Two women and two men playing cards.
Photo by Rosemary Lubinski

When - Completed

was held Thursday, September 21, 2023 at 10:00am.


Lubber Run Community Center
300 N Park Drive
Arlington, VA 22203

Event Director

Donna Jerome
Contact Donna by email.


See our volunteers page for details.

Results and Records

Results and Records of the NVSO 2023 Canasta Event will be added when they are available.


Photographs of the NVSO 2023 canasta event.


General Rules
Please go here for rules covering all events.

Canasta Rules
Competition will be in teams of two players with no age groups or gender divisions. The latest version of the American Canasta Society. Rules apply with exceptions. NVSO will supply the playing cards (only 2 jokers per deck), the shuffling equipment, and the score sheets. This is a single elimination tournament.

A) Game Strategy
The two partners work to put points on the table through melds until one team goes ‘out’ or the ‘stock’ of cards has run out. Hands are continually played until one team reaches 8,500 points, which wins the game.

B) Game Rules

  • There will be 3 games of 50 minutes each.
  • Each games consists of 3 hands starting with a meld of 125, followed by a meld of 155, and ending with the last hand of 180.
  • There will be a 10 minute warning to alert players of the end of the game.
  • Positions of the teams (North-South or East-West) will be determined by a high card draw between the teams. The team with the high card chooses the position they want to play.
  • There will be multiple tables. The East-West team will move to the next higher numbered table. The team with the highest numbered table moves to Table 1.
  • Once seated at a new table the team may shuffle, deal and sort but not start until given the go ahead.
  • Score sheets will be handed to the Event Director at the end of each game.

C) Point Values and Starting Play

  • Cards have the following point values in scoring:
    – 4,5,6,7 = 5 points each
    – 8,9,10,J,Q,K = 10 points each
    – Aces = 20 points each
    – Deuces(2’s) = 20 points. Each-WILD CARD, also known as small or little jokers
    – Jokers = 50 points. Each-WILD CARD, also known as Big Jokers.
  • 3’s have a variable values depending on how many the team has placed on the table. They are separated by color. For example, if 4 red threes are played, and the team has completed 2 Canastas, the 4 threes will have a value of 1,000 points. 3-threes = 500 points / 2-threes = 300 points / 1-three = 100 points.

    If a team places 3 black threes on the table and 2 red threes and they have completed 2 Canastas they receive 500 points for the three black 3’s and 300 points for the two red threes. Should a team placing threes on the table only complete one Canasta they get no credit for the points generated by 3’s. Should a team not complete any Canastas, then the points generated by the threes are DEDUCTED from their score. If a 3 is be picked as the last card in the tray, the 3 is played and no further discard is permissible.
  • Partners must sit opposite each other.
  • Each player picks a card and the player with the highest card becomes the dealer.
  • Once teams have been seated the shuffled cards are cut by the player to the right of the dealer. The player who cuts takes 8 cards from the bottom of the deck and turns the 9th card thus causing it to stick out from the pile. This is called the ‘turn” card and indicates to all players that the bottom of the deck is only 8 cards away.
  • The balance of the cards are now placed in the tray on top of the turn card. With this method, if a team goes down late in the hand and the turn card is approached, cards for the talon may only be picked up to and including the turn card. Once the turn card is passed, no cards may be taken for a talon.
  • Simultaneously, the dealer who has the rest of the deck is making 4 piles of 13 cards, creating the piles from left to right. These cards are then distributed to the players beginning with the player on the dealers left. The balance of the cards are placed on top of the cards in the tray and play is ready to begin. The player to the left of the dealer goes first. The first thing a player does is immediately place any threes received in the deal on the table in front of themself. The player then picks one card for each three placed on the table, plus one card more, which is the players draw card. For example, if 2 threes are placed on the table the player draws 3 cards – 2, to replace the 3’s and, one card for the actual draw. A card is then discarded into the discard section of the tray, leaving the player with 13 cards and that player’s turn ends.

D) Melding

  • To accumulate points each team needs to get “on the board” by melding groups of cards. At the beginning of the game each team must meld a minimum of 125 points. As the game progresses the meld requirement increases based on each teams score. When a team reaches 3,000 points the meld requirement is 155 points. Over 5,000 points the requirement is 180 points. Each team’s meld requirement can and usually will be different based on their score. Each grouping in a meld must contain at least 3 cards, 2 of which are natural, meaning not wilds. Further at least one of the groupings must contain at least 3 natural cards (no wilds). Here is an example of a proper 125 point meld
    – 10, 10, 10 = 30 pts / Q,Q, Big Joker = 70 pts / 9,9,9 = 30 pts
  • This same meld could also have had the two nines and a wild to equal 140 points if that was necessary to accomplish the meld. Again, one of the 3 groupings must be pure – without wilds – for the meld to be valid. Valid groupings are as above and the game does not utilize straights (6,7,8 etc.) as other games do, other than in a “special” hand, which will be described under F) Special Hands. Once a team melds, their partner can no longer get a special hands.
  • The above meld has a point total as follows – 10’s = 30 points, Q,Q  Joker = 70 points (50 points for the joker and 10 points each for the queens, and 30 points for the 3 nines. This meld equals 130 points which is 5 points more than necessary for the initial meld. All 3’s played by either partner are combined in front of the melding player. The player then discards a card and as the first person to meld, takes what is called a talon, consisting of 4 cards from the deck. The second team to meld takes 3 cards as their talon. When you meld you must have a card to throw. If after you discard you do not have a card left in your hand, as long as the deck is at or before the turn card, you can meld, but only take up to and including the turn card. However, if the turn card is gone, and you have a card to throw but none to hold, you cannot meld. There is an exception to needing 125, 155 or 180 points to meld, namely a full natural canasta. Should you have 7-sixes in your hand (for example) which would only total 35 points you can get on the board with this regardless, as it is a full natural canasta. Players continue taking turns clockwise until one team goes out, or, the stock of cards is depleted, or, a special hand is played thus stopping play. Cards left in players hands at the end of the round are counted and deducted from the points earned in the hand. Special hands will be addressed under F) Special Hands.

E) Canastas

  • To accumulate as many points as possible a team wants to create as many canastas as possible. A canasta contains 7 of a particular card and may include up to 2 wild cards. A canasta containing no wild cards – say, 7 natural 8’s, is considered pure and has a value of 500 points. A canasta containing one or two wilds has a value of 300 points. As play progresses each of the 2 partners will try to build on their teams initial meld placed on the table to create canastas. The goal is to create at least 2 canastas. Once a team completes 2 canastas all 3’s placed on their side of the table will count toward their score and that team is eligible to “go out” by one of the partners playing all remaining cards held in the hand and discarding the last card held. Using the earlier example:
    – 10, 10, 10 / Q, Q, Joker / 9, 9, 9
  • This is the initial meld shown earlier. Each of the partners will now try to build on these groupings in an effort to get 7 of each. Therefore, if one of the partners has 3 queens and a deuce in their hand, they can play them to complete the Queens canasta. This canasta is then put to the side, next to the 3’s played on the table with a black queen on top face up, signifying it is not a natural or pure canasta since it contains wilds. If the team completes the nines (9) canasta, without any wilds, a red nine is placed on top to close that canasta and it has a value of 500 points.
  • At the same time each of the partners may add to new groupings from their hand. Should one of the partners have 4 – 6’s in their hand, they may be played next to the other groupings thus providing another potential canasta opportunity.
  • Although pure canastas are worth more points, finishing canastas, even with wilds, is more important in trying to win the game and making sure your threes count toward your score.

F) Special Hands

  • There are number of what are called special hands that end the play of the round immediately. The hands and their associated point levels are as follows:

    Pairs: A pairs hand is exactly that – 7 distinct pairs, which do not require a discard, thus totaling 14 cards. This hand is shown immediately and ends the round, thus subjecting the opposing team to significant minus points. If a pairs hand contains wilds (little jokers or big jokers) they must be the same – thus 2-2 or J-J and the hand must contain A’s and 7’s. = 2,000 points. A pairs hand made without any wilds is worth 2,500 points
  • Garbage: This hand contains 4 of a kind, 4 of a kind, 3 of a kind, 3 of a kind. Again the hand is shown immediately and play ends. This hand may not have any jokers = 2,000 points
    Straight: A, 2, Big Joker,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,J,Q,K-no 3’s = 3,000 points.

G) 7's and Aces

  • These 2 cards have special rules and different values attached to them. 7’s may only be played as a canasta without any wilds. Failure to get the full 7 has a penalty of 2,500 points.
  • Aces may be melded with wild cards, only on the initial meld. Should one choose to meld aces subsequent to this they must be pure and also carry 2,500 point penalty for failure to complete the canasta.
  • Getting stuck with more than two 7’s or two Aces in your hand at the end of the round earns a penalty of 1,500 points. If you get stuck with more than 2 aces and 2 sevens in your hand, it’s a penalty of 3,000 points. Two or less of either has no penalty.
  • If a player picks up the entire discard pile which may include unwanted additional 7’s or Aces, a 7 or an ace may not be discarded into an empty tray. The player must wait one turn for cards to be in the discard side of the tray to discard a 7 or an ace.

H) Wilds Canasta

  • A canasta of particular note is a “wilds canasta” As the name suggests it is comprised of 7 wild cards (2’s and jokers). It carries a bonus as follows:
    – All 2’s = 3,000 points
    – 4 Jokers + 3-2’s = 2,500 points
    – 1,2 or 3 jokers + balance of 2’s = 2,000 points.
  • However, starting a wilds canasta and not complete with 7 wild cards results in a penalty of 2,000 points. If a player has 4 big jokers on the table and does not complete the wilds canasta, the penalty is 2,500 points. Since there are 12 wilds, (8 deuces and 4 jokers) the risk is lower than trying to make aces or 7’s of which there are only 8 of each.

I) Failure to Play “3’s”

Should a player fail to play a 3 in his/her hand during a turn, the player must put it on the table on his/her next turn, but he/she cannot take a card for it.

J) Taking the “Discard Pack”

  • The entire discard pack may be taken and the cards may be used to finish or create additional canastas in the following circumstances:
  • In the second scenario, neither team has melded to open. A player discards a card that his opponent, who is next to play, has 2 of. This opponent also has enough points in meld in the hand to open WITHOUT using the discard card and the two he or she has in the hand. In this case the player does NOT draw from the draw pile. Instead the player lays down the meld equaling or exceeding the point threshold necessary. Then the player picks up the pack – immediately placing the 2 same cards – with the top card from the discard pile on the table as a new meld, or adding to an existing meld. The player may then integrate the balance of the pack into the hand. If the player picks up the pack at the point of melding he/she DOES NOT get a Talon.

K) Counting Points

  • Team ‘goes out’ or the draw cards are all taken. Going out means that the player is able to place remaining cards in the hand on the table adding to existing melds, or creating a new one and has one card left to discard. The ‘going out” card may be any card and can be discarded face down. Prior to going out it is permitted for the player planning on going out, to ask his or her partner if it is ok to do so. This can only be asked once. Should the partner have “toxic’ cards in the hand – i.e. more than 2 sevens or aces, then the partner will say NO – thus giving an opportunity to discard unwanted cards. Going out is worth an additional 100 points. Even if the partner goes out the player still must deduct the points left in his/her hand.
  • The scorekeeper is the person in the North position. At the end of the round each team will tally its points with the scorekeeper making note and tracking each teams points on the score sheet. If a team has 3’s on the table, but no canastas, everything is a minus. Otherwise each player counts the points left in their hand and deducts the points from what is on the table.
  • The remaining cards are then counted as follows:
    Base Points – These are counted first. They are comprised of the threes and canastas. If NO canasta was made by a particular team, the value of the threes is deducted from the point total. If one canasta was made by the team, then the threes don’t count for or against. If 2 canastas are made, the threes total value are counted toward the total points of the round. Threes are counted as follows:
    Separate the black threes from the red threes and count them:
    – 1 of a particular color = 100 points
    – 2 of a particular color = 300 points
    – 3 of a particular color = 500 points
    – 4 of a particular color = 1000 points
  • 3 red threes and 2 black threes = 800 base points for threes. After the threes are counted the canastas are added up. Pure canastas (no wild cards) are worth 500 points each (except for 7s, pure aces and jokers which have a separate point value.) Canastas with wilds = 300 points each. 2 pure canastas and 1 impure = 1,300 points. In this example it is assumed that this team also “went out”. Therefore our total base points including 100 for going out would total 2,200 points as follows:
    – 3’s = 800 points / Canastas = 1,300 points / Going out = 100 points
    – 4,5,6,7 = 5 points each
    – 8,9,10,J,Q,K = 10 points each
    – Aces = 20 points each
    – 2’s = 20 points each – WILD CARD
    – Jokers = 50 points each – WILD CARD
  • The value of all the cards on the table are added up and piles of 100 points for easy tracking are made. Assuming the results is 3 piles of 100 points each and 35 more points, the count would be 335 points. The count is added to the base and they are totaled for the team’s score for the round. The score sheet would look like this:

In the example above both teams would still need 125 in meld to go down as they are both below 3,000 total points. Assuming after the next hand “We” had 3,330 points and “They” has 2,900 points then “We” would need 155 points to open and ”They” would still need 125 points. If in a subsequent hand a team loses points and the loss of points brings the team below one of the thresholds, then the amount needed is reduced to the appropriate level. As stated earlier 8,500 points is necessary to win the game, which will require several rounds.

K) Scoring Summary

  • Base Points
    – Canasta-Pure = 500 points
    – Canasta-up to 2 wilds = 300 points
    – 3’s (assuming 2 canastas are closed):
    – One 3 = 100 points
    – Two 3’s (same color) = 300 points
    – Three 3’s (same color) = 500 points
    – Four 3’s (same color) = 1,000 points

    If one canasta is closed then 3’s played don’t count for or against.
    If no canasta is closed the above point schedule is deducted from the team score.
    – Going out = 100points
  • Count
    – 4,5,6,7 = 5 points each
    – 8,9,10,J,Q,K = 10 points each
    – Aces = 20 points each
    – Deuces(2’s) = 20 points each – WILD CARD, also known as small jokers
    – Jokers = 50 points each – WILD CARD, also known as Big Jokers
  • Special Hands
    – Pairs = 2,000 points
    – Pairs-no wilds = 2,500 points
    – Garbage = 2,000 points
    – Straight = 3,000 points

L) Penalty Summary

  • – More than two 7’s or A’s in hand at end of round = 1,500 points
    – Failure to complete A’s or 7’s Canasta = 2,500 points
    – Failure to complete wilds canasta = 2,500 points
    – No completed canastas-all points in hand and 3’s are deducted.