealer's right also acts as scorekeeper for the hand.
In this game, twos and jokers are wild, and threes are special. The remaining cards, from 4 up to ace, are called natural cards.
Melds consisting entirely of natural cards are called pure: Melds of sevens and aces are subject to some special rules and restrictions.
Melds consisting entirely of wild cards are also allowed. Many players refer to all the melds as 'canastas'. In that case a meld of fewer than seven cards is called an ' incomplete canasta ' and a meld of seven cards is a 'complete' or 'closed' canasta.
A meld can never contain more than seven cards. A meld of 4s, 5s, 6s, 8s, 9s, 10s, jacks, queens or kings consists of at least three and not more than of seven cards of the appropriate rank.
Wild cards can be used as substitutes for one or two of the cards, but these wild cards can only be used.
So after a team's initial meld, any new melds begun by either member of that team in future turns must be clean until they contain at least five cards.
Another consequence is that if a team's initial meld includes for example a dirty meld of sixes joker, cards added to this meld in future turns must be real sixes until there are five of them: At that point either a six or a wild card could be used to complete close the canasta.
A meld of sevens consists of from three to seven sevens: Note that although there is a large bonus for completing a canasta of sevens, if you start a meld of sevens but fail to complete your sevens canasta you incur a penalty at the end of the play.
A meld of aces must be pure unless it is part of the team's initial meld and includes at least one wild card from the outset. A dirty mixed meld of aces can initially contain from three to seven cards, including at least two natural aces and not more than two wild cards.
As with other natural melds, a dirty ace meld begun with one wild card cannot have a second wild card added until it contains five real aces.
A meld of aces begun after your team has put down its initial meld cannot include any wild cards. If an ace meld is begun pure whether as part of the team's initial meld or later , no wild cards can be added to it.
A pure meld of fewer than seven aces incurs a penalty at the end of the play. A meld of wild cards consists of from three to seven twos and jokers in any combination.
If your team starts a meld of wild cards, you cannot add any wild cards to any of your other melds until your wild card canasta is complete.
If you have a wild card meld of fewer than seven cards when the play ends, your team incurs a penalty. One team is not allowed to have more than one meld of the same rank.
However, it is possible for both teams to meld the same rank. For example after one team has put down an initial meld of aces with wild cards, the other team may also use aces with wild cards for their initial meld.
When a natural canasta is completed closed , neither team is allowed to begin or add to a meld of that rank. Natural cards that match the rank of a closed canasta are known as dead cards.
However if the opponents have not melded, a closed canasta does not prevent them from including cards of that rank in a special hand. A normal turn is begun by either drawing the top card from the face-down stock or taking the whole of the discard pile.
You can only take the discard pile if you have a pair of natural cards in your hand which are of the same rank as the top card of the discard pile.
You must show your pair and meld these cards with the top discard before taking the rest of the pile into your hand. I play several games of canasta on Pogo almost everyday There are some really nice people who play.
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