How to Play Canasta – Rules for Canasta Card Game

Canasta was one of the most popular games half a century ago and it is still played in many parts of the world. It is a rummy-style game. Here is the guide on How to Play Canasta.

Important Information about Canasta

What are the requirements to play Canasta?

Two 52 cards standard decks are required along with 4 jokers. Also, four are players required to play this game. The game is played in partnerships. So, there will be 2 teams with 2 players in each team.

What are the wild cards in Canasta?

Jokers and 2s are wild cards. So, they can be used to pair with any cards to form melds.


The partnerships are determined by drawing the cards. Both decks are shuffled and placed in the center. All four players draw a card from that stack. The players drawing the highest card and the second-highest card are partners. The remaining two players form another partnership.

For the purpose of making partnerships, the ranks of the cards from highest to lowest are Ace (A), King (K), Queen (Q), Jack (J), 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. And the ranks of the suits from highest to lowest are Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Spades. Jokers are not valid.

If a player draws a joker or 2 players draw the same card(Because of 2 Decks) then that player or players draw new cards.

Sitting Position in Canasta

The partners sit in front of each other.

The Object in Canasta Card Game

The main object in Canasta is to make melds(Three or more cards of the same rank) either with only natural cards(4 or higher) or with the help of wild cards, together as a team.

Determining Dealer and Dealing the Cards

The player on the right of the player who drew the highest card deals first hand. After that, the dealership passes in a clockwise manner. The dealer deals 11 cards to each player, face-down, starting from his left. After dealing, he places the remaining cards on the table, in a pile, and turns up the top card. This is called the “Stock Pile”.

If the turned-up card is a joker, 2, or Red 3 then the dealer turns up more cards until a natural card(4 or higher) is turned up.

How to Play Canasta

The player on the left of the dealer starts the game by taking the first turn. Players take turns in a clockwise manner. A turn consists of drawing a card, forming a meld(Optional), and discarding a card.

A player can draw either from the top of the stockpile or from the top of the discard pile. But there are some restrictions on drawing from the discard pile. A player is only allowed to draw from the discard pile if he can form a new meld with the help of that top card. If the player wants to draw a card from the discard pile, then he has to take the whole discard pile.

The player cannot draw the top card of the discard pile to add it to an existing meld. It can only be used to form a new meld. A player may draw a card from the stockpile even if he can draw the top card of the discard pile.

After drawing, the player must have to discard a card and place it on the top of the discard pile, face-up.

Red Threes

Whenever during the game, if a player gets a Red 3 either from the cards initially dealt or while drawing, then he has to put that card in front of him face-up on the table. The player has to take a replacement for that Red 3 from the stockpile.

At the end of the game, the team gets a bonus of 100 points per Red 3. If a team manages to get all 4 Red 3s then the team gets a bonus of 200 points per Red 3.

Forming Melds

A valid meld consists of at least 2 natural cards. Also, if a meld contains more than 3 wild cards then it is invalid. A meld can have as many cards as the player wants of the same rank. A partnership cannot make two different melds of the same rank.

The initial or say, the first meld made by a partnership must have a minimum Meld Value depending on the team’s score at the beginning of the hand.

The Score of the Team at the BeginningRequired Meld Value
Minus15 Points
0 to 149550 Points
1500 to 299590 Points
3000 or more120 Points

Meld value is the total of the value of the cards in the meld. The cards and their values are shown in the table below.

Joker50 Points
Ace20 Points
220 Points
K, Q, J, 10, 910 Points
7, 6, 5, 4, and Black 35 Points


A valid meld of seven or more cards is a Canasta. The team that makes Canasta wins some bonus points. If the Canasta is made only from the natural cards(Without Wild Cards) then it is a Pure Canasta and the team making a Pure Canasta gets a bonus of 500 points per Pure Canasta. And if the Canasta is made with the help of wild cards then it is a mixed Canasta and the team making mixed Canasta gets a bonus of 300 points per mixed Canasta.

The players of the team can add cards to a canasta to increase its value. It does not affect the bonus. However, if the players add wild cards to a Pure Canasta then the bonus gets decreased from 500 points to 300 points.

Freezing and Unfreezing The Discard Pile

Whenever a player discards a wild card or a black 3, the discard pile gets frozen. When the discard pile is frozen, a player cannot draw a card from the discard pile.

To unfroze the discard pile, a player has to draw the top card of the discard pile. But since the discard pile is frozen, the player can draw the card only to form a new meld of natural cards. Remember, the player cannot draw that card to add it to an existing meld or to make a new meld with the help of wild cards.

Going Out

When a player gets rid of all cards by making melds, he can go out of the game. If a player wants to go out then his team must have formed a Canasta or the player who is going out can complete the Canasta by adding his last card to canasta(Only if the Canasta and the Last Card both are of the same rank).

If the team does not have a Canasta then the player cannot go out and He must have at least one card in his hand. The hand comes to the end when a player goes out and the score of both the teams is counted.


The teams get two types of scores. 1) Card Values 2) Bonus.

1) Card Values

The teams score points based on the total card values of the cards forming melds. The points that a team gets = total value of the cards forming melds -(less)- the total value of the cards that are in the players’ hands and do not form a part of any meld.

2) Bonus

There are three types of Bonuses.

A) Red Threes

The team having Red 3s gets a bonus of 100 points per Red 3 and if the team manages to get all 4 Red 3s then the team gets a bonus of 200 points per Red 3.

B) Canasta

The team making a pure canasta wins 500 points per pure canasta and the team making a mixed canasta wins 300 points per mixed canasta.

C) Going Out

The team of the player going out wins a bonus of 100 points.

This is How to Play Canasta. Play and enjoy!

Also, check-out some other card games like Egyptian rat screw and Kings in the corner.

Thank you.

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