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Official Canasta Card Game Rules

Canasta is a popular card game that originated in Uruguay in the 1940s. It is usually played by four players in two partnerships, but variations for two or three players also exist. The game uses two standard 52-card decks plus four Jokers, making a total of 108 cards. Here are the detailed rules for playing Canasta:

Objective

The objective of Canasta is to score points by forming melds of cards, particularly canastas (a meld of seven cards of the same rank).

Setup

1. Form Partnerships: Divide the players into two teams of two players each. Partners sit opposite each other.


2. Shuffle and Deal: Shuffle the cards thoroughly. Each player is dealt 11 cards (13 in some variations), one at a time. The remaining cards form the draw pile, placed in the center of the table. The top card of the draw pile is turned face up to start the discard pile.


Components:

  • Two standard 52-card decks plus four Jokers (total of 108 cards)

  • Four players in two partnerships (variations for two or three players are possible)

  • Score sheet and writing utensil

Card Values:

  • Jokers: 50 points each

  • Aces and 2s: 20 points each

  • 8s, 9s, 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings: 10 points each

  • 4s, 5s, 6s, 7s: 5 points each

  • Black 3s: 5 points each

  • Red 3s: 100 points each (or 300 if all four are collected by one team)

Gameplay

  1. Drawing and Discarding: On each turn, a player must draw two cards from the draw pile or take the entire discard pile (under certain conditions) and then discard one card to the discard pile.

  2. Forming Melds: Players form melds of three or more cards of the same rank, either from their hand or by adding to existing melds. Melds can include wild cards (Jokers and 2s) but must contain more natural cards (non-wild) than wild cards.

  3. Canastas: A canasta is a meld of seven cards of the same rank. It can be a "natural canasta" (no wild cards) or a "mixed canasta" (with wild cards). A completed canasta is typically indicated by stacking the cards together and placing a red card on top for a natural canasta or a black card for a mixed canasta.

  4. Red 3s: Red 3s are immediately placed face up on the table when drawn and replaced by drawing a new card from the draw pile. They score bonus points but are not used in melds.

Taking the Discard Pile:

To take the discard pile, a player must meet specific conditions:

  • The top card of the discard pile must be used in a meld (either a new meld or added to an existing one).

  • The player must have two natural cards of the same rank as the top discard card if it's not being used as a meld of three cards.

Going Out:

A player can go out (end the round) by melding all the cards in their hand, provided their team has at least one canasta. They must first ask for their partner’s permission to go out, unless their partner has no cards left in hand.

Scoring:

  1. Card Values: Add up the point values of all melded cards.

  2. Canasta Bonuses: Add 500 points for each natural canasta and 300 points for each mixed canasta.

  3. Red 3 Bonuses: Add 100 points for each red 3 (300 points if all four red 3s are collected by one team).

  4. Going Out Bonus: Add 100 points for going out.

  5. Penalty for Unmelded Cards: Subtract the point values of any cards remaining in players' hands at the end of the round.

  6. Minimum Initial Meld: The minimum point value of the initial meld varies based on the team's cumulative score:

    • Negative score: 15 points

    • 0 to 1495 points: 50 points

    • 1500 to 2995 points: 90 points

    • 3000 or more points: 120 points

Winning the Game

  • The game is typically played to a cumulative score of 5000 points, although other target scores can be agreed upon before the game begins.

Notes/Variations

None, enjoy!

Canasta is a strategic and social card game that requires teamwork, planning, and a bit of luck. Its rich history and engaging gameplay make it a favorite for card game enthusiasts.

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