OBJECTIVE OF CANASTA: Outscore your opponent by forming melds. A meld consists of three of more cards of the same rank. Wild cards (jokers and deuces) can help form melds.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: to 6 players

MATERIALS OF CANASTA Two 52-card decks plus the four jokers (108 cards in total) 

TYPE OF GAME: Card game

AUDIENCE: All ages


If you’re a card game enthusiast, you have most likely heard of Canasta. An extremely fun rummy-style game that combines strategy and luck, this game will keep you on your toes. 

Canasta originated in South America. Two friends and bridge partners wanted a card game not as long as bridge but not based too much on luck, like rummy. From this, Canasta was born!

We’re here to teach you how to play Canasta in a way that is informative and, dare we say, downright fun. So grab your deck of cards, pour yourself a beverage, and read on. 


You play Canasta with two decks of 52 cards, including the jokers from each deck. It is best played with 4 to 6 players as they will be split into teams. If you are playing with three or fewer players, then each player is on their own.

It is important to note that in Canasta, jokers and deuces (2s) are wild.


partners in canasta

Canasta has an interesting approach to forming partnerships. At the start of the game, you choose partners by drawing cards from the deck. The player that draws the highest card gets to choose his seat and goes first. The person with the second-highest card becomes the partner of the player who drew the highest card. For the purpose of picking partners, card values are as such: A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 / Spades (high), hearts, diamonds, and clubs. If players draw an equal card or joker, they must draw again. Partners sit across from one another.


The rotation of the deal follows clockwise and starts with the player to the right of the player who drew the highest card (player 1). Anyone can shuffle the deck, but the dealer has the right to shuffle last. The player to the dealer’s left cuts the deck after the last shuffle.
The dealer then passes 11 cards face down to each player, one at a time, dealing clockwise. P
lace the remaining cards in the center of the table, face-down, to serve as the stock deck. Turn over the top card of the stock deck face up, beside the stock deck, for all player to see. If this card is a joker, two, or three, you must turn another card over until the upcard is a “natural” card (four or higher). This face-up pile is the discard pile.


If you are dealt a red three, then on your first turn, place it face up on the table in front of you and replace it with another card. If you draw a red three from the stock deck, you must also place the card face up on the table and draw another card. Lastly, if you pick up the discard pile (more on this below) and find a red three, you must also table the card but you don’t have to pick up a replacement.


meld in canasta

In Canasta, similar to other Rummy-style card games, you must create melds and score points. Melds are three or more cards of the same rank. This can include wild cards. In Canasta, sequences or runs are not valid melds as they are in Gin Rummy, for instance. Similar to to other rummy style games you must draw a card and then discard another from your hand every turn. You will always have the same number of cards in your hand unless you lay down a meld.

Each turn comprises three parts: drawing a card, melding (if possible), and discarding.

You start your turn by drawing a card from the stock deck or picking it up from the discard pile (following the rules below).

You then have the opportunity to lay down a meld if the initial meld is met (refer to “initial meld” section). To do this, lay down the meld face up on the table, either in front of your partner or in front of yourself.

After this, discard one card to the discard pile to end your turn. When discarding, you must always take a card from your hand. If you choose to take the top card of the discard pile to form a meld, you must pick up the entire discard pile. 


The value of the cards is important when tallying your score at the end of the round and for the initial meld (more on this below). In Canasta, the value of cards is as follows:

Cards values between 4 – 7 = 5 points

Card values between 8 – K = 10 points

Aces & Deuces = 20 points

Jokers = 50pts

Black 3 cards = 5pts

Red 3 cards = 100 or 200 points

Red threes are worth 100 points a piece, but if one team collects all four red threes, then the value of the card raises to 200 points a piece, or 800 in total. Remember you must table the red threes immediately when drawn.

Something to note, a team can only receive the value of the red threes if they have made a successful meld during the round. If the round ends and the team has made no melds, the red threes are debited against their score.


A meld is a combination of three or more cards of the same rank. According to the rules of Canasta, you must have two “natural” cards for every wildcard. A canasta, which is 7 cards of the same rank, is to have no more than three wildcards in total.

Remember, when you have a meld in your hand, you have 2 options: You can lay the cards down on the table or keep them in your hand to try to exchange them for higher-value cards.

For example, let’s say you have three fours in your hand. As you know, fours have a value of 5 points, so laying down this meld would earn your team 15 points. Instead, you could keep the cards in your hand and try to collect higher-value cards when drawing from the stock deck. For instance, if you draw an ace, you can begin discarding your fours and begin collecting aces, as they are worth 20 points each.

But be aware that any cards left in a player’s hand at the end of the game, even if it’s a meld, count against that player’s score. The only melds that count as points are those face up on the table.

The opposing team can create a meld of the same rank, and their teammates can add to existing melds as long as it remains valid (no more than three wild cards). Players cannot add to their opponent’s melds.


A canasta is a run of 7 cards of the same rank. There are two types of canastas: a “natural” and an “unnatural” canasta. 


To make a natural canasta, you must obtain seven cards of the same rank without using wildcards. To signal a natural canasta, lay the seven cards on the table in a stack and show the value of the top card in red. For example, to display a natural canasta of fives, a player would stack the cards and place either the 5 of hearts or diamonds on the top. A natural canasta earns 500 points in addition to the point values of the cards in the canasta



An unnatural canasta is made when a run of 7 cards of the same rank is created using wildcards (jokers, deuces). Stack the cards and place a black card on top of the pile to signal a canasta. An “unnatural” canasta earns 300 points in addition to its regular base value points.

You may add more cards on top of completed canastas to add to the score, but these won’t affect the canasta bonus. Unless you add a wild card to a natural canasta. In this case, that canasta turns into an unnatural canasta, and you must replace the red card on top with a black one.


You must make an initial meld before you can lay down any melds. This will depend on that team’s accumulated score. Accumulated score is the team’s score at the beginning of the deal. This initial meld must not have any wilds(only pure cards). The initial meld values are as follows:

Negative points = Meld must equal 15 points

0 to 1,495 points =  Meld minimum 50 points

1,500 to 2,995 points = Meld minimum 90 points

3,000 or more = Meld minimum 120 points

The count of a meld is the total point value of the cards in it. A player may make two or more different melds to meet the minimum. Only the top card counts toward the requirement if he takes the discard pile. Bonuses for red threes and canastas do not count toward the minimum.

The minimum count is only required for the first meld. Every meld thereafter is acceptable regardless of its value.


Teams cannot pick up from the discard pile until they have created their first meld. The discard pile is open to both partners once one partner creates their initial meld. Otherwise, you can only draw from the stock deck.


The discard pile is frozen against a team if they have not made their initial meld. Once one of the partners has laid down the initial meld, it is unfrozen. 

If a red three (only possible if turned up as an upcard), black three, or wildcard is placed atop the discard pile. This freezes the pile as well Turn the freezing card sideways on the discard pile to indicate the freeze.

To unfreeze the pile, a player must discard a natural card atop the discard pile, unfreezing it. Once this happens you can take the pile if

  • You have a natural pair in your hand that matches the discard pile’s top card.
  • You show the board that pair of natural cards in your hand before picking up the pile.


canasta discard pile

Taking the discard pile is important in Canasta. This gives your team more opportunities to form melds. You can take the discard pile only if:

  • You have a pair of natural cards in your hand that match the top card to form a meld.
  • OR you have one wild card and one natural card in your hand to go with the top card and form a meld.
  • Or you can add the top card to one of your team melds already on the table.

You can then take the remaining cards from the pile into your hand and finally discard one card to end your turn. Remember that picking up the discard pile is not an option until a team has met their initial meld requirement. 


Going out in Canasta happens when you get rid of the last card in your hand, either by discarding or melding it. You cannot go out until your team has made at least one canasta. The round ends once you go out, and both sides tally their points for that round

There are some important things to remember. You don’t have to discard when going out; you can meld all your remaining cards. If you have only one card in hand or if the discard pile only contains one card, you cannot pick it up.


A player can go out in a “concealed” hand, which means they meld the entirety of their hand in one turn, including one canasta. You must have not made any previous melds or added cards to your partner’s melds. If you do go out this way and your partner has yet to meet the initial meld requirement, you must meet that requirement yourself.


If you have the option of going out before or after drawing, you can ask your partner for permission to go out. They must then answer yes or no, and you have to abide by their response. You do not need to ask permission, but it can be a helpful strategy.


Once you have reached the last card, the game is almost over. Play can continue as long as each player can take the previously discarded card and meld it. In this situation, a player must take the discard pile if they are able to. The round is over once a player can not legally take the card.

If the final in the stock deck is a red three, it counts toward your score, and the round ends immediately. You can not discard or meld after picking up the last red three.


Scoring in Canasta is calculated by adding the total value of your team’s melded cards, including all bonus points (refer to the “card values” section). Then, subtract the value of any cards remaining in your hand from your meld points.

  • For each natural canasta, 500 points
  • For each mixed canasta, 300 points
  • For each red three, 100 points (All four red threes count 800 points)
  • For going out, 100 points
  • For going out concealed (extra) 100 points

The score is traditionally kept on a sheet of paper with two columns titled “we” and “they.”

It is crucial to keep a proper score as it determines the amount needed for each round’s initial meld.


The game ends when one team reaches 5,000 points. Remember that a single game can take an hour or longer. 


As we mentioned before, Canasta does require a bit of luck, but there is also quite a bit of strategy involved. Let’s go over some of the best tips to keep you scoring during your next game.


This strategy is used by more experienced players. As a newbie, you may be tempted to lay down all your melds immediately. While this can certainly help you earn points, it is essential to pay attention to the point values. 

For example, if you have a meld of aces or jokers, then it is a good idea to lay this meld down. They are worth more points and will help you at the end of the round. However, if you’re holding three fours or sixes, then it might be better to try to hold onto those and see if you can start drawing better cards. If you do, you can start building a meld of higher value and discard the rest of your low cards.

Card management also means that you need to pay attention to how many cards you have in hand. If you lay off your melds too early in the game, then you have fewer cards for the rest of the round. It’s better to have more cards as more cards equal more options. More options equal a better chance at scoring additional points.


Now you may be thinking, it’s fine if I have fewer cards I can always pick up the discard pile. Picking up the discard pile can be a double-edged sword. Let’s look at both sides.

Let’s say your cards are running low, and you want to pick up the discard pile. This is where the luck comes in. Remember that you can only pick up the discard pile if you have two natural cards in your hand that match the top card. This doesn’t happen as often as you might think. This means your hand will get smaller each time you meld, leaving you with fewer cards and fewer options. But let’s say you do get lucky and pick up the discard pile. This could be good but remember that if the other team goes out, all the cards in your hand count against your team.

On the other hand, picking up the discard pile can also be very helpful for the same reason it can hurt you. There are a ton of cards in it that can be played. 

The best way to get better at using these strategies is to keep playing. Eventually, you will come up with your own strategies to use. 


There are some variations of Canasta that you can use whenever the occasion calls for it. We will list some of the variations below.

  • Samba– Samba is a variation of Canasta where you play with three decks of cards. 15 cards are dealt to each player, and you have two discard piles. You also draw two cards each turn, making the game a bit quicker. Samba is played to 10,000 points. In this game, you can also use sequence melds of the same suit, such as four, five, and six of the diamonds. In Samba, if you make a meld of seven cards, for example, five through J of hearts, this “samba” is worth 1500 points. Some other rule changes include, collecting six red threes earns you 1,000 points, and only two wild cards are allowed in a single meld. The minimum initial meld is 150 points if your team has 7,000 points or more.
  • Two-player Canasta – You can play Canasta with only two players if you want, with some slight rule changes. Each player gets 15 cards and draws two cards during each turn but still discards only one. In order to go out in this variation, you need two canastas.
  • Hand and Foot Canasta – each player is dealt two sets of cards one “hand” and one “foot.” You only play one, once the other is exhausted.
  • Pennies From Heaven – This variation is similar to Hand and Foot, but in order to go out, you need a natural canasta, a mixed canasta, a wild card canasta, and a canasta of sevens.


Is Canasta a Difficult Game?

Canasta is a card game that combines elements of Rummy and Bridge. While it has many rules and a different scoring system, it is quite easy to learn for beginners.

Can two people play Canasta? 

There is a variation of Canasta where only 2 people can play. Each player would be dealt 15 cards rather than 11. Each player draws two cards during their turn but still discards only one. In order to go out in this variation, you need two canastas.

How Many Cards in a Canasta Deck?

Canasta is played with two decks of 52 cards, including the four jokers. This totals 108 cards in a game.

What Is a Meld in Canasta?

In Canasta, a meld is three or more cards of the same rank, regardless of the suit. For example, four of hearts, four of diamonds, and four of spades create a meld.

Alan Lemus

75 thoughts on “CANASTA”

    • Thanks, Donna,

      We are currently working on adding photos to all of our game rules by the end of the year. Slowly but surely.

  1. Note: Under the discard pile section…the word “Not” is left out of the second scenario.
    “If the discard pile is NOT frozen a player may take the pile as long as:
    Thanks, one too many a’s but otherwise a good description of the game.
    Many thanks, Dottie

  2. The section on the discard pile is confusing.

    You say, “To unfreeze the pile, a natural card must be discarded atop the frozen pile and the pile must then be taken. Only by taking the pile will the pile unfreeze.” So even if natural cards are discarded, the pile remains frozen until it is taken? That’s odd.

    And what difference does it make that it is frozen. The rules you describe for taking a frozen discard pile are looser than the rules for taking a discard pile that isn’t frozen. If the discard pile isn’t frozen, you say that the player can only take it if they have a natural pair that matches the top card. But then you say that if it IS frozen, you can also take it if you have one natural card that matches the top card plus one wild card, or if you want to just add the top card to an existing meld. So it’s easier to pick up a frozen discard pile than one that isn’t frozen?

    Also, how can you pick up the discard pile if you only have one card in your hand? You have to have two natural cards that match the top card, but you can’t have that if you only have one card in your hand.

    • Hi Andrew, the rules have been updated for clarity. To answer your questions, a frozen pile cannot be drawn from, to unfreeze a pile a player must discard a natural card to is and take the pile. to take the pile the player must follow all of the needed restrictions which are: to have a pair of natural cards that match the top discarded natural card, and reveal this natural pair to the table.
      To draw from an unfrozen discard pile a player may have a pair of natural cards that match the top card, a single card that matches the top of the discard pile, and a wild card, or they can play the top of the discard pile to an existing meld. I hope this helps!

    • Hi Sally, the game is meant for 4 players. I suppose it could be modified to play 2, but it may change the gaming experience.

    • Hi Chris, it depends on which version of Canasta you are playing. In the classic version you may not play more than 3 wild cards to any meld, but Canastas may be longer than 7 cards. this means you could add a wild card to a Canasta as long as it does not exceed the three wild card rules. In Modern American Canasta, however, Canastas cannot be longer than 7 cards but may contain any number of wild cards. So, in this instance, you may add it to a Canasta as long as it does not exceed the 7 card rule. I hope this helps!

  3. When the discard pile is not frozen and a card matching the next players existing meld is discarded, may that next player pick up just the top card or must he take the entire discard pile?

    • Hi Richard, Yes the player must pick up the whole discard pile to gain that card to meld.

  4. Hello, I was playing today and managed to play all of my cards as melds without making a canasta. Is there some kind of rule to prevent a player from being able to get rid of all of their cards just with melds? I know it says “You must make a canasta to go out”, does that mean even if I have a meld to play I should just hold my cards if the play means I run out of cards? Sorry if that’s a silly question. Happy gaming all!

    • Hi Kristy, so yes you can meld out your hand completely but if you do not have a Canasta you cannot win. if you have melded out your hand at one time this is called a concealed hand and it is now up to your partner to completed the needed requirements to Go out. Hope this helps!

  5. Hi, We learned this game from friends and I am trying to write out rules. After reading yours I was wondering if you can add to a canasta after it has been closed. Thanks

    • Hi Teri, so a Canasta can only have 7 cards, so it cannot be added to. Before having 7 cards it’s considered a meld and cannot be closed. Hope this helps.

  6. Hi, am I reading the discard pile instructions right? You can pickup the whole pile if the card discarded is a card you have melded? You don’t need 2 natural, or 1 natural and 1 wild to pick up?

    Thank you,

    • Hi Teri, So to pick up cards from the discard pile all the following must be met: you or your partner must have started at least one meld, the discard pile must not be frozen, and one of the following must be true about your hand. You must either have a natural pair of cards that match the top card of the discard, a natural card that matches the top card of the discard pile along with a wild card, or be able to add the top card of the discard pile to a meld you have established on the table already. Hope this clears things up for you!

  7. If a player picks up the last stock card then discards, ( this player after discard still has a card in their hand after that discard) can the next player pick up the discard and play it? ex. player takes the last stock card then discards. ex. a 6. Can the next player pick up the discarded 6 and play it with his two last cards which are 6’s?

    • Hi Christie, this is a valid play you are describing, as long as the discard pile is not frozen. I hope this helps.

  8. I have a question. Can a player lay down a meld before they draw any cards? I had a friend that did this. Their was a “6” on top of the pile that they wanted (but didn’t have 2 in their hand). They put down their meld to have enough points ( but needed to use the “6” and one from their hand, plus i wild). Is this allowed? I thought they had to draw before they could put down a meld.

      • Do you know where I can find this rule? I also need the rule that says you can pick up the pile to add the top card to a canasta

        • Hi Ronny, I copied the relevant rules and pasted them below.

          “A player begins by drawing a card from the stockpile or picking up from the discard pile. The player then has the opportunity to lay down a meld if applicable and then discard one card to the discard pile to end their turn.”


          “If the discard pile is not frozen a player may take from the discard pile as long as:

          1) He has a pair of natural cards in his hand that match the top card


          2) He has one natural card and one wild card in his hand to accompany the top card


          3) He can add the top card to a meld he already has on the table”

          Both can be found in our Canasta game rules on our site. I hope this helps.

  9. When I was young, I’m 67, our family got together and played games most weekends and one of the ges we played was canasta. We had rules for the molds for each hand in a game. I remember the first round was 2 3 or more of a kind. The second round was 1 3 of a kind and 1 straight. I don’t remember after that and there were quite a few rounds. Do you have rules for playing this way?

    • Hi Betty, unfortunately, I have not heard of this variation, but hopefully, someone in our community might be able to help. Best of luck.

    • Betty — I believe the game you are referencing is called Michigan Rummy. On the first hand, you have 2 3 of a kind. On the second hand, you have a single 3 of a kind and a run of 3 consecutive cards of the same suit (called runs). Third hand is a pair of runs. Fourth hand is 3 3 of a kind. Each successive hand, each person is dealt 11 cards. On the fifth hand, you have to have a pair of 3 of a kind and 1 run. Hand six is one 3 of a kind & 2 runs. The last hand is 3 runs & EVERY card must play. Hope this helps you out. For Hoyle’s rules, try Michigan Rummy.

  10. If the pile is frozen with a wild ,not a black 3 .can you lay another wild on top ? In other words can you lay wilds back to back ?

    • Hi Michelle, I hope I understand your question correctly. You are asking if you may discard a wild if there is already a wild on top of the discard? The answer is yes. You may always discard any card, but the discard pile would remain frozen.

  11. If a player melds all his cards during play except for a single card, but he and his partner have no canastas at that time, is there such a thing as ‘passing’ on the discard?

    • Hi Kevin, a player must always discard a card to end their turn, so you must discard the card in your hand. I hope this helps.

  12. if there is only one card left in the discard pile and a person picks up the one card and goes out, is this still considered a win for the 1000 points?

    • Hi Mr. Handley, you cannot draw from the discard when there si only one card remaining in it. So you could not go out this way to begin with. I hope this helps.

  13. If a canasta is closed, can you pick up the discard pile just to add the top card to the already closed canasta. I understand that if you are playing “only 7 cards allowed in a canasta” you would not be permitted to do that…but otherwise could you?.

    • Hi Sheryl, are you asking if I know of any variations where this is allowed? I don’t know any off the top of my head. In Canasta once a book is closed it is closed for good, and it can only have 7 cards in it. I don’t know any instances outside of these rules where what you are asking would be a legal play. I hope this helps.

  14. Two different questions:
    1. What is the correct way to handle the initial deal if each player is not given the correct number of cards? Do you re deal to everyone?
    2. What is the correct way to handle a player drawing out of turn?

    • Hi Cheryl, For the first question a redeal would probably be your best option. For your second question, there are no official penalties for displaying in Canasta, I would suggest maybe a penalty to their score or making them play with the misdrawn card revealed. I would talk to your play group to decide what best works for you.

    • Hi Virginis, the only time a red 3 would freeze the discard pile is if it was flipped as the upcard. It is turned sideways to indicate that the pile is frozen and a new upcard is flipped ontop of it until a natural card is found. I hope this helps.

  15. On the FIRST meld—–Is it legal to use wild cards in any way including what can be called a “wild card conasta (i.e even wild cards totalling over the minmum required)?

    • Hi Tina, there is no special restriction in using wild cards in the first meld, but remember that when starting a meld of wilds you cannot use wilds in any other melds till it is complete (Modern American Canasta). I hope this helps.

    • Hi Patricia, I am a little confused about your question, are you asking about red 3s or just red cards in general? If you’re talking about red 3s if you draw them from the discard pile you must table them but are not required to draw a replacement.

  16. 1.) Can 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 2, 2, 2 be a valid meld to satisfy a 90 point minimum with the extra 2’s and being a canasta and not necessarily a meld? Can a canasta remain a meld (unstacked) letting a player take discard pile with a matching card but knowing they’re sacrificing canasta points if someone goes out?
    2.) Can 7, 7, Joker, Joker, 2 be a valid meld (only 3 max wild cards but with more than natural cards)?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Tom,
      1.) No this is not a legal meld and there is no way to form it into a legal configuration with only these 9 cards. You could do four 7s and three 2s but this would only be worth 80 points. You can also only have a total of 7 cards in a meld. Once a meld has 7 cards in it it is stacked automatically and becomes a completed canasta. A canasta cannot be added or taken from.
      2.) No for every wild added there must be two natural cards in the meld before it can be added. So to have all three wilds in a meld you must have four natural cards already in the meld, for two wild cards four natural cards must be present, and for one wild card, there must be two natural cards.
      I hope this helps and let me know if I can be of NY further assistance.

    • Hi Miguel, yes a player is not forced to meld all playable cards. A player may choose to make a meld and keep cards of the same rank in their hand for later use.

  17. WE play most weekends and would like to know if 2 teams are close to finishing the whole game we score to 10000 and the first team just needs to get a canasta to finish but the second team gets 2 canastas and is keeping the deck open and picking the deck up and getting lots of points .So who wins the one that gets more points when counting our cards or the first team to 10000 points while still playing

    • Hello Mary, Traditionally Canasta is won by the team to reach 5000 or more points first. It sounds like you are playing a variation that prolongs gameplay. So if 10000 is the score you are playing to the winners would be the team that reached 10000 or more points first. I hope this helps.

  18. Sometimes the cards are not shuffled well, and several red threes are picked up when a player draws from the stack. Do you replace every red three that you draw, or are you limited to the amount of cards you can draw to replace the red threes? This has happened occasionally in our games, and we have no option to reshuffle the deck at the place we play.
    I know you draw two cards to begin with, but if you draw two red threes and then draw another red three to replace the original red three, do you draw again until all the red threes are replaced?
    Scenario: Say you have two red threes in your hand, you draw one card for each of them. The card you drew is also a red three. Do you draw again to replace the new red three? Or is there a limit to the amount of cards you draw?

  19. Can a canasta player conceal their hand from view by the opposing players, so the opposing players don’t have any idea of the number of cards remaining in the player’s hand?

    • Hi Dwayne, no, you may attempt to hide the number of cards you have but if asked must share the information. The only real way to conceal your hand is to wait to go out all at once.

  20. Can a player pick ahead and not look at the card. They have next turn. If the card that is discarded they need can they return unlooked card and pick the pile?

    • Hi Charlotte, I am a bit confused by your question but I will do my best to answer. If the answer I provided is not applicable or not exactly what you were hoping for, I will be more than happy to clear up any additional confusion. A player must draw a card on their turn and cannot choose to skip. ONce you draw a card you must keep it, and cannot put it back.

  21. When making your first meld, do you have to use what wild cards you have in your hand to make the points, or can you pick up the discard pile to use the top card to make up the points.

    • Hi Ian, PLayers are not allowed to pick up from the discard until after they have made their first meld. Until then you cannot use it to make a meld.

    • When you play with partners in canasta, one partner will hold the melds for the team. The partnership cannot have two melds of the same rank, but both may add to any melds they have despite which partner started them. Let me know if I can provide any additional clarification.

  22. My partner already had a canasta of 6s on the table but had two more 6s in her hand. Could she pick up the discard pile when the top card on the discard pile was a 6? We understand the canasta prevented her collecting the discard pile but she could match the rule of having two cards in her hand that matched the top card of the discard pile and we wanted the other cards in the pile!

    • Hi Santi, if you place a wild, black three, or red three into the discard pile the pile becomes frozen. This means you cannot draw cards from the discard. To unfreeze the discard a player must take the discard by following all these steps. A player may take the discard pile only when: 1) The pile as been topped with a natural card. 2) The player has a NATURAL pair already in hand that matches the top card of the discard pile. 3) The player shows the board that pair of natural cards in his hand before picking up the pile.

    • Hi Wilma, You may not discard two cards in one turn but a second wild card may be discarded to the frozen pile. The player to unfreeze the pile will draw both wild cards. I hope this helps.

  23. 1. We have friends who play that you can keep playing even though you have no cards left in your hand. Is there anything in any canasta rules where this is allowed? My family always played that if you discarded your last card, that was the end of the game, and it meant you had to have your canasta/s to do so…
    2. Do both you and your partner have to meld before picking up the discard pile? My family always played that if you OR your partner had put down meld, either of you could pick up the discard pile (with the necessary 2 natural cards or 1 natural and a wild OR if the same card is on the board in your meld).

    • Hello Sandy, in the standard rules “going out” can only occur when someone has made at least one canasta, and either discards or plays their last card. This ends the game. Yes once your OR your partner has created a meld then either of you may draw from the discard pile. I hope this helps.

    • Hello Joe there is. Though our rules are for a four player game. A 2 player game would have each player dealt 15 cards, and they would draw two cards per turn, still only discarding one card. For 4 players, each player is dealt 11 cards, and get a single draw and discard a turn. For 6 player games 13 cards are dealt and each player is permitted one draw and discard. I hope this helps.

  24. Please can you advise:
    Classic canasta, 4 players, discard pile is frozen. My partner has a few melds on the table including a meld of 4 cards all natural 6’s.
    My opponent discards a 6. I have two 6’s in my hand so I am allowed to pick up the discard pile.
    MUST I use my two 6’s plus the 6 on the top of the discard pile to form a NEW meld, OR can I add them all to my partners meld and make a natural canaster ?

    This situation occurred recently and my opponents insisted that I could NOT add them to an existing meld, be it mine or my partners and that they could only be used to make a new meld.
    Any clarification would be appreciated

  25. Hello, when you only have one card left in your hand and can’t discard into the frozen pile can the opposite player pick up the frozen pile from a card they threw because they have a pair in there hand? Basically tonight I couldn’t discard and my partner had thrown an 8 and he had 2 more in his hand so he said since I can’t discard he can pick it up. Doesn’t make sense to me. Help!

    • Hello Rikki, The discard pile being frozen does not stop a player from discarding cards. It only prevents players from drawing from the discard unless they have the ability to unfreeze it. This is done by having two cards of the same ranks as the top card of the discard pile. I hope this helps.

  26. You don’t cover variations. Our group draws two cards each turn, which hastens the game along, and we require two canastas to go out. Also, you kind of dismiss two-handed play, which we find is just as fun plus more challenging as four-handed and makes freezing the pile a more viable maneuver. We also play three-handed, which is as good a game as four-handed.

    • Hi Arthur, we are constantly working to improve our site and add new variations to classics. Thank you for sharing.

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