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Canasta Instructions

Canasta is a game played with two 52 card standard packs plus 4 jokers. The cards are shuffled together to make a 108 card pack.

The Card Values
Jokers - 50 points each
A 2 - 20 points each
K Q J 10 9 8 - 10 points each
7 6 5 4 - 5 points each
Black 3 - 5 points each
Red 3 - see below

The cards A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 are called natural cards. All of the twos and jokers are wild cards. With some restrictions, wild cards can be used during the game as substitutes for a natural card of any rank. The threes have special functions and values.

The Deal
Each player is dealt 15 cards, and the rest of the cards are placed in a face-down stock pile in the center of the board. The top card of the stock is taken off and placed face up next to the stock pile, to start the discard pile. If this first face-up card is wild or a red three, another card is turned and places on top of it, continuing until a card which is not a wild card or red three is turned up. Any Reds threes in a players hand will automatically be placed on the table and new cards dealt.

Melds in Classic Canasta
Every meld must contain at least two natural cards. The smallest meld consists of three cards, which could be three natural cards (such as 8-8-8) or two natural cards and a wild card (such as Q-Q-2).Melds can grow as large as you wish. A meld of seven or more cards counts as a canasta. No meld can contain more than three wild cards and there must be at least as many natural cards as wild cards - so a six card meld must include at least three natural cards, and a canasta must contain at least four natural cards. There is no limit on the number of natural cards that can be added to a complete canasta. A wild card added to a pure canasta makes it mixed canasta. Once a canasta contains three wild cards, no further wild cards can be added. It is not allowed for one player to have two separate melds of the same rank. Any cards melded by a player which are the same rank as one of their existing melds are automatically merged into that meld, provided that the limit of three wild cards is not exceeded. It is however quite possible and not unusual have a meld of the same rank as one of your opponents' melds.

The Play in Classic Canasta
Each turn is begun by either drawing the top two cards from the face-down stock or taking the whole of the discard pile. The player may meld some cards (and must do so if taking the discard pile). Each turn must be ended by discarding one card face-up on top of the discard pile. A player may always opt to draw the top two cards of the face down pile. You can only take the discard pile if you can meld its top card, combined with natural cards from your hand. After picking up the pile, you can then make further melds. For example, if there is a five on top of the pile and another five buried, you cannot use a single five in your hand to take the pile and meld the three fives. But if you have two fives in your hand you can meld these with the five on top of the pile, take the pile, and then add the other five to this meld.

Note that you can never take the discard pile if its top card is a wild card or a black three.

Note also that it is not necessary to take the discard pile in order to meld. If you wish, you can meld after drawing from the stock.

Initial Meld Requirement in Classic Canasta
If youhave not yet melded, then in order to meld, the total value of the cards you lay down must meet a minimum count requirement. This requirement depends on your cumulative score from previous hands as follows:
Score Minimum count of initial meld
negative 15 points (i.e. no minimum)
0 - 1495 50 points
1500 - 2995 90 points
3000 or more 120 points

To achieve this count, you can put several melds at once, and the melds can be of more than the minimum size of three cards. The score of the cards you play are added to check whether the requirement has been met. In order to achieve the minimum count, you must either meld entirely from your hand after drawing from the stock, or you must use two natural cards from your hand which match the top card of the discard pile. In this second case, you can count the value of the top discard, along with the cards you play from your hand in this and any other melds, towards the minimum count. You cannot count any other cards in the pile which you may intend to add in the same turn.

Example: there is a king on top of the discard pile and a king and a queen buried in the pile. You have two kings, two queens and a two in your hand. If your initial meld requirement is 50, you can meld K-K-K, Q-Q-2 using the king from the top of the pile, for 70 points. You can then add the king and queen from the pile to these melds in the same turn if you wish. But you could not make this play if you needed a minimum count of 90: even though the king and queen from the pile are ultimately worth a further 20, you cannot include these towards your initial requirement.

Bonuses for red threes, canastas and so on cannot be counted towards meeting the minimum. Even if you have a complete canasta in your hand, you are not allowed to put it down as your initial meld if the total value of its individual cards does not meet your minimum count requirement.

There is just one exception to the minimum count requirement. If, having drawn from the stock, you are able to meld your entire hand, including one canasta, without having previously melded any cards, you may do so (with or without a final discard) and go out without having to meet any mimimum count requirement. In doing this you will score the extra bonus for going out concealed.

Threes in Classic Canasta
Red threes
If you draw a red three, it will be immediately be placed face-up on the table with your melds (or where your melds will be, if you have not melded yet). A replacement card is drawn automatically from the face-down stock. Although red threes score bonus points they do not count as meld, and do not help you to satisfy the minimum count requirement for your initial meld.Occasionally it happens that a red three is turned up at the end of the deal as a start card for the discard pile. When the discard pile is eventually taken, the red three is automatically added to the meld, but does not draw a replacement card.

Black threes
By discarding a black three you prevent the next player from taking the discard pile. After the black three is covered by another card, it has no further effect, and the pile can be taken in the usual way. Black threes cannot be melded, except in one exceptional case. A player who is going out may meld a group of three or four black threes as part of that last turn. Such a meld of black threes cannot contain wild cards.

Frozen Discard Pile
There are two ways that the discard pile can be frozen
  1. The discard pile is frozen against all players if it contains a wild card (joker or two's). To show that it is frozen it will say Pile Frozen, so that you know it is frozen after other cards are discarded on top of it. (if it is just frozen by only a black three it will say Frozen, this goes away once a regular card is played)
  2. In the unusual case where a red three is turned up to start the discard pile after the deal, the discard pile is frozen against all players
When the discard pile is frozen against you, you can only take it if you hold in your hand two natural cards of the same rank as the top card of the discard pile, and you use these with the top discard to make a meld.

For example, suppose the pile is frozen. If the player before you discards a seven, you cannot pick up the discard pile unless you have two further sevens concealed in your hand. If you do have 2 sevens in your hand, you can meld them, and take the pile.

End of the hand: Going Out
The play ends as soon as a player goes out. You can only go out if you have melded at least one canastas. Once your side has one canastas, you may go out if you can and wish to, by melding all of your cards, or by melding all but one and discarding your last card. It is legal to complete the required canastas and go out on the same turn. You may not pick up the discard pile to go out if there is one card in the discard pile and you only have one card in your hand.

If you do not yet have one canastas, you are not allowed to leave yourself without any cards at the end of your turn: you must play in such a way as to keep at least one card after discarding. It is against the rules in this case to meld all your cards except one. You would then be forced to discard this last card, which would constitute going out illegally.

Another way that play can end is when there are no more cards left in the face-down stock. Play can continue with no stock as long as each player takes the previous player's discard and melds it. In this situation a player must take the discard if the discard matches any previous meld of that player's side. As soon as a player is entitled to draw from the stock and chooses to do so, but there is no card in the stock, the play ends.

Classic Canasta Scoring
When the play has ended the hand is scored. Each players score for the hand consists of:

* the total value of any bonuses they are entitled to - see the table below
* plus the total value of all the cards they have melded,
* minus the total value of any cards remaining in their hands,

The bonus scores are as follows:

For going out

100 points

For going out concealed - that is, the player's whole hand is melded in one turn, and includes at least one canasta. The player must not have previously melded, must not add any cards to partner's melds, and must put down a complete canasta.

an extra 100 points, making 200 for going out

For each natural (red) canasta

500 points

For each mixed (black) canasta

300 points

*For each red three laid out, if the team has at least one meld

100 points

*For all four red threes

an extra 400 points, making 800 for red threes

*Note. If a player did not manage to meld at all, then each of their red threes counts minus 100 points instead of plus 100. If they are unlucky enough to have all four red threes and have not melded, they score minus 800 points for these threes.

After the bonuses have been calculated, the cards melded by each team are counted using the standard values -. Black threes are worth 5 points each. (Note that in a canasta, the values of the cards themselves are counted in addition to the bonus for the canasta, so for example a natural canasta of seven kings is really worth 570 points altogether - 500 for the canasta and 70 for the kings.) The cards remaining in the hands of the players are also counted using the same standard values, but these points count against the player and are subtracted from their score. A cumulative total score is kept for each player. When one or both players have a total of 5,000 or more points at the end of a hand, the game ends and the side with the higher total score wins.
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