Canasta is a card game for four players. Two players sitting across from each other form a team, playing against the other two players. The goal is to be the first team to reach 5,000 points by putting cards into melds on the table. A round lasts until one player is able to put all his cards on the table which is called going out. This requires at least one Canasta, a meld consisting of at least seven cards.

Game Setup

Each player is dealt eleven cards and one card is put on the discard pile. If this card is a Joker, 2 or 3, this step is repeated until there is a 4 or higher card on the discard pile.

Player Turns

On their turn, a player first draws a card. If possible, the player may place cards on the table to start a new meld or add to an existing meld. The turn ends when the player discards one of the cards in hand on the discard pile.

Melds are formed from cards of the same rank and shared between the two players of the same team. To start a meld a player needs at least three cards. These cards may contain wild cards (Jokers or 2s) but never more wild cards than natural cards and never more than three wild cards per meld. It is also possible to make a meld of wild cards only. In order to meld cards in a round for the first time, the player must earn a minimum of points with these cards: 50 (for teams with 0 to 1,495 points), 90 (for teams with 1,500 to 2,995 points), 120 (for teams with 3,000 points or more) or 15 (for teams with negative total points).

Card Values

Card values are as follows:
• Black 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 = 5 points
• 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K = 10 points
• Ace, 2 = 20 points
• Joker = 50 points
• Red 3 = 100 points

Canasta Card Values

Canasta Card Values

Taking Cards from the Discard Pile

Instead of drawing from the stock a player may draw his card from the top of the discard pile and take the whole discard pile, if they can use that card in one of their melds or start a new meld with at least two other cards from their hand. However, the discard pile cannot be taken in this way if it is blocked.

The discard pile is blocked (also called frozen), if there is a wild card (Joker or 2) in it. To make this visible, the first wild card in the stack is turned sideways. The discard pile is also blocked for a team that has not yet melded any cards. A blocked discard pile can only be unfrozen by combining its top card with two natural cards from your hand to either start a new meld or add to an existing one.

Red 3s and Black 3s

3s are special cards in Canasta and cannot normally be melded at all. If a player draws a red 3, it is put on the table immediately and the player must draw a replacement instead. If a red 3 is in the discard pile at the start of the game, the discard pile is blocked.

Black 3s can only be melded immediately before going out. Black 3s on the top of the discard pile can never be taken.

Canastas and Going Out

To win a round, a player must go out by getting rid of all cards in their hand. This is only allowed, if their team has at least one Canasta, a meld consisting of seven or more cards. The last card of a player may be played in a meld or discarded. The team that goes out receives an additional 100 points. If the player who goes out has not melded any cards yet and manages to play a complete Canasta, they go out concealed, which earns the respective team 200 additional points instead.

After a player goes out, each team receives points for its cards. Cards in melds score their respective points while each card left in hand scores negative points. Red 3s are worth 100 points each, if the team has melded any cards, or 800 points, if the team has all four red 3s. If the team has not melded any cards, each red 3 deducts 100 points from the total score. Additionally, the teams receive points for their Canstas. Every Canasta with natural cards only is worth 500 points and mixed Canastas that include wild cards are worth 300 points.

Online Game

Canasta offers two modes for online play: Two-player and four-player. The four-player version uses the standard rules of the game. The two-player version uses the standard rules and allows the player to draw two cards.

If the player wins a game, they receive 3 points for the online leaderboard. Leaving a game results in the player’s team losing and receiving 0 points.

You can download our mobile version of Backgammon here: Canasta by LITE Games