Modern Canasta rules

Setting up

  1. - 4 players divided into 2 teams sitting across from each other.
  2. - 2 Decks 52 cards each + 4 Jokers = 108 cards in total.
  3. - Score pad.
  4. - Revolving canasta card tray

Card deal

Decide who is the score keeper - one for the table. Score Keeper cuts the cards and gives the bottom cards to the player on their left to deal 13 cards.

Score keeper takes the bottom 8 cards from their hand and places them on one side of the tray. The ninth card is placed sideways (It is called the TURN CARD). All remaining cards go on top of the turn card. After dealing, the dealer places any remaining cards on top of the cards in the tray and the player to the left of the dealer goes first.

  1. - 13 cards are dealt to each player.
  2. - The undealt cards are placed face down called “draw pile”.
  3. - The player to the left of the dealer is the first to play, and then deal and play continues clockwise.

Melds and card’s meaning

  1. - 2s and Jokers are wild, 3”s are special, other remaining cards are called natural.
  2. - A Meld is a set of cards sharing the same rank number. At least 3 cards are needed to form a meld and 7 cards  become a Canasta.
  3. - A Meld consisting of the same rank is called a natural meld, while melds that include at least one wild card are called mixed or unnatural.
  4. - Wild cards can be used as substitutes for one or two of the cards in a meld but any meld must have at least two natural cards and never more than 2 wild cards.
  5. - When a natural meld contains five natural cards a wild cards can be added.
  6. - When a Canasta is completed, neither team is allowed to begin or add to a meld of that rank, those remaining cards are known as Dead Cards
  7. - A meld  of 7’s: this special meld doesn’t ever allow adding any wild cards.
  8. - A meld of natural Ace's (no wilds) : this special meld must be pure unless it is part of the team's initial meld and includes at least one wild card from the beginning. Mixed melds are treated of Aces s normal, not special meld.
  9. - Wild Cards can also form a meld. The team that starts a meld of wild cards can’t add any wild card to another meld until finishing the wild canasta. 
  10. - The team cannot go out with an incomplete natural meld  of  Aces, 7’s or wild cards on the table.


  1. - The game is played clockwise.
  2. - Each turn contains 3 basic actions: or pick pack, and Discard.


  1. - A turn begins by either drawing 1 card from the draw pile, or picking up all the cards in the discard pile.(Pack)
  2. - To pick up a card from the discard pile, (pack) the player must first add the top card of the discard pile to make a new meld using at least two matching natural cards from their hand, or add the two from their hand and the discard to an existing meld... All other cards from the discard pile go to that player’s hand after this meld is successfully played.
  3. - If a team has a meld of five or more cards matching the rank of the top discard, they cannot take from discard pile since this would create a meld of more than seven cards, which is not allowed
  4. - Any 3’s that are dealt in your initial hand or drawn during your  turn are placed immediately on the table, They are replaced, with another draw card unless going  for one special hand.


  1. Melds are kept in front of the initial melder. Both teams meld for themselves. Player may never play to an opponent’s meld.
  2. - On their turn, player can meld from their hand onto their meld area
  3. - Wild cards can be played as substitutes if
    - The meld is put down as part of the team's initial meld (need at least 2 cards of a kind and can only add one or two wild cards to it). OUT or if Meld already contains at least five natural cards.
  4. - Player needs at least 1 card In their hand after melding unless they have satisfied the requirement for going out and unless picking the pack, in which case they can meld all their cards, because they are getting the pack.


  1. - Each turn must be ended by discarding one card face-up on top of the discard pile.
  2. - There are several restrictions on discards: 3's can’t be discarded.
  3. - Wild cards can’t be discarded except: when it is the final card to be discarded for going out, or player has no other card to discard. Players cannot put themselves in that position deliberately
  4. - SWAD = Sevens, wild cards, aces or dead cards cannot be placed on an empty tray
  5. If SWAD is all that is that is left, player  must pick up their melded cards,  starting with the last card melded, until they have a legal discard. even if having to break up a canasta, or having to return the picked pack.

The Initial Meld

The first meld made by each team during a hand is subject to certain rules.. There are three possible ways to make a valid initial meld:

1/ Minimum point count required for an initial meld and one natural meld of three or more cards.

Total score

Minimum point count required

less than 3000

125 points

3000 to 4995

155 points

5000 or more

180 points


If a card from discard pile is used for an initial meld, the initial meld must be valid before collecting the balance of the discard pile. Addtionally the discarded card cannot complete the minimum point count or be included in the clean triple. An initial meld needs a clean triple. The team getting the bonus can only get up to and including the turn card.

2/ Bonus cards / Talon

If the initial meld is made and there are at least 9 cards in the draw pile, the melder draws cards from the draw pile.  This bonus is called a talon., and is taken after discarding

No further play is allowed until the melders next turn.

When there are only 8 cards left in the draw pile, an announcement must be called and no bonus cards are available

The first team to make the initial meld draws 4 cards, while the second team draws 3 cards. No bonus cards are drawn if initial meld is made at the same time as picking the pack.

3/ End of the Play

The play ends if a player goes out or there are no more cards to be drawn from the discard pile. (Tray is empty)

Player can go out if they satisfy both requirements:

  1. - Your team has completed at least 2 canasta’s
  2. - You are able to meld all but one of your cards , which then becomes your discard
  3. - You can discard to go out with any card except a 3

If a three is drawn as the last card, the game ends immediately. The 3 remains in your hand and is counted as a penalty of 5 points. Player is in the middle of their turn, no card is available for a replacement, Nothing can be done.. Hand is over.

4/ Special hand

If after drawing from the deck you have the cards required for any of the special hands and your team has not yet put down its initial meld you may make the first and only meld for your team by laying down your entire hand without a discard then end the round. All special hands, without exception, contain 14 cards.

3’s are  not permitted in special hands

  1. - Pair without Wild: 4-4-5-5-7-7-8-8-9-9-10-10-Q-Q.
  2. - Pair with Wild: 2-2-6-6-7-7-9-9-J-J-K-K-A-A. (Sevens and Aces are both required)
  3. - Miami pair: A-A-Joker-Joker-7-7-2-2 + 3 Pairs
  4. - Garbage:  2 Four of a kind + 2 Three of a kind without any Wild cards.
  5. - Zip Code: 2 Pair ‘s+ 2 sets of Three of a kind + 1 Four of a kind


- At the end of a round, the round score is calculated depends on how many canastas the team has completed, 3’s and face value of melded cards.

Scoring item

Team has no complete canastas

Team has one complete canasta

Team has two or more complete canastas

Team goes out with a special hand

Bonus scores for canastas and for going out

does not apply

bonus added to score

bonus added to score

does not apply

Penalties for incomplete canastas

penalty deducted from score

does not apply

penalty deducted from score

does not apply

Bonuses or penalties for threes

penalty deducted from score

does not apply

bonus added to score

does not apply

Wilds, sevens and aces

deducted from score

added to score

added to score

does not apply

Penalties for cards remaining in players' hands

deducted from score

deducted from score

deducted from score

does not apply

Scores for special hands

does not apply

does not apply

does not apply

added to score


- If one team goes out with a special hand, the other team scores in the normal way.

1/ Scoring canastas and going out bonuses

Both teams score for any canastas they have managed to complete as follows:

  1. - each complete mixed canasta, using any natural rank except sevens: 300 points
  2. - each complete natural canasta, using any natural rank except sevens or aces: 500 points
  3. - each complete natural canasta of aces or sevens: 2500 points
  4. - a completed canasta scores 3000 points (this is a wild canasta made entirely of twos)
  5. - a complete joker canasta scores 2500 points (this must contain all four jokers, together with three twos)
  6. - any other complete wild canasta (containing one, two or three jokers) scores 2000 points

If any player succeeded in going out, their team scores an extra bonus of 100 points

2/ Penalties for incomplete canastas, and for un-melded aces and sevens

If a team has melded pure aces, sevens or wild cards but not completed a canasta of that type, they are penalized as follows:

  1. - Natural ace meld of less than seven cards: -2500 points
  2. - Sevens meld of less than seven cards: -2500 points
  3. - Wild card meld of less than seven cards: -2000 points

If a player's hand contains three or more aces or three or more sevens at the end of the play, that player's team is penalized as follows:

  1. - For three or more sevens remaining in a player's hand: minus 1500 points
  2. - For three or more aces remaining in a player's hand: minus 1500 points
  3. – Also minus the face value of the aces and 7’s in the hand

3/ Bonuses or penalties for threes

Number of Red Three

Number of Black Three














  1. - If a team has no canastas, the total score for their melded red and black threes (calculated from the above table) is a penalty, to be subtracted from their score.
  2. - If a team has one canasta there is no score for melded threes.
  3. - If a team has two or more canastas, the total score for their melded red and black threes (calculated from the above table) is a bonus, to be added to their score.

4/ Score for melded cards

- If a team has completed at least one canasta, the total value of all the cards (other than threes) melded by the team is added to the team's score.


Point Value



A, 2


K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8


7, 6, 5, 4


- If a team has not completed any canastas, then the value of all their melded cards is subtracted from their score, along with the value of the cards remaining in their hands.

5/ Penalty for cards remaining in hand.

The total value of all the cards remaining in the hands of the players is subtracted from the team's score

6/ Special hand scores

  • Hand

    Point Value

    Pairs without Wilds


    Pairs with Wilds, Aces and 7's


    Miami pairs




    Zip Code


Game end

The overall object of the game is to have a total score of 8500 or more points. When one or both teams achieve this, the game is over and the team with the higher score has won.