How To Play Canasta

Canasta is a card game with a lot of rules and variations. The most commonly played version is with two decks of cards and four players. Here's how you play.

Instructions

  • TIP: Canasta is seven cards of the same value that are melded.
  • FACT: Canasta is Spanish for basket.
  • TIP: A player melds when they show three or more cards of the same value and then puts them aside. Two melded cards must be natural and no more than three cards can be wild.
  • Step 1: The player to the left of the dealer takes a card from the stockpile, and then melds what they can. Players can select from the discard pile if they can meld with the top card. Play as long as you can meld. A turn must end with a single card face up in the discard pile.
  • Step 2: Score your hand by adding values. Four through seven and black threes are worth five. Eight through king are worth 10. Twos and aces are worth 20. The joker is 50 and red threes are 100. Bonuses of 300 are given for canastas with wild cards, and 500 for natural canastas. The player who goes out first gets another 100 points.
  • Step 3: At the beginning of the game, decide how many canastas a team needs to go out. If you reach that amount, then you can go out. The round is also over if there are no more cards in the stockpile.
  • Step 4: Players divide into two teams of two players. Partners sit opposite each other. Choose a dealer, and combine and shuffle both decks.
  • Step 5: Check your hand for a red three. Red threes are immediately melded – or shown – and put to the side. New cards are dealt to replace the threes.
  • Step 6: Deal 11 cards to each player. Place the remaining cards in a stockpile. Turn the stockpile's top card over to start a discard pile. If the first card is a wild card – a red three, a joker, or a two – continue turning over cards until you get a natural card.
  • TIP: Red threes, jokers, and twos of any suit are wild. All other cards are natural.

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