How To Play Canasta For 4 People – Classic Canasta As Opposed To Modern American Canasta

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.
~ Plato

How to play Canasta? Canasta is a card game that was developed in Uruguay it is believed during the Second World War, the late 30s. By around 1950 it had become a hugely popular game across the world and as such, the Classic Canasta rules were formulated in the United States. These rules for the game of Canasta are still used in playing the game today. However, there are players who have continued to evolve the game and developed a modern version of Canasta.

Because Canasta is still mostly played with the classic rules, this will be the focus of your chat today. You can buy the complete Canasta card game quite inexpensively if it something that you are looking to learn how to play.

So, how do you play Canasta?

Canasta is a reasonably complicated game so I’ll try and give you an overview in simple terms that will help you to get started playing and enjoying Canasta.

Canasta is generally a game for 4 people playing as couples. So two teams of two players. There are versions for 2 folks or more than 6 folks, but we’ll stick with the standard. Also, a great way to learn how to play Canasta is by buying a Canasta computer game where you can play by yourself until you get comfortable.

I prefer to play all my games in person if I can, though with Canasta it can sometimes be hard to get 4 people together. Generally though, Hoyle’s Rules of Games along with some playing cards is all you need to have good fun. I recommend getting 4 packs of cards to start with.

Okay, back to Canasta.

The general goal of Canasta is to win by collecting more points than your opponents. This is done by making as many melds and Canastas as possible.

Each player starts with 11 cards. Each player takes turns drawing a card from the stock and then discarding one of their cards onto the discard pile.

After drawing a card you may meld your cards if you can and want to. You probably want to. A meld is attained by using at least 3 cards of the same kind i.e. 3 kings or 3 5s etc. You cannot meld a 4, 5 and 6. Melded cards must be the same and not sequential.

After melding, you throw away a card, although if you can meld all of your cards you are not required to discard a card. Then your meld is checked against the Canasta rules to ensure that it is a valid meld.

If you do not wish to take a card from the stock when it comes to your turn, your other option is to take the entire discard pile. However, you can only do this if you can meld the top card on the discard pile.

A hand of Canasta is only over when one or more players has no cards left or there are no longer any cards in the stock. At this time, the points of the players are tallied and a new hand is begun. The game of Canasta is over when one player or team reaches 5,000 points.

Canasta is played with 2 decks of cards including the 4 jokers. In Canasta the jokers and deuces (2s) are wild cards. So you can create Canastas and melds with jokers and 2s. For example, a valid meld is 4, 4, 2 or J, J, joker as well as 5, 5, 5 etc.

A Canasta is basically a meld with 7 cards and earns you extra points. The wildcards can only be melded with cards that are numbered 4 or higher. These cards are called the natural cards.

In the beginning of the game when all 11 cards have been dealt to the players, the dealer will place face up the first card from the stock to start the discard pile. This cannot be a wildcard and so the dealer will continue to place the next card from the stock card face up until it is a natural card.

Additionally, any player holding red 3s must place them face up in front of him and receive the equivalent number of cards back from the dealer to make an 11 card hand.

Melds must contain at least 2 natural cards, but cannot contain more than 3 wildcards.

A note about the 3s. 3s are important in Canasta. Black threes can only be melded in groups of 3 or 4 when the player is ready to go out, or empty their hand. If a black 3 is discarded then the next player cannot meld with it to take the discard pile but must take a card from the stock.

Red 3s are bonus cards and cannot be melded. At any time you draw one from the stock you must place it face up in front of you and draw another card from the stock. If you take the discard pile and find a red 3 in it, you must place it in front of you but you do not take another card from the stock.

In addition to the black 3 “freezing” the discard pile, any wildcard can have the same effect, meaning that no player can claim the discard pile except under some limited circumstances which can be determined by the official rules.

Sadly, I do not have the space here to offer up all the rules of Canasta especially when this is just a simplified general understanding of the game.

The hands continue until one side has at least 5,000 points. This can take some time considering that the most points earned on a hand is for a natural Canasta i.e. a Canasta that doesn’t include any wild cards. Such a Canasta earns 500 points.

However if you have made a meld and have all 4 red 3s you can earn 200 for each red three and therefore gain 800 points.

The scoring system is a little complicated to succinctly put here in simple terms. Your best bet is to start playing Canasta and learning as you go. It is a little complicated, but just one game will have you understanding it intimately. I hope this brief and simple tutorial has given you a rough idea of how the game works.