Canasta Rules

Canasta Rules

Canasta is the name of a 7 card long meld which gives this Rummy variant its name.

The objective of the game: The winner of the game is the first to hit or exceed the target score (Quick Tourney), or the player with the highest score at the end of the game (Round Tourney). A round (hand) ends when a player has melded all the cards in his hand and created at least two Canasta melds, or when the stock pile runs out of cards (in this case the game ends and all the players receive points according to the remaining cards in their hand). Reaching the target score is done by collecting points according to the points' value of the melds that one lays down on the table during a hand. Like many other Rummy variants, in Canasta you need your melds value to reach or exceed a certain initial value, before you can lay down melds for the first time.

Number of Players: at RummyRoyal this variant can be played 2 players only.

The Deck:  It is played with two standard 52 card decks and four jokers (two from each deck), making a total of 108 cards.


Wild Cards: 2s and jokers are wild cards that can take the place of natural cards while 3s may freeze the stock pile and provide their owners with both bonus and penalty points.

Red threes - Bonus Cards: If a player is dealt a red three or happened to draw one, it will be automatically placed face-up on the table. A replacement card from the deck will be drawn for him automatically. Red threes score bonus points but not count as a meld, and do not help a player reach the minimum count requirement for the initial meld.

In case a red three is turned up as a start card for the discard pile, another card is drawn from the stock pile and is placed on top of it, continuing until a card which is not a wild card or red three is turned up. When the discard pile is taken, the red three will be placed face up next to the player's hand automatically and a replacement card will not be drawn.

Black threes - Stop Cards: When discarding a black three the player prevents his opponent from picking up the discard pile in the next turn. Black threes do not freeze the discard pile (as opposed to wild cards - 2s and Jokers). Once another card is discarded on top of the black three it has no further effect.

A meld of 3 or more Black threes cannot be formed, with one exception. A player who is going out may form a meld of three or four black threes as part of that last turn. A meld of black threes cannot be formed using any wild cards.


The cards and their values

Canasta card suitsCanasta card suitsCanasta card suitsCanasta card suits

5 Points

Canasta card suitsCanasta card suitsCanasta card suitsCanasta card suitsCanasta card suitsCanasta card suits

10 Points

Canasta card suits Canasta card suits   

20 Points

Canasta card suits

50 Points


The Deal: Each player is dealt 15 cards, and the rest of the cards are placed face-down on the table, to form the stock pile. The top card of the stock is taken off and placed face up next to the stock pile, to start the discard pile.

Any red 3s that were dealt will be automatically placed face-up next to the player's hand, and an equal number of cards will be drawn from the deck to replace them.

Drawing Cards (From Stock Pile - Face Down): if the players choose to draw from the stock pile, 2 cards will be added to their hand.

Picking Cards Up (From Discard Pile - Face Up): players may choose to pick up the entire discard pile instead of drawing form the stock pile. However, picking up the discard pile isn't always possible.

Players can pick up a discard pile that is not frozen when:

  • They can meld the top card of the discard pile together with at least two relevant cards from their hand: these could be either two natural cards of the same rank as the top discard, or one such natural card and one wild card.
  • In case the top discard card matches the rank of one of the melds that the player has already melded on the table, and he can add it to the meld.

For example, if there is a Q card on top of the discard pile and an additional Q card in the middle of discard pile, you will be unable to use a single Q card in your hand to take the entire discard pile and meld the three Q cards. However, if you have two Q cards in your hand you can use them to form a Q-Q-Q meld together with the discard pile's top card, while the rest of the discard pile will be added to your hand, and then you could add the 4th Q card to the meld.

**Please note that it is impossible to take the discard pile when it is frozen; when the top card is a black three or a wild card.

Discard: Prior to melding two Canastas, a player is unable to leave his hand without any cards at the end of his turn. Players' moves should be made in such a manner that keeps at least one card in their hand after they discard a card at the end of their turn.


There are two scenarios of a frozen discard pile:

  1. When the top card is a black 3 or a wild card this means that the player cannot pickup the discard pile, and therefore must draw card from the stock pile in this specific turn. When there's a natural card on top of the black 3 the discard pile is no longer frozen and players can pick it up according to the Pick Up rules.
  2. The discard pile is frozen to all players if it contains a wild card (at the top, middle or bottom). To show that it is frozen, the wild card is placed higher than the pile, so that it is still visible after other cards are discarded on top of it.
  3. The discard pile is frozen against a player, in case he has not yet melded the initial meld.

Unfreezing the Discard Pile

In cases 2 and 3, a player can pick up the discard pile only if he has two or more natural cards of the same rank as the top card of the discard pile. He then has to use them with the top discard card to form a meld in the same turn. This meld can be a new one, or it could be a meld of the same rank as an existing meld - in that case the melds with be automatically merged.

Melding: Melds can be as long as a player wishes them to be.


Players may meld their cards into sets only.

 A set consists of 3 or more cards of the same rank, number of cards is unlimited.
Suits may be repeated, and up to 3 Jokers or Wild Cards may be added.


         or        Canasta card suits


Clean Canasta: Consists of 7 cards or more of the same rank without

any wild cards (at the time of the initial meld or after).

  or more



Dirty Canasta: Consists of 7 cards or more, of the same rank and contains

up to 3 wild cards.




Please note, melds consisting entirely of wild cards are not allowed.

A player is unable to have two separate melds of the same rank. Any cards melded by a player with the same rank as one of their existing melds are automatically merged into that meld, provided that the limit of three wild cards is not exceeded. It is however quite possible to have a meld of the same rank as your opponent's melds.

Initial Meld Requirements: In order to meld for the first time, the total value of the cards a player melds must meet the minimum count requirement. This requirement depends on the player's cumulative score from previous rounds as shown below:

Cumulative score

Minimum count of initial meld


15 points (i.e. no minimum)

0 - 1495

50 points

1500 - 2995

90 points

3000 or more

120 points

Initial Meld - Rules of Thumb

  • In case a player has not melded, the discard pile will be frozen.

In order to reach the minimum count, a player may either meld entirely from his hand after drawing from the stock pile, or use two natural cards from his hand and the top card of the discard pile in case they match in rank.

  • In the second case, the player can only count the value of the top discard, along with the cards he melds from his hand in this and any other melds.
  • It is impossible to count any other cards in the discard pile which you may intend to add to melds in the same turn.
  • Special bonuses for Red 3's or Canastas will not be counted towards meeting the minimum.

Please note: There is only one exception for the initial meld requirement rule which occurs when a player draws from the stock pile and is able to meld his entire hand (with two canastas), without previously melding any cards. In this scenario he is allowed to go out without having to meet the minimum count.

The End of a Round

Going Out: The round ends once a player goes out by melding all the cards in his hand. A player can only go out if he has melded two or more Canastas. Going out is done by melding all of the cards that a player has in his hand, or by melding all but one and discarding it.

A player is also able to meld his entire hand without previously melding any cards and by doing so he will receive the "Going out concealed" bonus.

The Stock Runs out of Cards: in case no player has "Gone Out" and the stock runs out of cards, the game is over immediately.


The score is determined at the end of the round, according to the cards melded on the tables, and cards left in players' hands.

Each player's score consists of the following:

  • Total bonuses
  • Total value of all the cards that have been melded on the table
  • The subtraction of the total value of cards remaining in the player's hand

Please note:

A cumulative total score is kept for each player.

It is possible to have a negative score.

Bonus score:

Going Out

100 points

Going Out Concealed

200 points

For each Clean Canasta

500 points

For each Dirty Canasta

300 points

For each red three laid out, if the player has at least one meld

100 points

For all four red threes

800 points

Please note: If a player did not manage to meld at all, each red threes counts as a negative 100 points bonus. If they have all four red threes and have not melded, they will receive a negative bonus of 800 points.

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