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Players: 4, as 2 teams
Canasta uses two standard decks, plus a set number of Jokers.
Each player is dealt a hand of 15 cards. The rest are placed in a draw pile face down.
The top card of the draw pile is turned face up to begin the discard pile.
A player begins their turn by drawing a card from the draw pile. Alternatively, they may also pick up all the cards in the discard pile, if they can use its top card in a meld or lay it off immediately.
They then try to construct groups of cards called melds and lay down valid melds face up on the table in front of them. Melds are made up of at least three cards of the same value. Teams share melds and can play cards from their hand onto their existing melds. This is called laying off. Players cannot lay off on opponents’ melds.
At the end of their turn, players must discard a card from their hand into the discard pile.
The first meld a team makes in a round must have more than a certain value, determined by the team’s current score.
Initial Meld Requirement for Current Score
Twos and Jokers are both wild cards. These cannot form their own melds, but can be used as cards of any rank in other melds.
The discard pile may also become ‘frozen’ - a frozen discard pile can only be taken by a player who already holds two cards of the same rank as the top card of the discard pile. The discard pile is frozen to a team until they lay down a meld, and is frozen to everyone if the top card is a Black Three or if there is a wild card anywhere in the pile.
Threes also follow special rules:
Teams require a set number of canastas laid down before they can end the round. A canasta is a meld containing 7 cards. If a team has those canastas, then the round ends when one of its members gets rid of all their cards (called ‘going out’). Until their team has the correct number of canastas, a player cannot make plays that would leave them with no cards in hand.
Teams score points based on the cards in their melds. There are also bonus points for meeting certain conditions. The value of the cards left in hand is subtracted from the team’s score.
Each card has a points value, as follows:
Bonuses are awarded for:
The game ends when a team reaches 5000 points and the team with the most points wins. The target can also be set to 2500, 7500 or 10000 points.
The number of canastas required to close a game can be set to 1, 2, 3 or 5.
The number of Jokers in the deck can be set to 2 or 4, or they can be disabled entirely.
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