Canasta requires at least four players playing in teams of two and two regular decks of cards with the jokers included. Partners sit directly across from each other, and each can build on the cards that the other plays to the common area.
Teams score points during play by making melds and canastas, and the first team to reach 5,000 points wins. Jokers and deuces are wild. Melds function as they commonly do in other card games, such as three or more cards of the same rank, including wild cards. A canasta is a meld of seven or more cards of the same rank. Players can achieve a canasta using up to three wild cards.
Each player is initially dealt 11 cards, and each team must first make an initial meld before they can do anything else. The value of the initial meld varies depending on the team's current score. Teams with higher scores must make initial melds with higher values. This is designed to promote competitive games in which the losing team always has a hope of coming back.
Cards in each meld or canasta are scored individually. The four through seven cards and the black three are worth five points. The eight through king cards are worth 10 points. Aces and deuces are worth 20 points, and jokers are worth 50 points.