Tallying Your Scores at Canasta

At the end of a hand of Canasta, as soon as one player goes out, the scoring starts. Add up the points for the bonuses and melds and subtract the negative points from that score.

The bonuses you may be eligible for are as follows:

  • You get a 100-point bonus for going out.

  • You get a 200-point bonus for going out concealed, which means going out without first putting down any melds. If you can go out with a concealed hand after your opponents pick up a large pile, you can reduce the damage caused by the points left in your partner’s hand.

  • Every Canasta is worth 500 if it has no wild cards, or 300 if it is a mixed Canasta, with wild cards. A Canasta of wild cards is worth 1,000 points.

  • Every red 3 your team has is worth 100 points. If you have both pairs of red 3s, you get a 400-point bonus for 800 points in all. If your side hasn’t made a meld, you subtract the bonus values of the red 3s from your score.

Then you add up the score for your melds and subtract from that the total negative points that go against you, for the cards left in your hand. Each card has a scoring value, which isn't too complicated:

  • Jokers: 50 points each

  • 2s and aces: 20 points each

  • Kings through 8s: 10 points each

  • 7s through the 3 of Spades and 3 of Clubs: 5 points each

You can’t use red 3s in melds.

Consider going out if you can to leave yourself just below one of the critical points of moving into a new zone for the initial meld requirement. You are better off having a total score of 1,495, rather than 1,525 because you need fewer points to get started on the next hand.

Modern American Canasta is a younger cousin of the game of Canasta explained here. The game is played to a score of 8,500 and has many variations. For the full story, visit this Web site, but following are some of the main differences:

  • Melds of 7s and aces are subject to special rules. You cannot use wild cards to make a meld of 7s at all. Additionally, if you start a meld but do not complete the Canasta, you are subject to penalty. A meld of aces cannot contain wild cards unless it is the initial meld. Again, if you start a meld and do not complete the Canasta, you are subject to penalties.

  • Initial point requirements exist for your first play, but you can get around them by making your first play a natural Canasta or a Canasta of wild cards.

  • Certain special hands allow you to go out after drawing, without discarding.

    • A Straight contains one card of every rank from ace to king plus a joker.

    • Pairs has seven pairs of cards; no jokers or 3s allowed. Also the hand must either have no wild cards or include a pair of 2s, 7s, and aces.

    • Garbage consists of two sets of four of a kind and two sets of three of a kind.

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