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How to Play Canasta


Samba is an exciting derivative of the Canasta card game in which each player is dealt 15 cards and sequential suit melds are allowed. Here's how to play:

Number of players:
Four, playing in partnerships

Object: To reach
game by scoring 10,000 points or more.

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

A meld is a combination of cards that must consist of a minimum of three cards, all of the same rank. In addition to the standard melds (see the sidebar on melds in the first section of this article), you may make sequential melds, which must be in the same suit and include at least three cards. No wild cards can be used for sequential melds. Seven-card, sequential melds are called Sambas. They are also Canastas. A 3,000 to 6,995 score requires a 120-point initial meld; 7,000 or more requires 160.

Tip: The lowest possible card in a samba is a 4, and every samba includes 8-9-10 of a suit, so it is hard to complete two sambas in the same suit.

Playing: Similar to the standard Canasta game except that each player is dealt 15 cards. The player to the dealer's left leads. On each turn, two cards are
drawn and one discarded. Wild cards cannot be melded without natural cards, and at the most only two wild cards can be added to any mixed canasta.

You may not pick up the upcard to add to a canasta, but you can use cards from your
hand. You also cannot pick up the upcard to make a sequential meld or to combine with a card from your hand to add to a sequential meld. To go out and receive credit for your red 3s, you need either two canastas, two sambas, or one of each.

This is a Samba Canasta.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
This is a Samba Canasta.

Scoring: A 200-point bonus is awarded for going out. Sambas earn 1,500 bonus points. If your team has all the red 3s, the bonus is 1,000 points. Deduct penalty points according to the same value as bonus points for red 3s if two canastas have not been made by the end of play. There is no bonus for a concealed hand.

Now that you know how to play standard Canasta and three variations of it, you have more options
the next time you want to play a card game with family or friends.