canasta, history and rules
11 March 2023


One of the games I am planning to add to this website in the near future is Canasta, a game that has intrigued me for a number of years, but, I admit, am not very good at. Let’s start with a short article about this beautiful game.

Canasta is the Spanish word for “basket”. It’s origins are found in Uruguay in the early 1939 where a lawyer named Segundo Santos and an architect named Alberto Serrato were looking for a game that was less time consuming than Bridge. The game they created, quickly spread throughout South America, North America, and Europe. Canasta is a game that can be enjoyed by two to six players, and is known for its intricate rules and excitement.

The goal of Canasta is to score points by forming melds, which are sets of three or more cards of the same rank, or sequences, which are three or more cards of the same suit in numerical order. The game is played with two standard decks of 52 cards, plus four jokers, for a total of 108 cards.

At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt 11 cards. The remaining cards are placed face down in a draw pile, with the top card turned face up to start a discard pile. Players take turns drawing cards from the draw pile and discarding unwanted cards onto the discard pile.

To form a meld, a player must have at least three cards of the same rank or three cards of the same suit in numerical order. Jokers can also be used to complete a meld, but only two jokers are allowed in a meld. A meld can be added to at any time, as long as the player still has cards in their hand.

A canasta is a meld of seven cards of the same rank, including at least four natural cards and no more than three wild cards. A natural card is any card from ace to king, and a wild card can be any joker or two. A canasta is worth 500 points, and earns a bonus of 100 points if it is a natural canasta (without any wild cards)..

Players earn points by forming melds and canastas, as well as by going out, which means playing all of the cards in their hand. The first player or team to reach 5,000 points wins the game.

Canasta stories:

In the 1950s, a wealthy businessman named Milton Bradley became obsessed with Canasta and spent millions of dollars building a lavish Canasta-themed resort in Palm Springs, California. The resort featured dozens of Canasta tables, a luxurious hotel, and even a Canasta museum. Unfortunately, the resort was not a financial success and was eventually sold to another company.

Canasta has also attracted its fair share of celebrity players over the years. In the 1950s, actress Marilyn Monroe was rumored to be a fan of the game and would often play with her friends and costars. Other famous Canasta players have included Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Finally, in 2019, a group of Canasta players in Buenos Aires, Argentina set a world record for the longest continuous game of Canasta. The game lasted for an incredible 48 hours and 27 minutes, and involved more than 50 players taking turns at the table.

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