Rules For The Canasta Card Game

Canasta belongs to the Rummy family of card games and can be played with two to six players. Canasta requires two card decks and four jokers; all cards are shuffled and dealt in hands of 11 cards. The first player or team to reach 5,000 points wins the game. Canasta is a fast paced game with bonus points for scoring special hands and complex rules.

Canasta is a fast-paced card game best for two to four players.


The minimum number of players for a game of Canasta is two; the maximum number is six. According to the official rules posted on, the ideal number of players is two or four. When there are two or three players, each player plays the game as an individual; however, when there are four or more players, players must form teams and sit on opposite sides of the card table.


Meld is the term which indicates a grouping of cards with the same value. Melds must be a minimum of three and a maximum of seven. For example, three 3s or six Jacks would constitute a meld. Melds must contain a minimum of two cards which are not wild. Melds containing seven cards are referred to as a “Canasta” which earns bonus points. Deuces (2s) and jokers are wild cards. Wild cards can assume any value to assist players in creating a set.

Playing Canasta

The dealer deals 11 cards to the players, turning one card to face upward. This card is the beginning of the discard pile. The player sitting to the left of the dealer begins the game. Every player must pick up a card from the pile or pick up a card from the discard pile. Players may only pick up a card from the discard pile which can immediately used as a meld. Additionally, players taking the top discarded card must also take the remainder of the pile. At the end of each player’s turn, he must discard one of the cards in his hand without drawing additional cards.

First Meld

The first meld must meet a specified point value based upon the individual or team score. In the beginning of the game, initial melds must meet a minimum of 50. However, once the individual or team reaches a score of 1,500 the meld must be worth 90; once the individual or team reaches 3,000 the meld must be worth 120.

Red Threes

Red 3s do not form melds; however, they will count as bonus cards adding points or counting against individuals or teams. At each player’s first turn, she must withdraw any red 3 from her hand, place it face up on the playing table and draw another card from the undealt card pile to form a hand of 11 cards. The red 3 is worth 100 points. Players who have not made a meld at the end of the play will have the points value of the red 3s subtracted from the score.