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Subject: POLL: How many wild cards permitted in melds? rss

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Craig Duncan
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One nice thing about Canasta is that the rules are fairly standardized. What variation I've seen concerns how many wild cards are permitted in melds. I've seen several different rules, which are close in practical effect, but still distinct.

The main practical effect on play, I suspect (I'm not a regular player yet) is on whether three wild cards are allowed in a five card meld, e.g. whether 9-9-2-2-2 is a legal (2s being wilds of course). So I've made ths a separate entry in the poll below, in the hope that the clarity gained is worth the redundancy cost. (Of course, 99222 is a random example; it could also be 55222 or KK222, etc.)

Poll: Wild cards in meld
1. A 9-9-2-2-2 meld...
...IS a valid (legal) meld
...is NOT a valid (legal) meld.
2. The wild-cards-in-meld rule that I use is...
Each meld must contain at least two natural cards, and must never contain more than three wild cards. (So, 9922 and 99222 are legal but 99992222 and 999992222 are not legal.)
Each meld must contain at least as many natural cards as wild cards. (So, each meld must have at least two natural cards; 99222 is NOT legal, but 9922, 99992222, and 999992222 are legal.)
Each meld must contain at least as many natural cards as wild cards AND can never have more than 3 wilds. (So, each meld must have at least two natural cards; 9922 is legal, but 99222 99992222, and 999992222 are not legal.)
Each meld must contain more natural cards than wild cards. (So,each meld must have at least two natural cards; 99222, 9922 and 99992222 not legal, but 999992222 is legal.)
Each meld must contain more natural cards than wild cards AND can never have more than 3 wilds. (So, each meld must have at least two natural cards; 9922, 99222, 99992222, and 999992222 are illegal.)
      11 answers
Poll created by cdunc123
 
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Peter Miller
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Happy New Year Craig.
I believe that there are lots of variations on the game. There are several books available which explain the differences
For me melds and canasta must have equal or more natural cards than wild cards - unless you are going for wildcard canasta
Enjoy
Peter
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Craig Duncan
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I emailed John McLeod, who runs Pagat.com, with this question about wild cards in Canasta. He was kind enough to respond. With his permission, I'm posting what he sent in reply:

---------------------------------------

Dear Craig

Thanks for your message. So far as I know the only serious attempt to standardise the rules of Canasta was around 1950 when the initial Canasta craze was at its height. The result was the game that I call 'Classic Canasta' on my website. But since then many players have moved on and introduced numerous changes, so that by now my impression is that many groups have their own house rules.

So when you write 'pagat says', you are quoting my statement of the rules of what I call Classic Canasta, the game that was standardised in 1950. This is still played in some parts of Europe and the UK, and these are also the rules commonly given in card game books for lack of any other consensus.

It seems that the region where the greatest number of variants have appeared subsequent is North America. At one time I got the impression that a new standard had started to emerge, and I tried to formulate its rules under the heading 'Modern American Canasta', but it has become clear to me that although this game has a substantial following, its players are a minority concentrated mainly in Florida and the East Coast.

I think that 9-9-9-2-2 is legal in all forms of canasta that I know. In classic canasta even 9-9-2-2 and 9-9-2-2-2 are legal. I think at least two natural cards are required in all versions. The main alternative rules on wild cards that I have come across are

a) There must be more natural cards than wild cards. That makes 9-9-2-2 illegal but 9-9-9-9-2-2-2 is still a legal canasta.

b) There cannot be more than two wild cards. In that case 9-9-2-2 becomes legal but 9-9-9-9-2-2-2 is illegal.

c) Or you can have both (a) and (b) in force.

I wrote the above without looking at your poll. It's interesting that no one has specified a maximum of 2 wild cards (as in 'Modern American Canasta').

I am surprised by Peter Miller's claim that 'there are several books that explain the differences'. I have never seen a book that makes a reasonable job of this. Usually they just give ther classic rule, or give the author's personal preference as a rule, without discussing alternative rules in any systematic way.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
John


-----------------------------------------------------

Mr. McLeod also wrote this follow-up:

"Another point that might be relevant. Nowadays many versions allow a meld consisting entirely of wild cards 2-2-2, 2-2-2-2 etc. Usually there is a special score for a canasta of wild cards. This was not allowed in the classic game but at least one of your respondents refers to it in passing as through it is a normal option. In older books (say 1960-1980) there are already several variants allowing wild card melds. In the books, many of these variants go by the names of Latin American countries: Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazilian Canasta, Cuban Canasta, etc. but I don't think people use these variant names consistently in real life."
 
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Craig Duncan
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FWIW, I looked consulted my old (1970) Hoyles Rules of Card games. It agrees with Pagat: a meld must always have at least two natural cards and can never have more than three wilds. No further restriction (e.g. never more than half wild) is mentioned.

I also consulted my copy of David Parlett's Penguin Encyclopedia of Card games

However, in the very next sentence after describing the 2 naturals / 3 wilds rule, Parlett goes on to add (somewhat confusing). "Canastas must contain at least four naturals but may contain any number of wild cards."
 
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