You win a round of Canasta by gaining the highest score, whether you are two or four players. You can and should secure those points best by melding a Canasta as soon as possible. After all, that is the only way you get to end the round!
When All Is Going Well
When your party set a good pace and amassed plenty of points in the playing field, often, the hand cards start to thin out. You should always take care not to decimate your hand too soon.
In this case, too soon means, before your party melded a canasta: No canasta, no going out! And even the biggest advance in points could be caught up with, given enough time. So, you want to be able to end the game while you have the high ground.
Quick reminder: A canasta is a meld consisting of seven cards. It does not matter if it is a natural or mixed canasta. A natural canasta uses natural cards, i.e., seven cards of the same rank, exclusively. In contrast, the mixed canasta can use up to three wild cards, so, Jokers or Twos. Natural canastas yield more points, but either kind enables you to go out.
When It Is Not
If your party’s cards are rather higgledy-piggledy, you should try to collect new ones. The best way to do so is picking up the discard pile, ideally, when it is already pretty tall. To achieve that, you can use the discard pile’s top card in your turn – either by melding it with two of your hand cards or adding it to a meld of your party. That is more complicated when you haven’t played your first meld of the round yet or if the discard pile is either blocked or frozen.
If that is not an option, all you can do is hope for the stock. When a card you draw there matches your hand cards or your party’s melds, best keep it and get rid of a less useful card. With a bit of luck, you might even form a canasta over time and, thus, either secure your advance or limit your opponent’s advance.
Let’s Get Dangerous!
If you enjoy taking risks, you could also collect everything in your hand – until you can not only complete a canasta but move your entire hand to melds in the playing field. Melding all cards at once still requires one complete canasta! If you go from the first meld to emptying your hand within the same turn, your party is going out concealed. That means bonus points! Although, if the opposing party manages to go out before you do, your collection in hand will yield considerable minus points, as well.
Now you are familiar with a few rules of thumb that might help you successfully end a Canasta round. If you are interested in more Canasta tips and tactics, you are welcome to browser our Canasta Lessons. Or find all info collected in our Canasta School.