All You Need To Know About The Canasta Game

All You Need To Know About The Canasta Game
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There are many different variations of rummy. In this article, we, at GetMega, will explain canasta rummy. We have separate articles on the basics of a rummy card game and on rummy tournaments. Click here if you want to read them.

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How to play Canasta Rummy? What are Canasta Rummy Rules?

Canasta is a version of the rummy card game and is believed to have originated from 500 Rummy.

Canasta was invented by Segundo Santos and Alberto Serrato in Uruguay. Soon, the game spread to other parts of South American countries such as  Chile, Peru, Brazil, and Argentina. It soon became popular in the United States a. The US version of canasta is also known as American rummy canasta or American canasta.

How to play Canasta Rummy?

The object of the game is to meld the cards i,e., create combinations of three or more cards of the same rank. Wildcards can be used. In this canasta rummy, sequences are not considered as valid melds.

Teams

This game is generally played by 4 players in 2 teams (partnerships). The partners sit opposite each other.  There are canasta games for 2,4,6 players which we have covered in a separate section below.

The team is often determined by drawing a random card from the deck. The player getting the highest card gets to choose the seat and goes first in the first round. The player with the second-highest card becomes their partner.

How to play

Canasta is usually played using 2 decks of 54 cards (52+2 jokers), thus having a total of 108 cards.

How to play Canasta Rummy
  • 11 cards are dealt face down to each player
  • The remaining cards are put face down on the table (stockpile)
  • The top card (upcard) is placed face-up beside it to form the discard pile. If the upcard is a joker, 2 or 3 - then one by one, more cards must be turned face up until a four or higher card appears.
  • The player drawing the highest card (who as per canasta rummy rules is to the left of the dealer) plays first.
  • The turn moves in a clockwise manner.
  • In your turn, you have to draw a card, meld (if you can) and discard 1 card.
  • During your turn, you can take the top card either from the stockpile or from the discard pile. However, there are certain conditions for drawing from the Discard Pile.
  • You can go out if you have used all the cards in your hand to meld. However, at least one canasta must be made before going out.
  • The hand ends when any player goes out.

Canasta with 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 players

In this section, we will cover the canasta rummy game with different players

Canasta for two players

Canasta for two players is played similarly as basic canasta except that:

  • There are no teams.
  • 15 cards are dealt with each player
  • You cannot go out unless you have completed two canastas.
  • If you draw from the stockpile, you must take 2 cards but discard only 1
  • There are no penalties for exposed cards and insufficient melds.

Canasta for three players

Canasta for three players is similar to basic canasta except that:

  • There are no teams.
  • 13 cards are dealt with each player

Cutthroat canasta is a three-player game that is a very fast and exciting game. We have covered this separately.

Canasta for four players

Canasta for four players is played in 2 teams as mentioned above in the basic canasta game.

Canasta for five players

Canasta for five players is very similar to basic canasta except that:

  • There are teams (1 team with 3 players and the other with 2)
  • In the 3 players team, 1 player will sit out (by turns).
  • The player sitting out can only observe but cannot give any advice or participate in any way.
  • The 2 player team plays normally.

For example, there are three players A, B, and C

First hand-  A and B play

Second hand- A and C play

Third hand- B and C play

How to play Canasta with 6 players?

Canasta for six players is played by 2 teams (A, B) of 3 each or 3 teams (A, B, C) of 2 each. The players sit in such a way so that partners of the same team do not sit together. For example-

  • Three decks of (52+2 jokers) are used (total 162 cards).
  • Each player gets thirteen cards.

Points:

  • Three teams- Game is 7500 points
  • Two teams- 10,000 points
  • Red threes
  • 1-4 red =100 points each
  • 1 Team holding 5 red threes= 1000 points
  • 1 Team holding 6 red threes = 1200 points

What is concealed canasta?

Canasta is a meld of at least seven cards. A natural canasta has only natural cards of the same rank. A mixed canasta (or dirty canasta) has both natural and wild cards.

A concealed canasta happens when the canasta is melded in one turn, without making any previous melds nor adding cards to any meld of your partner.

Concealed Canasta Rummy

If you go out concealed and you have a complete canasta, there’s an added bonus of 100 points.

Normally, the first time you meld cards, there must be a minimum value (initial meld value). However, if you go out in one turn ('go out concealed'), this minimum value is not required.

Ponytail canasta

Ponytail Canasta is a very popular version of the canasta rummy game.

Ponytail Canasta can be played by four or six players using six decks of cards (each 52+2). For each additional player, you need to add one more deck of cards.

  • The player to the right of the dealer cuts the decks after shuffling.
  • The dealer takes a group of cards from the top of the deck and deals 15 cards for each player. The player to the left of the dealer takes another stack of cards from the large deck and deals out 13 more cards for each player. There are Pony Hands
  • The remaining cards from each dealer's pile are returned to the deck.

Cutthroat canasta

This is a Canasta for three players.

  • There are no teams in this game. Each player plays individually.
  • 13 cards are dealt with each player.
  • If you draw from the stockpile, you must draw two cards, but discard only one.
  • The first player who takes the discard pile becomes the lone hand. The other 2 players now become a team against the lone hand.
  • If a player goes out before anyone takes the discard pile, then they become the lone hand.
  • The initial meld value depends on the individual scores.
  • The lone hand scores only his own points while the other players score the total made as a team.
  • Two canastas are required to go out.
  • The game is for 7500 points.

Hand and foot canasta

This version of Canasta is played using four to seven decks of cards with Jokers. Here, each player gets two sets of cards - the hand, which has to be played first, and the foot, which is played only when the hand has been used up.

  • This game can be played by teams of two players each.
  • The number of decks used is usually one more than the number of players involved.
  • As the number of cards is more, it is easier to form canastas in this version and therefore more enjoyable for beginners.
  • Each player gets dealt 22 cards (11 for hand and 11 for foot)
  • The hand is picked up usually, and the foot remains face down until the hand is exhausted.
  • Only when a player has melded all cards from the hand can pick up the foot as a new hand.
  • During your turn, you must draw two cards from the stock but discard one card.

Wild card rule in canasta

Printed jokers and twos are used as wildcards in Canasta. Wild cards are used as substitutes for cards while melding. For example, you can make Q-Q-Q-2 or 8-8-8-8-8-2-joker.

However, there are certain restrictions on using wildcards, depending on the variation of canasta being played. Some of them are:

  • There cannot be more than 3 wild cards in a meld. For example- in a six-card meld there must be a minimum of three natural cards.
  • A canasta (a meld of 7 cards) must have at least four natural cards.
  • You cannot make a meld of only wildcards

In some canasta games, you can make a meld of only wild cards (any combinations of twos and jokers).  However, if you start making a wildcard meld, you cannot use wildcards in any other meld until the wildcard canasta is complete.

American Rummy Rules

Canasta has spread to the US from South America and also gained popularity in the US. The US version of Canasta is slightly different and is called American rummy or American Canasta.

American Canasta is more complex than other versions of Canasta and may be slightly difficult for beginners. American rummy is officially played by 4 players in 2 teams.

American rummy rules

  • Each player gets 13 cards
  • The game is played up to 5,000 points.
  • There is an initial meld requirement depending upon the player’s scores. However, if you meld a complete canasta in the first turn there are no bonus points.
  • You can use a maximum of two wild cards during a meld instead of three.
  • Melds must be of 7 cards and cannot have more cards. Higher melds of 8 or more cards are allowed only when going out.
  • Sequences (10,9,8,7) are not valid melds. You have only to make sets (10,10,10,10)
  • Sevens are special-  Melds of sevens cannot include any wild cards (7,7,7,7, Joker is not allowed). However, a canasta of sevens (7,7,7,7,7,7,7) is worth 2,500 points instead of 500. However, if the round ends and your team does not complete this canasta, then your team loses 2,500 points. Having three or more sevens in your hand has a penalty of 1,500.
  • Aces are special- Aces have the same rules as that of sevens with one exception- If your team's initial meld includes aces then you can add wildcards- but then the aces will be treated like any other meld
  • You can make melds of only wild cards. A canasta of 2s is worth 3,000 points, for 4 jokers it is 2,500 points and 2,000 points for any other combination. However, if any team fails to complete such a canasta after starting it, gets a penalty of 2,000 points.

Scoring parameters

At the end of each hand, the score is calculated as follows:-

The total value of all cards melded by you/your team including the cards in canastas minus the value of the cards remaining in your/your team’s hands. Bonuses are also added.

Points:

Red 3- 100

Black 3, 4, 5, 6, 7- 5

8, 9, 10, J, Q, K- 10

2, A- 20

Joker- 50

Red three

Red three has a special significance in Canasta

Each red three has a bonus point of 100 points. If one team has all four red threes, they get bonus points- the red threes count as 200 each or a total of 800.

Bonuses

Bonus For Bonus points
Going out 100
Going out concealed 200
Each mixed canasta (min 1 wildcard) 300
Each natural canasta (no wildcard) 500
All four red threes 800

During each hand, the first time you lay cards on the table then the cards of the combined melds must be equal to the initial meld requirement. Initial meld value depends on the scores of the players as follows:

Score of player/team Initial meld value
Negative 150
0-1495 50
1500-2995 90
3000 and above 120

What is Discard Pile?

All about Freezing, unfreezing, and taking the discard pile in canasta rummy:

Freezing the discard pile:

Before one side has made its preliminary meld, the discard pile is frozen against it. Thereafter, the preliminary meld unfreezes it for both the players. The only condition specified is that when a red three is used as an upcard, or if a wild card or a black three is used as an upcard or discarded, the discard pile is frozen. (To show the freeze, the pile's lowest freezing card is rotated sideways).

Unfreezing the discard piles:

There’s only one way to unfreeze that pile i.e., once it is taken away. At least one natural card must be discarded on the highest point of the pile when a wild card or a 3 black is placed on the top of it. Then it is upon the discretion of the player, whether to take the card or the pile along with the natural pair of the similar rank from the opponent’s hand. It is mandatory for the player to show the pair before touching the discarded pile.

Taking the Discarded Pile:

A player has an opportunity to take the discard pile if it is not frozen against their side. This can be done in 3 ways. Firstly, make a match of the topmost card with the natural pair. Secondly, Combining the uppermost card with one similar natural card and one similar wild card, and thirdly, by adding the uppermost card to a combination existing on the table. Provided, When the top card in the discard pile is a wild card, a black three, or a red three, it cannot be taken.

Which Rummy variant does GetMega have and how do I sign up?

GetMega has a Points Rummy variant which is a maximum of 80 points per hand. It is very easy to sign-up. You can sign-up using your existing Facebook login & phone number and complete your KYC. KYC is mandatory to process and requires only your Aadhar card and PAN card to be uploaded in the app.

With this, our article on canasta rummy comes to an end. There are more Indian card games that are equally popular.

Rummy is one such game on GetMega. Play contests and tournaments with 100,000+ players and win more than 10,00,000 on GetMega. Download the GetMega Rummy app now!
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