Number of players: Six, playing in two teams of three members.
Melds: A meld is a combination of cards that must consist of a minimum of three cards, all of the same rank.
Object: To reach a score of 20,000 points or more by building canastas (seven-card bonus melds).
The cards: Four standard 52-card decks are mixed together with eight jokers, totaling 216 cards. Remember to use decks that look the same on the back. In this Canasta game, 7s play a unique role.
Dealing: Partners sit A, B, C, A, B, C around the table. The dealer, who drew the high card, deals 13 cards to each player and then makes a reserve pile of 11 cards, which are placed facedown on the table before each player.
Playing: The player to the dealer's left begins play. You may pick up and add the reserve cards to your hand after you make your first canasta. On each turn, draw two cards and discard one.
You cannot discard a 7 until you or your partner has made a natural or mixed canasta of 7s. You may not go out with a 7 as a discard. A wild card on top of the pack freezes it. To unfreeze, you must display a natural pair from your hand to meld with the top discard of the same rank.
Melding: The minimum score to meld follows the same table as the standard game (see the sidebar on initial melds in the first section of this article), except that you need 150 points if your score at the beginning of the deal is 1,500 or more.
A canasta can have only seven cards; cards cannot be added to it. Wild-card canastas can be made. Otherwise follow the rules of the standard game. In order to go out, however, you must have made at least one 7s canasta, one wild canasta, one natural canasta, and one mixed canasta.
Scoring: A canasta of 7s counts for 1,500 points. A wild-card canasta counts for 1,000 points. Red 3s count for 100 each, and all 8s count for 1,000 points. Any red 3s in a hand are counted against your hand if your side doesn't make a 7s canasta. No canasta may contain more than seven cards.
If you are interested in a version of Canasta that requires a lower number of points and allows building sequential suit melds, check out the next section for the rules about Samba.