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How to Play Canasta

Italian Canasta

Italian Canasta is a more challenging variation of Canasta, in which each player receives 15 cards and the amount of points to earn is higher. Here's how to play this card game:

Number of players: Four, in partnerships. Pairs face each other.

Melds: A meld is a combination of cards that must consist of a minimum of three cards, all of the same rank.

Object: To score 12,000 points by melding cards and forming canastas (seven-card bonus melds).

The cards: Three standard 52-card decks are mixed together with six jokers, totaling 162 cards. Remember to use card decks that look the same.

Dealing: The first dealer is the player who sits to the right of the player who draws the highest card from the deck. Redraw if the card is a joker or two players draw the exact card, such as 7. If more than one card is of the same rank but different suits, suits are ranked from spades (high), hearts, diamonds, to clubs (low). The player who draws the second highest card sits right of the dealer. The deal then rotates clockwise.

Bonus Points

Red 3s: three or less equals 100 points

Going out: 300 points

Five canastas, one mixed: 1,000 points

Five natural canastas: 2,000 points

Any 10 canastas: 2,000 points

Seven 2s: 3,000 points

Any person can shuffle, but the dealer has the option to shuffle last. The player to the dealer's left has the option to cut the deck.

The dealer gives each player 15 cards, one at a time, dealing clockwise and starting with the player to the dealer's left. The upcard on the stock isn't turned until each player has discarded any dealt red 3s.

After the upcard is shown, the number of cards equal to the upcard's point value are drawn from the stock and placed facedown under the upcard to create the discard pile (pack). The pack below this upcard is perpetually frozen.

Next, players in turn from the dealer's left take the same number of cards from stock and are placed into their hands. The cards are valued at face value except for J equals 11, Q equals 12, K equals 13; A, 2, or joker equals 20.

Playing: At each turn, draw two cards and discard one. A meld of all 2s is allowed, but 2s can't be used in other melds unless you can make a deuce canasta (e.g., 2-2-2-2-2-2-2).

You may not go out on a wild card canasta. Also, the initial melding requirement must be met without any wild cards. At the higher scores, the requirements are as follows: score at start of new deal equals the minimum initial meld; 5,000 to 7,495 equals 160 points; 7,500 to 9,995 equals 180 points; and more than 10,000 equals 200 points.

Scoring: Wild-card bonuses count only if your side goes out. Otherwise wild cards are counted at face value. Opponents having deuce melds score only the point value of the cards. Game is 12,000.

If you are looking for an even more exciting version of Canasta, the next section will review the basics of Pennies from Heaven, which requires scoring 20,000 points to win.