How To Play Canasta


Canasta Canasta, originating as a Latin American game quickly spread to the United States and much of the rest of the world. It was the most popular of all card games in the United States in the early 1950's and is still popular in many parts of the world today. This rummy type game which is named for the Spanish word for basket, is also the name for one the special melds required in the game.

The basic game of Canasta is played with two standard 52 card decks plus four jokers, making a total of 108 cards. The game is played by four players in two partnerships in which each partnership plays against the other partnership. The players should seat themselves at the table such that each player sits directly across from his partner. In this way, in the play of the hand, the players of a partnership will alternate players.

If the partnerships are not set in some predetermined manner, each player should draw from the shuffled, face down deck. Whichever player draws the highest card is the first to play a card in the first deal. This player may also determine his seating position at the table. His partner will be the player who is dealt the second highest card. This player will sit directly across from his partner at the table. The other two players (drawing the lowest two cards) will play as partners against these players. The dealer will be the player who ends up sitting to the right of the player who drew the highest card. After each hand, the turn to deal will rotate around the table in a clockwise direction from player to player. When drawing cards, for determination of who has the highest card (and so on) the cards rank as follows (A,K,Q,J,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2). The suits, for purpose of this draw rank as follows (from highest to lowest): Spades (♠), hearts (), diamonds () and clubs (♣). If two cards of the same rank and suit are drawn, the first one drawn is considered the higher card. If any player draws a joker, he must draw another card as the jokers are not considered to have a value when drawing for partnerships.

All 108 cards should be shuffled together by the dealer and then cut by the player to the dealers immediate left (which, as per the draw above, will also be the first player to play in this hand). The dealer begins by dealing one face-down card to each player, starting at the player to his left. The dealer continues distributing the cards, in a clockwise direction until each player has 11 cards. Once the initial hands are dealt, the dealer then places the remainder of the deck in the center of the table face down as a stock pile. He then turns over the top card of the stock pile and places it face up beside the stock. This is the upcard, which forms the beginning of the discard pile. If this first upcard is a joker, trey (3) or deuce (2), he must turn another card from the stock and place it atop this card. He must continue to do this until the card is any card but a joker, trey or deuce.

In the game of Canasta there are several cards that have special significance:
Black Threes

Wild cards as well as the black threes are considered "stop" cards on the discard pile, which affect the circumstances in which the draw pile may be picked up. The remaining cards (A,K,Q,J,10,9,8,7,6,5,4) are considered natural cards and will be used throughout the game to make various point scoring melds.

Play of the Hand

The basic object of Canasta is to form melds for the purpose of scoring points. Melds consist of three or more equally ranked cards. Unlike in other rummy type games, in Canasta only cards of equal ranks (with possible wild cards) can be melded. Sequence melds can never be made. Wild cards can also be used in the melds, however they have a few stipulations: Any meld can never have more than three wild cards and all melds must contain at least two natural cards.

The scoring values of a meld is dependant on the rank of the cards which make up the meld. Each card in the meld scores for itself, as follows:
Card RankScore per equally ranked card in meld
7, 6, 5, 45
Black 3 (♠,♣)5
King, Queen, Jack10
10, 9, 810
Ace, 220
Joker50
          

The score for a particular meld is based on the additive score for each individual card within the meld, thus a meld of four 9's and two jokers, would score a total of 140 points (10 for each nine and 50 for each Joker). A partnership may not meld more than one group of a specific rank, however the additional cards of that rank would simply be added to the existing meld previously made by that partnership.
Before a partnership can play their first meld of each hand, this first meld must meet a specific score criteria. This initial meld (as well as subsequent melds) can consist of multiple individual groupings of cards. Once one member of the partnership makes this initial meld, any legal melds of any value can then be played on the table by either member of the partnership on his turn. Multiple card groupings can be used to total this amount for the first meld, and once one member of a partnership has made this meld, both partners in the partnership are free to meld normally for the remainder of the hand. The total necessary for this initial meld is dependant on the partnerships current listed score at the time when they are about to play the meld, as per the following chart:

Partnership's Current ScoreFirst Meld Minimum Score Requirement
Under 0 (minus score)15
0 to 149950
1500 to 299990
3000 and Over120

Once this initial meld is laid, that side can then meld any valid melds as well as have more leeway in taking the discard pile (see "Taking the Discard"). The total meld score required for a sides initial meld can only come from raw meld card scores (see chart above) and any bonus points for special melds (such as the bonus points scored at the end of the end for each canasta) may not be used for consideration of this minimum necessary score.

Each players turn consists of first drawing the top card of the draw pile or taking the entire discard pile. There are certain restrictions and rules regarding the taking of the discard pile (detailed below in the Discard Pile section). After drawing the player may then play any legal, allowable melds or play additional cards onto melds his partnership has already made. At the end of his turn, he must then discard one card to the discard pile. If a player plays all his cards in going out, he need not discard a card that turn (but a player can also go out with their normal discard at the end of their hand).

Canastas

A canasta, the games namesake, is a meld of 7 cards of the same rank. There are two types of Canastas, a natural canasta and a mixed canasta. Examples of a mixed and natural Canasta A natural canasta (sometimes called a pure canasta) is when there are no wild cards in the Canasta, thus all seven cards are of the exact same rank. A mixed canasta is when the meld contains one or more wild cards. After a canasta is first melded, additional cards may be added to the meld. However, if any wild cards (never more than three) are added to an existing canasta that canasta then becomes a mixed canasta (which reduces its bonus score added at the end of the hand). In addition, a partnership MUST meld at least one canasta (either natural or mixed) before it can go out. Until the partnership has melded a canasta, both players must retain at least one card in their hand. The bonus score, awarded at the end of the hand, is 500 for each natural canasta melded and 300 for each mixed canasta.
After a complete canasta is melded, it's card are usually piled together. To help distinguish mixed and natural canastas apart, by convention a red card is placed on the top of a natural canasta and a black card being the top card of a mixed canasta.

The Discard Pile

Taking the discard pile when it contains a large number of cards may often allow a partnership to gain a scoring advantage in the hand, thus there are various restrictions on when this discard pile can be taken.

- The discard pile may NEVER be taken by any player when the top card is a wild card (joker or deuce) or black three (three of clubs or spades).
- Before a side has made its initial meld of the hand, the discard pile is "frozen" for that side. When the discard pile is frozen to a partnership, they may only take the discard pile if they hold two identical natural cards that match the top card of the discard pile. Before taking the pile, the player must show the two cards after which he must immediately meld them with the top card. If the players side has not yet met the initial meld requirement for this hand, they must also show (and then subsequently meld) all such cards before taking the pile. Thus, only the top card of the discard pile can be used to meet the initial meld scoring criteria. However, the player can meld any additional cards found in the discard pile after showing the required meld and playing the meld.
- The discard pile is also frozen to both sides (with the same restrictions as above) as long as it contains, anywhere, a red three or wild card. Generally the bottom card of the discard pile is turned crosswise to indicate that it contains one of these cards and is frozen.
- Under all other circumstances the discard pile is not considered frozen and can be taken by a player in their proper turn in any of the following circumstances: These cards would entitle this player to take this frozen discard pile
When a player takes the top card of the discard pile in any circumstance, they must take the entire discard pile into their hand. After showing any required cards and making required melds, the player can play additional melds using cards from their hand and the discard pile.

Going Out

When a player plays all his cards in melds or discards his last card he is said to have gone out. A player may not do this if his partnership has not yet melded a canasta. However, a player could play this necessary canasta as part of going out.
When any player goes out, the hand immediately ends and scores are tallied. If a player goes out and this player has not yet, before this turn, played any melds to the table, he is said to have gone out concealed. This is worth bonus points at the end of the hand (see below). Before going out, a player may ask his partner "permission" to go out. This is not required, however if the player does ask, he must abide by the decision made by his partner. In addition, a player who has asked and received a confirmative answer, must go out on his next turn. A player may not ask permission to go out if he has already melded that turn.

If the last card of the stock pile is taken, play continues as long as each subsequent player takes the discard. During this stage of the game, the rules for taking the discard are somewhat different. At this time, a player, on his turn, must take the discard if it matches any of that players partnerships melds on the table and the pile is not frozen to that partnership. A player may (but is not required to) take the card for forming a new meld. The hand ends when a player cannot or chooses not to take the discard pile (when it is optional). If the last card drawn from the stock is a red three, however, the player plays it on the table (garnering his normal bonus points) and play immediately ends. When play ends in this fashion, the scoring occurs as normal with each player subtracting from their partnerships score all card values remaining in their hand.

Scoring

Once a player goes out (or the stock is exhausted and no player takes the discard, as per the rules above), all the remaining cards in each other players hand (including the partner of the player who played their last card) is subtracted from that partnerships total score. The point values for these cards remaining in the players hand is the same as the scores used for their values when melding (see chart above). Any card remaining in a player hand at this stage of the game are penalized in this way, even if the cards could be subsequently melded. In addition to the scores the partnerships get for scoring their individual melds, the following bonus points are also scored at this time:

Scoring ConditionBonus Score
For going out100
Going out concealed (additional)100
Playing Red Three100
(Or) A Partnership playing all 4 red threes800
Natural Canasta (each)500
Mixed Canasta (each)300

Note regarding Red Threes: If a side has not made any melds during a hand, instead of a positive value, they instead must subtract 100 points from their score for each such red three they possess (or 800 if they have all four) during that hand. If, for any reason, a player contains a red three in their hand that they did not place on the table during the hand, this subtracts 200 points from their partnerships score for each such red three found in the hand. If a partnership plays all four red threes to the table, they obtain an 800 point total bonus instead of just 100 for each.

The first partnership to reach 5,000 points at the end of a hand wins the game. If, at the end of a hand, both partnerships reach or exceed this total, the partnership with the higher total wins the game. The winner is usually said to have won the game by the difference between their score and their opponents.


Canasta Variations

Below are several common variations of Canasta as well as versions of the game for differing numbers of participants.

Two hand canasta: This version, for two players is played identically to the standard game, with the following differences:
- Each player receives 15 cards in each hand.
- A player must play two canastas (natural or mixed) before they can go out.
- When a player draws from the stock pile, they draw two cards, but discard only one.
In all other respects the game is played the same as the rules for standard game described above.

Three hand canasta: Three hand is also very similar to the standard rules of Canasta. At the start of the game, each player plays for himself, however the first player to take the discard pile then plays against the other two players who play as temporary partners for that hand.
The players are initially dealt 13 cards to their hand. As in two hand canasta when a player draws from the stock pile, they draw two cards but only discard one on each turn. When scoring, each partner individually gets the full score that the partnership gained while the opposing player obtains whatever score he tallied during the hand. The first player to obtain 7,500 or more points wins the hand. If more than one player reaches or exceeds this total, the player with the highest total wins the game.

Country of Uruguay Uruguay: This version is played identically to the standard game of Canasta with the following changes to the basic rules: In all other aspects, the rules for Uruguay are the same as for the standard rules given above.

Country of Mexico Mexicana: This game, also sometimes called Mexican Canasta, follows the rules for the standard game of Canasta with the following differences:
Samba: Like Canasta, Samba had a huge surge in popularity and was a very popular game in the Americas (and other countries as well). There are several significant changes in Samba that differ from the parent game of Canasta.
The game of Samba uses three standard 52 card decks along with six jokers (a total of 162 cards). Like the parent game it is generally played by four players, in two partnerships.
The selection of the dealer, ranking of cards, partners and the deal of the cards is the same as basic Canasta, however each player receives 15 cards.
When a player draws from the stock pile, they draw two cards each turn and discard just one.

The major change in Samba is that sequence melds can be made. Certain rules, however, govern these melds:

Unlike regular Canasta, Samba allows sequence melds Sequence Melds: As in Canasta players can meld groups of cards of the same rank (with any appropriate wild cards), but, in this game sequences can also be melded. A sequence consists of three or more cards, of the same suit that are numerically in sequence (such as 8,9 and 10 of spades). The Ace is considered high and thus comes after the king.

Wild cards cannot be used in a sequence meld under any circumstances. Only cards from a players hand may be used in playing a sequence meld, so they can never draw the top card of the discard pile to play such a meld. However, when finding cards that form a sequence meld when drawing the additional contents of the discard pile they may play them as normal. A sequence of seven suited cards is called a Samba and scores a bonus of 1,500. It counts as a canasta for purposes of the requirement of playing one canasta before going out.

Other differences: In addition to sequence melds, there are a few other differences between canasta as well. A partnership may have as many melds of the same rank or suited sequence as they want, and, like the sequence melds, may combine these as appropriate, even creating a canasta or Samba if it meets the necessary card requirements. If the discard pile is not frozen for a side, they may, however, take the discard pile, to add its top card to an appropriate meld (group or sequence) they have already played on the table. If the discard pile is frozen to a side (or both ), they can only take the pile when they contain a natural pair that matches its top card or if the top card of the discard pile would allow extension of an existing meld by three cards. As in the standard game, they must show these cards before taking the card (and rest of the pile) and playing the meld. If the pile is not frozen, it may be taken to match with two natural cards in the hand (as when frozen) or if the top card can be added to a meld the partnership already has played to the table. A player may not end the game by going out (playing or discarding their last card) unless their side has played two canastas (these can be any combination of mixed and natural canastas and sambas).
There are also several differences regarding the scoring in Samba:
- There is no extra bonus for going out with a concealed hand.
- The bonus for going out is 200 points instead of the 100 in standard canasta.
- Red treys are worth 100 each, however a side obtaining all six gets a bonus of 1000 points. As in the standard game, a side must have played at least one meld to the table in order to obtain this bonus. Otherwise the score for the red threes is subtracted from the partnerships score.
- The game is won by the first side to reach or exceed 10,000. In the event of both sides obtaining this score on the same hand, the side with the higher score is declared the winner.

The first meld score requirements are similar to the standard game (although the range is somewhat higher). The following table shows these requirements in Samba:
Partnerships ScoreFirst Meld Score Requirement
Under 0 (minus score)15
0 to 149950
1500 to 299990
3000 to 6999120
7000 and Above150


Chile Chile: This game is similar to Samba, above. The following are the only differences:


Country of Bolivia Bolivia: This game is another variant that is played similarly to Samba. Sequence melds are allowed as well as a meld of only wild cards. A meld of wild cards can be any combination of jokers or deuces (minimum of 3 such cards in the meld as normal). A canasta of 7 wild cards is called a Bolivia and is worth 2,500 bonus points at the end of the hand. Sequence melds are allowable in this game, just as in Samba and are called an Escalera. As in most variations of Canasta the discard pile cannot be taken if its top card is a wild card or black three. The initial meld requirements in Bolivia are exactly the same as given for Samba. To win the game a partnership needs 15,000 points or more.

Before a player can go out, his partnership must have melded two Canastas. One of the these canastas must be an Escalera (sequence Canasta) but the other can be any type of legal Canasta. When any player goes out, black threes left in a hand subtract 100 points from that partnership's total score. When melded (which can only be done upon going out) black threes are worth their standard 5 points each. Red threes have the standard scores and penalties associated to them as in Samba.


Country of Cuba Cuban Canasta: This game is another direct variation of the parent game Canasta. In this game, two standard decks are used along with four jokers. Each player is dealt 13 cards. Each player draws one card on each turn and discards one at the end of the turn. If the player is going out, they need not discard if they are using all their cards in melds on the turn.

In this version of the game, the discard is always considered frozen to both partnerships. Thus the top card (and thence the entire pile) can only be taken by a player who shows and then melds a pair of natural cards that match the top card of the discard pile.
Any canasta may never contain more than 7 cards. Before a player in a partnership can go out, their side must have played at least one canasta. The first meld score requirements for Cuban Canasta are given in the following table:

Partnerships ScoreFirst Meld Score Requirement
Under 0 (minus score)15
0 to 149950
1500 to 299990
3000 to 4999120
5000 and Above150

Red threes gain the following bonus points for the partnership receiving them:

  - 100 for 1
  - 300 for 2
  - 500 for 3
  - 1000 for all (4 total)

If a side has not melded a legal canasta these points are subtracted from their score. In this version a black three may never be discarded on any players first turn. If a player, when taking the pack finds any black threes in it, they are removed from play and earn the side 5 points each. If a partnership gains all 4 black threes in this way or melds them the side earns 100 points total instead.
A meld of just wild cards is allowed in this game, and have the following values:
- Seven 2's gain 4000
- Four jokers and three deuces get 3,000
- Any other combination of seven wild cards (deuces and jokers) gains 2,000
Sequence melds are not allowed in Cuban Canasta. If the top card of the discard is a wild card (or a black three) it may never be taken. Going out receives a 100 point bonus for the side which does so.

Brazilian Canasta: This game is similar to the Canasta variation Bolivia. The main differences are in the initial meld score requirements and the scoring received for the various canastas.

The requirements in Brazilian Canasta for the initial meld are as described in the following table:

Partnerships ScoreFirst Meld Requirement
Under 0 (minus score)Melds totalling at least 15 points
0 to 1499Melds totalling at least 50 points
1500 to 2999Melds totalling at least 90 points
3000 to 4999Melds totalling at least 120 points
5000 to 6999Melds totalling at least 150 points
7000 to 7999Any valid Canasta
8000 to 8999Melds totalling at least 200 points
9000 or higherAny natural Canasta
                  Country of Brazil

In some of the higher score brackets of this game the initial meld requirement may include a Canasta. Thus, for the 7,000 to 8,000 point range it can be any Canasta mixed or natural. For the 9,000 and higher bracket the hands initial meld must contain at least one natural canasta.

As in Samba, in this game a meld may be made of only wild cards and a Canasta consisting of only wild cards is worth 2,000 points. Sequence melds and Canastas are also allowed in Brazilian Canasta. However, when each hand ends, any side that has a sequence meld on the table of four cards or less must subtract 1,000 points from their score.
In Bolivian Canasta the values for played red threes is positive if a partnership has melded at least one Canasta but the points are instead subtracted from the partnerships if they have not melded a Canasta in the hand. The values for the red threes are as follows: 100 each for having up to 5 such cards, having exactly 5 counts 1,000 and having six counts 1,200.
When going out, a player may add cards to the ends of their sides previously played sequence Canastas. The discard pile may never be taken for part of a partnerships initial meld. When a player is to go out, they MUST ask their partnership for permission before doing so and must abide by the response of their partner. The first partnership to reach 10,000 points or more at the conclusion of a hand is declared the winner of the game. However, if both partnerships reach this total, the partnership with the higher total wins the game.

Italian Canasta: This is another game which follows closely the rules of Samba.
The rules are the same as that for Samba, with the following exceptions:
When the players are first dealt all their cards they should immediately replace their red threes before the top card is turned over to start the stock pile. When this top card is flipped, a number of additional cards, equal to the top cards rank are removed from the top of the stock and added to the discard pile. These cards are placed face down and the original card is placed on top of this stack. Thus, if a 5 was the initial card flipped over to start the discard pile, five additional cards would be taken from the stock pile, placed face down and the original 5 would be placed on top. For purposes of determining the ranking of special cards, Aces and Jokers require 20 cards, a King requires 13 cards, a queen requires 12 and a jack requires 11 such cards. These cards are part of the discard pile and are taken by the first player who legally takes the pile.

In Italian Canasta the discard pile is always considered frozen (Thus the top card, and the rest of the discard pile, may only be taken by a player with a natural pair in his hand).

The initial meld requirements for a side are as per the following table:

Country of Italy
Partnerships ScoreFirst Meld Requirement Value
Under 0 (minus score)Any valid meld
0 to 149950
1500 to 299990
3000 to 4999120
5000 to 7499160
7500 to 9999180
10,000 or higher200

As in other forms of Canasta, wild cards (Jokers and deuces) may be used as part of the initial meld, however their score may not be added for purposes of determining if the meld meets the minimum meld score requirement for the hand.
Canastas consisting of nothing but wild cards are allowed in this game, however a Canasta of wild cards does not count towards the required play of two Canastas by a side before they can go out.
Although considered wild cards, a meld of deuces can be made in this game. In this regard the meld is considered a standard (non wild card) meld. This meld may contain a maximum of three jokers. A Canasta of deuces is similar to a standard Canasta. If it contains one to three Jokers it is a mixed deuce canasta, scoring 2,000 points, and if it contains no jokers it is a natural deuce canasta and scores 3,000. Only the side going out may obtain these bonus scores for such melds, while the other side will obtain the normal card rank points for the cards in the canasta. If a partnership has a legal meld of deuces in this manner, they cannot meld any deuces as wild cards in any other melds until they complete a canasta of deuces. A legal Canasta of deuces can also be counted towards the required two canastas needed for a partnership to go out.

The red three scoring is also slightly different in this version: From one to three red threes they are worth 100 each. If a partnership has 4 or more, however, they score 200 each. This is a bonus score if the side has made at least one meld, but the amount is subtracted from their score if they have neglected to make a meld on that hand.

If a partnership manages to play five natural canastas in a hand they score a bonus of 2,000 points. For five canastas which includes a mixed canasta the side scores 1,000. If a side plays ten canastas (any combination of mixed or natural) they score 2,000. The first partnership to reach 12,000 wins the game.

Pennies From Heaven: This is another great variation of the base game Canasta. This variant is usually played by six players in two partnerships of three players each using four decks and eight Jokers. The players should be seated in such a way that the play alternates between players from each partnership. The rules are the same as for standard Canasta with several exceptions:

The dealer first distributes out the cards one at a time in a clockwise rotation until each player has a hand of 13 cards. The dealer then distributes a separate 11 card hand to each player (called the foot) which is set face down in front of each player and is not seen by the player until later in the game. The remainder of the cards are placed in the center of the table as a stock, as in standard Canasta and the top card turned face up beside the pile.

When drawing from the stock pile, a player must draw two cards from the stock pile and discard just one at the end of each turn. After a player has played his first Canasta, he then picks up the 11 card foot and adds it to his current hand as he continues play.

A player may never discard any seven until both partnerships have melded a canasta of sevens. This must be a natural canasta and include no wild cards. A canasta of sevens containing wild cards is still a valid meld, but it does not count as the requisite meld of sevens. In addition, a seven may never be discarded as a players last discard before going out. No canasta may contain more than seven cards. However, a partnership may meld multiple melds or canastas of the same denomination.

In order to go out a players partnership must have melded at least one of each type of Canasta allowed in this game; Mixed, Natural, All Wild Cards, Sevens. The wild card canasta consists of all wild cards (deuces and Jokers). The required canasta of sevens must consist of all natural cards (no wild cards). These canastas can be played all at once or can be smaller melds that are added to by a side to create the canasta. A player may never add cards to the opponent partnerships melds. As in most other variants of Canasta, any mixed meld may never contain more than 3 wild cards.

Red threes earn a bonus for the side that obtained them of 100 each. If a side obtains all eight red threes, however, the bonus is 1000 in total. However, if a side has not made any melds at the completion of the hand, they count negative for that side. Wild cards (Jokers and twos) may be discarded, however the discard pile may never be taken when the top card is a wild card. A player may ask permission from one of his partners if he can go out on the next turn, and he must abide by the answer given by that player. However, he is never obligated to ask this permission. If the stock runs out play may continue with a player allowed to take the discard pile using the normal requirements for taking the discard pile. If a player on his turn elects not to take the discard pile (however many cards the pile may contain), the hand immediately ends and the players hands are totaled.

The individual card scoring is as in normal Canasta, however the following Canastas earn the following additional bonus points:
Canasta MeldBonus Scoring Value
Mixed300
Natural500
Wild Cards1000
Natural Sevens1500
           Required Canastas in Pennies from Heaven
Note that a meld of sevens containing wild cards is considered to be a regular mixed canasta scoring 300 and may not be considered as the requisite canasta of sevens needed to go out.
A partnership who goes out during a hand earns a 100 point bonus for doing so.

As in all other variations of Canasta there is also an initial meld requirement for a partnership dependent on their current score. This initial meld requirement must be from the raw cards making up the melds (not red three and canasta bonuses). The original rules printed for this game in a number of publications detailed a list of the initial meld requirements. However, those listed were somewhat inconsistent with the initial meld progression used in most other versions of Canasta. Thus, a second, revised version is also included here which is recommended for more consistency with other forms of Canasta:
Original Initial Meld Requirements     Revised Initial Meld Requirements (Recommended)
Current score for PartnershipInitial Meld Requirement
Under 015
0 to 49950
500 to 99990
1000 to 1499120
1500 or more150
     
Current score for PartnershipInitial Meld Requirement
Under 015
0 to 499950
5000 to 999990
10000 to 14999120
15000 or more150
The first partnership to score 20,000 at the end of a hand is declared the winner of the game. If more than one partnership reaches or exceeds this total at the end of a hand, the partnership with the highest total is declared the game winner.

How to Play Hand and Foot Canasta Hand And Foot: Hand and Foot is a fairly recent addition to the Canasta family of games. Hand and Foot, developed in North America, is similar to the standard game of Canasta in that it is played by four players in two partnerships. The game uses six standard decks and 12 Jokers all shuffled together to make one very large pack. The twos and Jokers are considered wild cards and may be used to represent any other card in the deck at the choice of the player of the card. The preliminaries regarding determination of partners, first dealer and shuffling and cutting are identical to that of basic Canasta.

Partners sit opposite each other as in Standard Canasta and the dealer takes a portion of cards from the top of the deck for dealing. He then deals four face down stacks of 13 cards each. He then passes them around the table so that each player gets one such stack. This stack is called the hand. At the same time the dealer is dealing out the hand stacks, the partner of the dealer performs a similar procedure. He also deals four stacks of 13 cards each and also passes them around the table in a clockwise direction. This second stack each player receives is called the foot. The remainder of the stock is then set in the center of the table as the stock and the top card of the stock is placed face up next to the stock to start the discard pile. If this first card is a two, Joker or red three it is added back somewhere in the middle of the stock and another card is turned over to replace it.

The players then begin by picking up their hand piles. They may not yet view the cards in the foot pile. They may only pick up the foot pile when they have played every card in their hand pile (either through melds or discard). A player drawing from the stock pile on his turn must draw two cards from the stock, but discards only one to conclude each turn. Instead of drawing from the stock a player also has the option of drawing from the discard pile. To do this, he would need to take the top seven cards of the discard pile. If there are less than seven he takes all the remain. In order to have the privilege to take these cards, the player must hold two natural cards which match the rank of the top card on the discard pile (which also must immediately be melded). A player may never draw in this way if the top card of the discard pile is a wild card or any three.

Meld Types in Hand and Foot As in normal Canasta the partnerships attempt to play melds to the table. A meld must contain a minimum of three cards and a maximum of seven. A meld consisting of seven cards is called a pile. In Hand and Foot there are three basic categories of melds: clean melds, dirty melds and wild melds.

A dirty meld is a meld which contains both natural and wild cards. A dirty meld may contain a maximum of one wild card for every two cards of the natural denomination in the meld.
A clean meld is a meld containing all cards of the same denomination (no wild cards).
A wild meld is one which consists of all wild cards (deuces and Jokers).

In order for a player to go out, he must fulfill several meld criteria: In addition to these requirements, a player cannot go out if his partner has not yet picked up his foot pile and played from it, and he must ask permission to go out before doing so. If the players partner answers Yes, the player must go out on the next turn. If the players partner answers No, he may not go out on the next turn, but may on any turn after.

The scoring for individual cards in melds are identical to those in standard Canasta. However, there are several additional bonus points that can be made for making specific piles in this game:
Pile MeldBonus Scoring Value
Dirty300
Clean500
Wild1500
A partnership also gets a bonus of 100 points for going out first in the hand. As in most other forms of Canasta, each red three a partnership possesses scores 100 bonus points. However, the red three bonus will instead be assessed as a penalty if a side has not made any melds in the hand.

Black threes are never meldable in this game, so the only way a player may be rid of them is to discard them on a players proper turn. If the top card of the discard pile is any three, no player may take any cards from the pile. At the end of the hand, each black three remaining in a players hand counts minus five (as in normal Canasta). Dissimilar to regular Canasta, which has players attempt to reach a certain score to win, Hand and Foot is played in a round of exactly four deals. The partnership with the highest total at the end of the four hands is declared the winner. As in other Canasta style games, there is an initial meld requirement before a partnership can make its first meld of the hand. This requirement is dependent on which of the four deals is currently being played as follows:

HandInitial Meld Requirement
First50
Second90
Third120
Fourth (Last)150
Bonuses earned for red threes and special melds do not count towards the initial meld requirement which must be fulfilled completely from raw card values in the meld.

If the stock pile becomes depleted, play may still continue as long as each player in turn, can under the normal requirements, take from the discard pile. If a player, during his normal turn cannot or opts not to take the discard pile, the hand ends and is immediately scored. The partnership with the higher total after exactly four hands are played is the winner of the game.
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