Samba Rules

Samba is a variation of Canasta, developed by John Crawford in the early 1950's. The distinguishing feature of the game is that you can make sequences as well as sets. A sequence of seven cards in the same suit, with no wild cards or black threes, is called a "samba".

Samba follows the rules of Canasta in most regards, so rather than repeat all the details here, we'll suggest that you first learn Canasta, then you'll be be able to appreciate the differences between the two games.

The following are the differences between the 4-player partnership versions of Canasta and Samba:

  • Samba uses three 52-card decks, along with 6 Jokers, for a total of 162 cards (Canasta uses two decks).

  • Each player is dealt 15 cards (11 in Canasta).

  • When drawing from the stock, draw two cards at a time (as opposed to one in Canasta).

  • Sequence melds - 3 to 7 cards of the same suit in consecutive sequence - are allowed. Cards rank (high) A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4 (low); no threes or wildcards are permitted in a sequence. (Canasta does not allow sequence melds.)

  • Up to two wildcards are allowed in a meld (Canasta only allows three), although there must be at least two natural cards in a meld.

  • No wildcards may be added to a completed canasta (up to three may be added in Canasta).

  • There is no limit to the number of melds per rank per side in Samba (only one is allowed in Canasta).

  • A canasta must contain at least 5 natural cards (4 in Canasta).

  • Unlike in Canasta, an unfrozen pack may not be taken with one natural card and one wildcard (Samba requires two natural cards).

  • Unlike in Canasta, an unfrozen pack may not be taken to add a card to a completed canasta.

  • In Samba, an unfrozen pack may be taken to add a to an existing sequence meld (unless it is a canasta).

  • Minimum meld requirements:

    Total Score (Canasta)Total Score (Samba)Minimum Count
    0 to 14950 to 149550
    1500 to 29951500 to 299590
    3000 to 49953000 to 6995120
    N/A7000 to 9995150

  • A game-winning score is 10000 points in Samba (5000 in Canasta).

  • Two canastas are required to go out in Samba (1 in Canasta).

  • Creating a "samba" (a sequence of seven cards in the same suit, with no wild cards or black threes) earns a 1500-point bonus in Samba.

  • There is a 200-point bonus for going out in Samba (100 points in Canasta).

  • There is no bonus for going out concealed in Samba.

  • There is a 1000-point bonus for holding all red threes in Samba (800 points in Canasta).

  • In Samba, red three count as negative points if the side does not create two canastas (in Canasta, the side need only create any meld).

(Note that in the previous list, "Canasta" (capitalized) refers to the game, while "canasta" (lowercase) refers to a seven-card meld.)

Samba For More or Less Than Four Players

Although four-handed (partnership) Samba is the most common form of the game. For the most part, you can simply follow the rules for Two-Handed Canasta, Three-Handed Canasta, Five-Handed Canasta, and Six-Handed Canasta, substituting the Samba differences as described above.

Other Samba Links

Additional Information