Play canasta on-line: bonuses, rules, tips and strategies

  • Written by David Bet
Play canasta on-line: bonuses, rules, tips and strategies

Canasta has experienced a huge growth in popularity in the last couple of years. That is why RummyRoyal offer all Canasta followers the opportunity to play their favorite game on-line and for free. RummyRoyal has an advanced games platform of all online card games - and all of them are available for free. Complete your full registration at RummyRoyal and you will receive $5 instantly to your account!


Playing Canasta for free is possible in a secure online environment provided by RummyRoyal. Hundred of Canasta enthusiasts from all over the world come together on our website to play their favorite game and to have some good, clean, healthy fun and recreation. Players can meet and interact with other players from places as distant as Russia or South Africa - everyone is united by a common bond - a love of playing Canasta.

Once the player has joined our large, cheerful online Canasta playing community, he is immediately credited with $5 for free. Then he can choose whether to play with cards or tiles. Once the player is confident he can win, he can then deposit real money and start playing with other players and in online tournaments.

History of the Canasta Game

Different to most of the other Rummy games whose exact origins are not known, Canasta history is traceable and well known. The origin of the game dates back to Montevideo, Uruguay in 1939. From there it spread to Argentina, the United States and then worldwide.

In the early 50's in the United States a new version of the game was created and is known as Classic Canasta. Over the years players continued to develop this version of the popular game and the game that we know today is Modern Canasta that was developed by North American players.

What is Canasta?

Canasta is a game based on the principles of Traditional Rummy. It is played by 2-6 players, and is usually played in pairs. The goal of the game is to accumulate the highest amount of points and to be the first pair to reach 8500 points.

You accumulate points according to the number of melds, the number of unfinished melds, the amount of 3's you collected and the value of the remaining cards in your hand at the end of the round. For more information about the scoring system in Canasta go to the rules page.

The Canasta game play consists of rounds in which each player takes a turn. As in most of the Rummy games, Canasta is also made up of 2 main moves, drawing a card and discarding a card. A card can be drawn from the stock pile or from the discard pile. If a player chooses to draw a card from the discard pile he must immediately use it to form a valid meld.  As well, the player that draws from the discard pile, receives all of the card in the discard pile as well as the one card he chose.

In between drawing and discarding a card, a player can meld cards in the designated melding area. A valid meld contains at least 3 cards . A full meld contains 7 cards and is called a "Canasta".

In the rummy game there are "Natural Cards" ( all cards except for 2's, 3's and jokers), wild cards(2's and jokers) and the 3's that you collect during the game. A pure Canasta meld contains 7 natural cards. A wild card Canasta contains only 2's and jokers while a mixed Canasta contains both natural cards and wild cards.

The game ends when one player has melded all of their cards or the stock pile has run out. At the end of the round the players score is calculated. In order to find out more information about the points scoring system, bonuses and penalties go to the rules page for the game.

Canasta Rules

Canasta is the name of a 7 card long meld which gives this online Rummy variant its name.Canasta     Demo

The objective of the game: The winner of the game is the first to hit or exceed the target score (Quick Tourney), or the player with the highest score at the end of the game (Round Tourney). A round (hand) ends when a player has melded all the cards in his hand and created at least two Canasta melds, or when the stock pile runs out of cards (in this case the game ends and all the players receive points according to the remaining cards in their hand). Reaching the target score is done by collecting points according to the points' value of the melds that one lays down on the table during a hand. Like many other Rummy variants, in Canasta you need your melds value to reach or exceed a certain initial value, before you can lay down melds for the first time.

Number of Players: at RummyRoyal this variant can be played 2 players only.

The Deck:  It is played with two standard 52 card decks and four jokers (two from each deck), making a total of 108 cards.


Wild Cards: 2s and jokers are wild cards that can take the place of natural cards while 3s may freeze the stock pile and provide their owners with both bonus and penalty points.

Red threes - Bonus Cards: If a player is dealt a red three or happened to draw one, it will be automatically placed face-up on the table. A replacement card from the deck will be drawn for him automatically. Red threes score bonus points but not count as a meld, and do not help a player reach the minimum count requirement for the initial meld.

In case a red three is turned up as a start card for the discard pile, another card is drawn from the stock pile and is placed on top of it, continuing until a card which is not a wild card or red three is turned up. When the discard pile is taken, the red three will be placed face up next to the player's hand automatically and a replacement card will not be drawn.

Black threes - Stop Cards: When discarding a black three the player prevents his opponent from picking up the discard pile in the next turn. Black threes do not freeze the discard pile (as opposed to wild cards - 2s and Jokers). Once another card is discarded on top of the black three it has no further effect.

A meld of 3 or more Black threes cannot be formed, with one exception. A player who is going out may form a meld of three or four black threes as part of that last turn. A meld of black threes cannot be formed using any wild cards.



The Deal: Each player is dealt 15 cards, and the rest of the canasta game cards are placed face-down on the table, to form the stock pile. The top card of the stock is taken off and placed face up next to the stock pile, to start the discard pile.

Any red 3s that were dealt will be automatically placed face-up next to the player's hand, and an equal number of cards will be drawn from the deck to replace them.

Drawing Cards (From Stock Pile - Face Down): if the players choose to draw from the stock pile, 2 cards will be added to their hand.

Picking Cards Up (From Discard Pile - Face Up): players may choose to pick up the entire discard pile instead of drawing form the stock pile. However, picking up the discard pile isn't always possible.

Players can pick up a discard pile that is not frozen when:

  • They can meld the top card of the discard pile together with at least two relevant cards from their hand: these could be either two natural cards of the same rank as the top discard, or one such natural card and one wild card.
  • In case the top discard card matches the rank of one of the melds that the player has already melded on the table, and he can add it to the meld.

For example, if there is a Q card on top of the discard pile and an additional Q card in the middle of discard pile, you will be unable to use a single Q card in your hand to take the entire discard pile and meld the three Q cards. However, if you have two Q cards in your hand you can use them to form a Q-Q-Q meld together with the discard pile's top card, while the rest of the discard pile will be added to your hand, and then you could add the 4th Q card to the meld.

**Please note that it is impossible to take the discard pile when it is frozen; when the top card is a black three or a wild card.

Discard: Prior to melding two Canastas, a player is unable to leave his hand without any cards at the end of his turn. Players' moves should be made in such a manner that keeps at least one card in their hand after they discard a card at the end of their turn.


There are two scenarios of a frozen discard pile:

  1. When the top card is a black 3 or a wild card this means that the player cannot pickup the discard pile, and therefore must draw card from the stock pile in this specific turn. When there's a natural card on top of the black 3 the discard pile is no longer frozen and players can pick it up according to the Pick Up rules.
  2. The discard pile is frozen to all players if it contains a wild card (at the top, middle or bottom). To show that it is frozen, the wild card is placed higher than the pile, so that it is still visible after other cards are discarded on top of it.
  3. The discard pile is frozen against a player, in case he has not yet melded the initial meld.

Unfreezing the Discard Pile

In cases 2 and 3, a player can pick up the discard pile only if he has two or more natural cards of the same rank as the top card of the discard pile. He then has to use them with the top discard card to form a meld in the same turn. This meld can be a new one, or it could be a meld of the same rank as an existing meld - in that case the melds with be automatically merged.

Melding: Melds can be as long as a player wishes them to be.


Players may meld their cards into sets only.

 A set consists of 3 or more cards of the same rank, number of cards is unlimited.
Suits may be repeated, and up to 3 Jokers or Wild Cards may be added.


Clean Canasta: Consists of 7 cards or more of the same rank without

any wild cards (at the time of the initial meld or after).



Dirty Canasta: Consists of 7 cards or more, of the same rank and contains

up to 3 wild cards.


Please note, melds consisting entirely of wild cards are not allowed.

A player is unable to have two separate melds of the same rank. Any cards melded by a player with 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 to have a meld of the same rank as your opponent's melds.

Initial Meld Requirements: In order to meld for the first time, the total value of the cards a player melds must meet the minimum count requirement. This requirement depends on the player's cumulative score from previous rounds as shown below:

Cumulative score

Minimum count of initial meld


15 points (i.e. no minimum)

0 - 1495

50 points

1500 - 2995

90 points

3000 or more

120 points

Initial Meld - Rules of Thumb

  • In case a player has not melded, the discard pile will be frozen.

In order to reach the minimum count, a player may either meld entirely from his hand after drawing from the stock pile, or use two natural cards from his hand and the top card of the discard pile in case they match in rank.

  • In the second case, the player can only count the value of the top discard, along with the cards he melds from his hand in this and any other melds.
  • It is impossible to count any other cards in the discard pile which you may intend to add to melds in the same turn.
  • Special bonuses for Red 3's or Canastas will not be counted towards meeting the minimum.

Please note: There is only one exception for the initial meld requirement rule which occurs when a player draws from the stock pile and is able to meld his entire hand (with two canastas), without previously melding any cards. In this scenario he is allowed to go out without having to meet the minimum count.

The End of a Round

Going Out: The round ends once a player goes out by melding all the cards in his hand. A player can only go out if he has melded two or more Canastas. Going out is done by melding all of the cards that a player has in his hand, or by melding all but one and discarding it.

A player is also able to meld his entire hand without previously melding any cards and by doing so he will receive the "Going out concealed" bonus.

The Stock Runs out of Cards: in case no player has "Gone Out" and the stock runs out of cards, the game is over immediately.



The score is determined at the end of the round, according to the cards melded on the tables, and cards left in players' hands.

Each player's score consists of the following:

  • Total bonuses
  • Total value of all the cards that have been melded on the table
  • The subtraction of the total value of cards remaining in the player's hand

Please note:

A cumulative total score is kept for each player.

It is possible to have a negative score. 

Bonus score:

Going Out

100 points

Going Out Concealed

200 points

For each Clean Canasta

500 points

For each Dirty Canasta

300 points

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

100 points

For all four red threes

800 points

Please note: If a player did not manage to meld at all, each red threes counts as a negative 100 points bonus. If they have all four red threes and have not melded, they will receive a negative bonus of 800 points.



Canasta strategy and tips

The game of Canasta is a relatively complex game to play, that requires cooperation between team mates, strategy, concentration, alertness and judgment at any given time in order to win. The scoring system can be quite harsh, and sometimes the line between receiving a bonus or a penalty can be quite thin. So much so, that just one card can determine the teams score.

To avoid penalty points you should check out some of our basic Canasta Startegy and tips to help make sure that you or your team wins the game.

According to Canasta rules a team that has not completed at least one Canasta will be penalized at the end of the game and will most likely not receive any points for their hand. To avoid this we suggest that each team makes an effort to get out at least one Canasta at the beginning of the game, and after they can take the chance to form more complex sets.

There are special sets that award teams with significant bonus points. An example for this is a 7 or ace canasta. Teams will most likely try to form these types of canastas and not discard them. Here you should use your judgment as to the cards you discard. Towards the end of the game it is suggested to get rid of as many 7's and aces as you can as you will be penalized for them in the end. Most likely players that have not formed one of those melds will try and get rid of the cards. This can be a great opportunity for the opposing team who is holding the cards in their hand (7's or aces) to try and collect the cards that their opponents are discarding  to form this Canasta. Note - this could be a risky move as you could either be penalized a great amount or you could get a big bonus, so make sure to pay attention to the cards that are discarded.

A special Canasta awards the holder a special bonus- a wild canasta (2's and jokers in any combination). A team that wishes to form such a Canasta can not use the rest of the cards in their hand until the Wild Canasta has been melded. So here too caution should be taken. In the event that the initial deal gives a team a large number of wild cards this a move that should be used. On the other hand, if a team has a lot of incomplete cansatas they should use wild rummy cards to form the largest amount of mixed canastas.

At the beginning of each turn, the player has 2 options - to draw a card from the stock pile or to draw from the discard pile, in the latter case the player must also collect the rest of the discard pile cards. Although the main goal of the player is to get rid of all of their cards,  there is a chance that in the pile there are a number of cards that can actually be useful and change the game. It's important to keep track of the discarded cards.

Our last tip brings us to the main idea for all strategies and decisions in the game, and concentration is the key. Canasta is a dynamic game, like many other rummy games, such as burraco, that changes from turn to turn and the game can change in a second. Don't take too many risks, cooperate with your partner in hopes that they will actually be able to help you accumulate the highest amount of possible points - quickly!

Please note that these are just a few of the Canasta Strategy tips. Use any of these tips and strategies while playing online Canasta games and you could be winning big in no time!


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