Canasta Past & Present

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Canasta is the Spanish word for ‘basket’ which was originally used to hold the undealt and discarded cards.

A Quick Look at the History of Canasta: The game originated in Uruguay in the late 1930’s. From there the game spread throughout South America and underwent some refinements in Argentina to produce the game we know today. Shortly after World War II, Canasta made it’s way to the United States where it became the game of choice for nearly twenty years. Canasta even surpassed Contract Bridge in popularity for a brief time in the early 1950s. Canasta is still a popular game today, and many variations of play have developed over the years to allow play for 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 players. Most people today still play the classic version of Canasta which is best played with 4 players, which form two partnerships.

What You Will Need to get Started: Classic Canasta is played with 108 cards (104 regular cards, plus four Jokers), so you will need two decks of Canasta cards to play. Some popular brands like Stingray cards are made especially for Canasta. A special Canasta deck of cards will incorporate the point values of each card directly on to the cards, which makes scoring a breeze. Most Canasta decks will feature a hot vivid design and colors colors to reflect the Latin flavor of the game.

You may need additional decks of cards depending on which game of Canasta you are playing. The following versions of Canasta require the indicated number of decks:

– “Bolivian”, “Brazilian”, “Chilean”, “Cuban”, “Samba”, “Six Handed”, “Three Way”, & “Uruguay” Canasta require 3 decks of Canasta cards
– “Pennies From Heaven” and “Racehorse” requires 4 decks of Canasta cards
– “Hand and Foot” requires 5 decks of Canasta cards.

There are two more items you will need to make your game a pleasure to play. A 2 or 6 deck revolving tray to keep your discards organized, and a 2 column score pad to tally the scores as the games progresses. When it comes to Canasta, both items are readily available on the internet.

Object of Canasta: Is for your partnership to score more points than your opponent’s partnership, Canasta is a race to 5,000 points, if both opponents reach 5,000 points on the same hand, the partnership with the higher point total wins. Points may be scored several ways:

– By melding, in which case you get the cumulative total of the points contained in your melds.
– By earning bonuses based on several factors, such as ‘going out’ first, or collecting red treys, or for making natural or mixed ‘Canastas’.
– Scoring in Canasta can be fast and furious!

A Final Word: Canasta is a fast-paced and exciting game the whole family can play. It is also a great way for friends or neighbors to spend an evening together. The game may be a little complicated to learn at first, but no need to worry, you will quickly learn why Canasta is enjoyed by millions around the world! Be sure to pick up a couple decks of Canasta cards, and give it a try!

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