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You & Bill
Mike & Lisa

You're trying to discard , but it could be laid off on the meld . Are you sure you want to discard the card?

Bill can go out this turn, and is asking for your permission.

If you say yes they will meld the rest of their cards and end the round. If you refuse, they cannot go out this turn and play continues.

Can they go out?

You & Bill Mike & Lisa
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v0.1 (12345678)

Canasta

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Canasta Rules

Canasta, as with most of the games we have, exists in multiple variations. However, the variation on this site is Classic Canasta, a four-handed partnership Canasta played with two standard 52 card decks and four jokers: a total of 108 cards. We briefly considered implementing Modern American Canasta, but felt this one was simpler and seemed to be more commonly played casually. The rules we referenced during development can be found at the excellent overviews at pagat.com, and Gather Together Games.

Preparation and Deal

Canasta is played between four people in two-person partnerships, which sit opposite of the table from each other. Two standard 52 card decks, along with the jokers, are merged to form a single 108 card deck.

Deal each player 11 cards, and place the remaining cards face-down at the center of the table to form the stock. Flip the top card of the stock over to form the discard pile. If the top card of the stock is a wild card or red three turn the card horizontal to indicate the pile is frozen (see below), and keep flipping over cards until you get a card that is neither wild nor a red three.

Typically at this point each player should place all red threes they have in their hand face up in front of them and draw an equal amount of cards to replace them, but on this site we delay it until it's that players turn to keep things clear and simple

Card Values

Cards Value
Threes to sevens 5 points
Eights to kings 10 points
Aces 20 points
Twos 20 points
Jokers 50 points

Drawing cards

The person to the left of the dealer starts. At the start of your turn either draw the top card of the deck, or pick up the entire discard pile. You may always pick up the top card from the deck, but you can only pick up the pile if you can meld or lay off the top card of the pile instantly.

If you pick up the pile you must lay out the promised meld containing the top pile card before you are allowed to take the remaining pile or make any other melds. In physical play you'd simply present the two other cards of the meld from your hand, or move the pile card to the meld on the table you're laying off on. If you're making the initial meld (see below) you may not pick up the pile until you've presented a combination of melds that suffices for the initial meld minimum. Only then can you take the remaining pile.

In addition to the above limitations in taking the pile, further restrictions are placed on taking it when it is "frozen" or "blocked". The following restrictions exist:

  • Frozen pile:

    The pile is frozen in two ways: If the pile contains (but the top card is not) a red three or wild card the pile is "frozen". A frozen pile can only be taken if you can make a natural meld (a meld with no wild cards) with the top card and cards from your hand. You must make that meld the same turn you pick up the pile. The frozen pile is indicated by turning the wild or three sideways, so that it sticks out of the pile at an angle.

    Likewise, the pile is frozen against a team if that team has not made their initial meld yet.

  • Blocked pile: If there is a red three, a black three, or a wild card on the top of the pile it is blocked. You cannot pick up a blocked pile under any circumstances.
Example
  • Bill wants to take the pile. He holds in his hand C6 C6 H7 D8, and the top card of the pile is D6. He presents his two sixes, and melds them with the six from the pile. He then takes the remaining pile and continues with his turn

  • Mike wants to take the pile, but it is frozen. He holds in his hand H5 D2 D2 S12 D12, and the top card of the pile is S5. Normally, he'd be able to make the meld H5 S5 D2, but since the pile is frozen he must be able to present a pair of fives from his hand in order to take the pile. He instead draws from the deck.

  • Lisa wants to take the pile. The top card of the pile is H13. She cannot meld kings from her hand, but her team has melded D13 D13 C13 H2. She may thus simply add the pile card to the existing meld, and collects what remains from the pile

  • Bill wants to take the pile, but it is frozen. The top card of the pile is H13. His team does have a king meld on the table, but because he does not have a pair of kings in his own hand he cannot lay off the top card, and must thus draw from the deck

The Play

Once a player has drawn from the deck or pile, they may make melds or lay off their cards. A meld consists of at least three cards, and up to 11. It must contain at least two natural cards of the same rank, and can contain up to three wild cards. There must always be more natural cards than wild cards, and all natural cards must be of the same rank. As an example three fives are a valid meld, but two jokers and a five is not valid. Likewise six fours is a valid meld, but six fours and four wilds are not. This makes the largest meld you can form 11 cards: all eight cards of a single rank, plus three wilds.

Laying off cards to an existing meld simply involves placing the laid off card(s) from your hand onto the meld already on the table. You can lay off as many or few cards at once as you wish, but the final combined meld on the table must remain valid.

Black threes cannot be melded except as the last meld before the player goes out and ends the round.

Once the player has melded all the cards they wish to meld that round, the player ends their turn by discarding one card from their hand to the discard pile. The player on their left then takes the next turn.

You and your partner share melds, and thus you may lay off your cards on their melds as if they were your own. Likewise, if you make a meld consisting of cards in a rank already present on the table the two melds will merge to form a single meld: if you or your partner at one point melded h10 d10 d10 and either one of you later melds s10 s10 c10 d2 the two melds will be placed together on the table to form the meld h10 d10 d10 s10 s10 c10 d2.

First meld limit

The first meld a team makes each round must be worth a minimum number of points to be valid, depending on how many points that team has in total. A red three is not counted as a meld for this purpose. The threshold can be met over any number of melds, as long as you play all the melds in the same turn.

The game will prevent you from making any melds until it detects you have a valid combination of melds in your hand that meets the criteria. Once you've laid out the first meld the game will prevent you from ending your turn until you've melded all the melds that are required to meet the threshold. The game will prevent you from melding cards if doing so causes you to be unable to meld past the threshold with the remainder of your hand.

In the case that you use the top card of the pile to make the initial meld, you may not pick up the remainder of the pile until you've melded enough cards from your hand to cross the threshold. In essence, if you cannot make the initial meld using the cards in your hand and the top card of the pile then you may not pick the pile up at all, and must draw from the deck instead.

The thresholds and associated first-meld limits can be found in the following table.

Team point total Minimum first meld value
<0 15 (No minimum)
0 to 1500 50 points
1500 to 3000 90 points
≥3000 120 points
Example
  • Your current total this game is 1100 points. You thus need to meld 50 points total for the first meld. You have in your hand h1 c1 d2 c5 h6 h7 c8 c4 c4 d4 c11 d13. The only meld you can make that crosses the threshold is h1 c1 d2 worth 60 points. However, once you have melded that there is nothing stopping you from melding c4 c4 d4, albeit you're not obligated to. You however cannot meld just the fours and the deuce, as that puts you only at 35 - a bit short of the 50

  • Your current total this game is 1500 points. You thus need to meld 90 points total for the first meld. You have in your hand h1 c1 d2 c5 h6 h7 c8 c9 c9 d9 h9 d13. This time, melding just the aces is not enough. However, you could meld both h1 c1 d2, c9 c9 d9 for a combined value of 90.

  • Your current total this game is 3000 points. You thus need to meld 120 points total for the first meld. You have in your hand h1 c1 d2 h2 c5 h6 h7 c8 c4 c4 d4 h4 d13. Unfortunately, there is no valid combination of melds that get you across the finish line, and so you cannot meld yet (but maybe your partner can meld and get you out of the pickle)

  • Your current total this game is 1800 points. You thus need to meld 90 points total for the first meld. You have in your hand h5 h5 h5 h5 d9 d9 d9 h13 d13 d13 c13 s3. While the combined melds of h5 h5 h5 h5 d9 d9 d9 h13 d13 d13 c13 would get you exactly to 90, it would also illegally leave you with one card. You need a Canasta to go out, and thus you cannot make the initial meld.

Going out

Once either team has a meld consisting of seven or more cards, known as a Canasta, that team may go out. A player goes out by ending the turn with no cards in their hand, either because they melded all cards they had, or they melded all but one card from their hand and discarded the left over card. If your team does not have a Canasta on the table you may not go out, and you may not end the turn with no cards in your hand. The game will enforce this by preventing you from laying down the last meld of your hand if doing so would illegally leave you with zero or one cards.

Additionally, a player may choose to go out concealed for an extra 100 points. In order to go out concealed the following conditions must be met:

  • You must meld your entire hand in one turn: You cannot have made any previous melds or layoffs.
  • You must lay off your hand in complete melds, you may not lay off cards.
  • At least one of the melds you make must be a Canasta, comprised of 7 cards or more

While you must be careful when attempting to go out concealed, the game does offer a bit of leniency: it will make note of all the cards you meld or lay off the turn you make your initial meld, and if it detects that the conditions are met and the melds are all valid even if your partner's melds were removed it will award you the bonus even if you technically laid off on an existing meld in the process.

End of the round

Once a player goes out the round is over. The teams count up their scores, apply any relevant bonuses, and add to their total tally. If one team has won the game ends there. Otherwise, the deck is reshuffled and redealt for the next round.

The round also ends when the last card has been drawn from the stock. In regular play, you technically would keep playing until one player either cannot or refuses to take the pile, but to keep things simple in this game if a player ends their turn and there is no card left in the stock the game ends, regardless if a team went out or not.

Asking permission to go out

Because cards in your hand count against you at the end of the game, it may not be advisable to go out as soon as you can - your opponent might be holding a lot of wild cards. Due to this after drawing your card but before you meld or lay off anything you may ask your partner if you may go out. The partner may then reply "yes" or "no", and the answer is binding. If the partner accepts, you must go out. If your partner refuses, you cannot go out.

In this game there is a button to ask "May I go out?", which gets enabled whenever the game detects you can go out and you've not made any melds that turn. Pressing the button will prompt your partner for an answer to the question. The game will then enforce the outcome. However, you do not have to ask: it is perfectly legal to unilaterally decide to go out without asking permission - just try to use your best judgement when that is appropriate.

Scoring

At the end of the round each player tallies up their points according to the list below, and adds that to the total they had from previous rounds.

If a team has no melds by the time the opposing team goes out, the red threes are deducted from their score instead of getting added.

  • Meld value: Add up the point value of all cards in all melds your team laid out, not including red threes
  • Hand value: Subtract the point value of any remaining cards in your hands
  • Natural Canastas: Add 500 points for any natural canasta your team melded (7+ card melds with no wild cards)
  • Mixed Canastas: Add 300 points for any mixed canasta your team melded (7+ card melds with at least one wild card)
  • Red threes: Add 100 points for each red three your team laid out. If your team has all threes this bonus is doubled (800 points instead of 400)
  • Going out: Add 100 points if your team ended the round by going out, with an additional 100 points if you go out concealed.

Winning the game

The game ends when either player ends the round with 5000 or more points total. The team that has a higher score at that point wins the game. However, if the two teams are tied above 5000 the game keeps going until one team stands victorious.

Glossary of terms

  • Stock: The turned over deck of cards at the center of the table from which players draw.
  • Pile/Discard: The face up deck of cards next to the stock where players discard their cards to end their turn, and which players may pick up instead of drawing from the stock.
  • Wild card: A card that can be used in place of any other card when melding - the twos and jokers.
  • Natural card: A card that is not wild.
  • Meld: A collection of three or more cards of the same rank, and optionally up to three wild cards, laid down by players during play.
  • Natural Meld: A meld that contains no wild cards.
  • Mixed Meld: A meld that contains at least one wild card.
  • Initial Meld: The first meld laid down by a partnership each round, which is subject to point restrictions.
  • Canasta: A meld consisting of at least seven cards, either natural or mixed.
  • Going out: Ending your turn such that you have no cards in your hand, ending the round.
  • Going out concealed: Going out without having previously melded or laid off, without relying on the cards already on the table

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About Canasta

This online version of the classic card game Canasta is the 43rd game we make here on Cardgames.io, and was made by Magnús in 2024.

Canasta is easily amongst the games that have been requested the most over the years, and it had been brought up as a potential contender numerous times. We mainly avoided it due to it being fairly complex and we weren't always sure we could do it justice, but we felt that it was an injustice in itself that a cardgame website didn't have one of the most popular card games on the catalogue. It's also good to have a few more games from the rummy family, as we're a bit whist-heavy on this site. If you have any comments on it do get in touch and we'll see if adjustments need to be made.

Need to contact us?

Any comments, complaints, bug reports, questions, or anything else should be sent to support@cardgames.io. We can't respond to everyone, but we try to respond to as many as we can. If you just have a quick question make sure it isn't covered in our FAQ. You can also often get help from other users on our Facebook community group , where many of our users congregate. Pop in and say hello!

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This is version 1.15.3 of Canasta.

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