Skip to content


A very common game card played for many years around the world canasta is extremely well known among card players.


There are a number of variations and types of Canasta played all over the world, the commonest being CLASSIC CANASTA, usually played by four people of two partnerships. Beginners should make themselves au fait with the various terminology used in Canasta to make playing more fun and exciting.

Common Terminology

Common Terms in the game.

  • Canasta – A meld of seven cards or more. If only natural cards used then referred to as Natural, Pure, Clean or Red if wild cards used with natural cards then referred to as Mixed, Dirty or Black.
  • Meld – To lay three or more cards of the same suite or value on the table face up.
  • Wild cards – Jokers and twos that substitute for any other natural card value.
  • Natural cards – All other cards excluding wild cards
  • Stock – Balance of cards after dealing placed in the center of the table face down.
  • Discard pile – Cards discarded during rounds placed next to ‘stock’ started after dealing by turning over top card of stock.
  • Goes out – When a player disposes all their cards. Normally denotes the end of the game.
  • Go out concealed – Players hand is melded in one turn including a Canasta

Deck Used in Canasta

Two packs of cards are used with the jokers. The cards are shuffled and each player cuts the deck with the lowest card being the dealer.

How Are Cards Dealt

The dealer then deals eleven cards to each player in a clockwise direction, and places the balance of the cards face down in the center of the table as the stock and turns over the top card, placing it next to the stock to form the discard pile.

Beginning the Game

The player left of the dealer has the first turn which basically consists of taking a card from the stock pack and using it to enhance their existing hand and discarding any unusable card to the discard pile. Players may only take all the cards from the discard pile, on their turn, if they can form a meld in their hand which is compatible with the top card of the discard pile. All your and your partners melds are placed in front of either one of you. Once you or your partner have placed a meld down you are at liberty to add or make new melds during your or your partners turn.

Remember the aim of the game is to maximize your points by making as many Canasta’s possible and at the end of the game to have as few cards left in your hand as possible. Cards on the table are points for you and those in your hand are added up and subtracted from your positive points of cards on the table.

Freezing the Discard Pile

The discard pile is deemed frozen in three instances, if:

  • It contains a wild card
  • A red three is turned up to start the discard pile
  • Your partner has not yet melded.

This can only be broken if you hold two natural cards of the same rank as that on the top of the discard pile, and you use them to make a new meld or add to an existing meld.

The Power of Three’s

Three’s play an integral part in Canasta

  • Red three’s freeze the discard pile and also give added bonus points at the end of the game.
  • Also red three’s are placed face up on the table with your melds.
  • A black three on the discard pile prevents the next player from using the discard pile and cannot be used in a meld, unless the player is going out and is using it in a meld which may not have any wild cards.

Additional Rules in Canasta

Players must have at least one Canasta before ending a game. Additionally you may not leave yourself with out any cards without having at least one Canasta down. During the game you may not discuss with your partner what cards you have or how to play, only if you are about to go out and are unsure you may ask your partner, ” may I go out? “, and their answer of yes or no is binding.

The game can also end when there are no more cards in the stock.


Points and Bonuses are as follows:

  • Jokers 50 points
  • Ace and two 20 points
  • 8,9,10,J.Q,K = 10 points
  • 4,5,6,7 = 5 points
  • For going out = 100 points
  • Going out concealed = 200 points
  • Red Canasta = 500 points
  • Black Canasta = 300 points
  • Each Red three with any meld = 100 points
  • All four red three’s with meld =800 points
  • Each red three with no meld = 100 points
  • All four red three’s with no meld = 800 points

When doing the final tally, remember the value of the cards are taken as well as the bonus for the Canasta. Eg. a Canasta of seven Jacks would be 70 points for the jacks (value 10 points each ), plus 500 points for a red Canasta = 570 points total.