Canasta is a shedding game in the Rummy family. It is played with two decks of 52 cards each, plus four Jokers. This game is typically played by four players in two partnerships. Some variants with two players are very popular, too. You can play both versions in our game at the Canasta Palace! The game has gained worldwide popularity due to its strategic elements and team-play.
Canasta is very popular in South America, especially in Uruguay and Argentina. It is also well-known in the United States, other English-speaking countries, and Europe, especially in France, Germany, and Italy.
In Canasta, you aim to form melds, which are sets of three or more cards of the same rank, and to score points by laying down these melds on the table. Melds of at least seven cards of the same rank are called Canasta and score plenty of bonus points.
Learn all Canasta rules in detail in our Canasta School featuring our Canasta Manual, Canasta Lessons, and more. Now, let’s continue with a brief overview here.
First, the dealer shuffles all cards and then deals 11 cards to each player. The remaining cards are placed in a draw pile, and the top card is turned over to start a discard pile.
Then you take turns melding. To begin your turn, you draw one card from the discard pile or from the draw pile. Drawing from the discard pile comes with further conditions and implications.
To end your turn, you discard a card. If you discard a black Three, the next player cannot draw it and must draw from the draw pile only. If you discard a Two or a Joker, the next player must also draw from the draw pile only. Additionally, the rules for drawing further cards from the discard pile become stricter.
Between drawing and discarding, you may meld and add cards to existing melds. Melding means taking cards from your hand and placing them on the table.
The round ends after one player places all their hand cards in melds on the table and optionally discards their final card.
After that, you score points for your team’s cards on the table and potentially various bonuses for completing a Canasta. Points are also deducted for any remaining cards in a player’s hand at the end of the round.
The team with the highest score at the end of the round wins. If you play multiple rounds, the partnership with the highest combined score over all rounds wins the entire game.
These are the basic steps to play Canasta, but there are many variations and additional rules to explore. Popular variants include Samba and Canasta Bolivia.