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How do you play canasta?

Canasta is a card game which was first originated in Uruguay & later introduced in Latin America during 1940s. In 1950, the Canasta game became hugely popular among players in the entire United States & remains the most preferred game till today.

As derived from the Spanish word Tejiendo las cartas, Canasta basically means “basket” which probably refers to the tray that was earlier used to keep the cards & discards. Many consider it as a liaison between poker & rummy that can turn out to be too complex at times. Though it requires a tough mental strategy but allows the player to have tremendous amount of enjoyment while playing the game.

The game of Canasta can be played with a minimum of two to maximum of 6 players but offers the real fun when it is played among four players in a partnership basis. It makes use of 108 cards, comprising of two standard 52-card packs & four Jokers. Each team tries to beat the other by obtaining the highest possible score in the form of canastas also referred to as “books”. Therefore the partners in a team play together & try to gather the maximum possible canastas before someone at the table declare the end of the game.

Canasta has many variations such as Bolivia, Samba, Burraco & Europeans very often refer to it as Kanasta or Canaster. There is a set of rules which are applicable to both Classic Canasta & its other variations. These game rules are given here in a simplified & organized manner so that everyone would be able to grasp them without much difficulty.

• You can start playing the game by mere shuffling of two similar looking deck of cards together and distributing 15 cards to each participant. The card at the top of the stock pile goes to become the first in the list of discard pile. If the card turns out to be red 3 or any other wild card such as Jokers and deuces (2s) then you need to lay it down & take another card in its replacement.

• The players have to go through the deal the hand in each round. It is process where the players of each team have to check out the presence of a red3 card in their hands. If either of them or all come across this then they have to immediately meld the red threes & draw new cards from the stock to replace them. However black threes are exceptions which can’t be melded with wild cards. Only they can be melded when the player decides to go out. In fact black trays can be used as stopper cards by players to freeze the pack.

• The Player has to play continuously thereby drawing cards from the stock to create a meld. If you have successfully melded the top card then you are allowed to pick up cards from the discard pile. However melding of your cards for the first time requires you to attain a minimum value below which it is not possible. It is preset. Thus a player having a score than 0 will have to achieve at least 15 points, a score within the range of 0-1495 should have 50 points, a score of 1500-2995 should have 90 points and with a score of 3000 more than that should have 120 points.

• A player has to build up a specific number of canastas on the table before deciding to go out. This number is usually decided at the starting of the game. No need arises for the player to go out if he/she is able to meld all the cards in hand successfully. When the stock pile depletes, it leads to the end of the round.

• Each card bears a value with which you can score more points in each round. A value of 5 is assigned to each four, five, six, seven & black 3 card , a value of 10 to each eight, nine, ten, jack, queen, king, a value of 20 to ace & deuce, a value of 50 to joker & a value of 100 to red threes. Again you can earn bonuses on canastas such as 300 points for creating mixed canasta, 500 points for natural canasta & 1000 points for wildcard canasta.

Similarly going out will help you earn 100 points as bonus but it may double if you have no cards on the table except red3s before going out. If you have nothing left on the table except all the four red 3s then your score of 400 points doubles up to become 800 points. Even a bonus of 200 points can be earned easily if you have nothing left on the table by the time of going out.

This article was written by Rupal.

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