Canasta Caliente How to Play Quick Links: | Objective | Setup | Playing the Game | Drawing Cards from the Draw Pile | Taking Cards from the Prize Pile | Creating and Adding to Melds | Discarding a Card | Cards | End of Round | Scoring | Winning the Game | Caliente Variant | Frozen Prize Pile Variant | Player Count Rules | FAQ | Components |
Note: These rules are for both normal Canasta and Canasta Caliente. Canasta Caliente plays the same as the original Canasta except for the addition of the two Caliente cards. The only differences in Canasta Caliente are outlined in the Caliente Cards section below.
Objective of Canasta Caliente
The objective of Canasta Caliente is to create melds by playing cards from your hand to sets in front of yourself. The first player/team to play all of the cards from their hand scores points. The first player/team to score 5,000 or more points wins the game.
- Before you begin setting up the game you need to decide whether you are going to play with the Caliente cards. What the cards do and how they impact the game are outlined in the Caliente Cards section below. If you decide not to use the cards, remove them from the deck. If you choose to use the cards keep them in the deck.
- If there are a even number of players, you will play with another player as a teammate. The teams will alternate turns. If there are two or three players, you will play individually. For details on different player counts, see the Player Count Rules section below.
- Choose which player will be the dealer. The dealer will shuffle all of the cards and offers one of the players the option of cutting the deck. They will then deal eleven cards to each player. Players will add the cards they were dealt to their hand. They can look at their own cards, but they shouldn’t show them to the other players.
- The rest of the cards form the Draw Pile.
- Check your hand to see if you have any Bonus cards. If you have a Bonus card, you must play it in front of yourself immediately and draw a new card.
- Flip over the top card from the Draw Pile to start the Prize Pile. The top card of the Prize Pile is called the Up card.
- If you flipped over a Wild or a Bonus card, turn it sideways to show that the Prize Pile is frozen. Then flip over the next card from the Draw Pile.
- The player to the left of the dealer starts the game. Play passes left/clockwise throughout the game.
Playing Canasta Caliente
Your turn consists of three steps/actions.
- Take the top card from the draw pile or the entire prize pile.
- Create melds or add to melds you or your partner have already created.
- Discard one card face up from your hand to the discard pile.
Drawing Cards From the Draw Pile
To begin your turn you can choose to draw a card from the Draw Pile. You will take the top card from the Draw Pile and add it to your hand.
If you draw a bonus card, you must immediately play it in front of yourself and take a new card.
Taking Cards from the Prize Pile
Instead of taking a card from the Draw Pile, you can choose to take the Prize Pile. If you choose to take the Prize Pile, you need to take all of the cards from the pile. You must meet certain criteria in order to take the Prize Pile.
The first requirement is that you need to be able to use the Up card (top card) from the Prize Pile. You either need to combine it with two cards from your hand to create a new meld, or you need to be able to add it to a meld that you/your teammate have already created. For information about melds, see the Melds section below.
If neither you or your teammate have created a meld yet this round, you may only take the Prize Pile if you can use the Up card (top card) to create a new meld of three or more cards. You must combine the Up card with at least two other “natural” (non Wild) cards to form the new meld. On your turn you also must meld enough cards to meet the “first meld requirement”. You can only use the Up card (top card) to reach the first meld requirement. For more information check out the First Meld Requirement section below.
If the Prize Pile is “frozen”, you need to meet another requirement to take the Prize Pile. You may only take the Prize Pile when it is frozen if you can combine the Up card with two other natural cards (non Wilds) to create a new meld.
Taking the Prize Pile
If you successfully play the Up card from the Prize Pile, you will also take the rest of the cards from the Prize Pile and add them to your hand. Taking these additional cards makes it easier to create more melds and score more points.
Creating and Adding to Melds
After you have taken a card(s), you have the opportunity to make new melds or add to melds you or your partner have already created.
A meld is a set of three or more cards of the same number. Players can use wild cards in a meld, but at no time can there be more wild cards in a meld than natural (number/face) cards. When a player forms a meld they place the cards face up in front of them.
There are four different types of melds in Canasta Caliente.
A Natural Meld is a set of three or more cards of the same number/face.
A Mixed Meld is a meld that includes Wild cards in additional to natural (number/face) cards. Each Mixed Meld has to have more natural cards than Wilds.
A Canasta is a meld that features seven or more cards. To win a round you/your team needs to create at least one Canasta.
A Natural Canasta does not contain any Wild cards.
A Mixed Canasta includes Wild cards. You can never have more than three Wild cards in a Mixed Canasta.
Adding to a Meld
Once a partnership has formed a meld both players can add additional cards to the meld. They can add natural or wild cards to melds already on the table. When adding wilds though the players have to make sure they don’t have more wilds in a meld than natural cards.
First Meld Requirements
For each player/partnership to form their first meld in a round, it must reach a certain point threshold. The point threshold is based on how many points they have scored in previous rounds:
- Negative Points: Any three card meld
- 0-1495: 50+ point meld
- 1500-2995: 90+ point meld
- 3000+: 120+ point meld
Bonus cards do not count towards the amount of points you need to score for your first meld.
Discarding a Card
You will end your turn by discarding a card onto the Prize Pile. Depending on what card you discard, something special may happen.
If you discard a natural (number/face) card, you will not take a special action.
Should you discard a Stop card, the next player in turn order cannot take the Prize Pile on their turn.
If you discard a Wild card, you will freeze the Prize Pile. You will turn the Wild card sideways to indicate that the Prize Pile is frozen. To unfreeze the Prize Pile, you must meet additional requirements to take the cards from the pile. See the Taking Cards from the Prize Pile section above for more details.
Cards of Canasta Caliente
Natural cards include number cards and face cards such as Jacks, Queens, Kings and Aces.
They have no special ability in the game. You can play them if you can create a meld with three or more cards of the same number/face. You may also add natural cards to matching melds that you have already created. Natural cards can be combined with Wild cards to create melds as long as there are more natural cards in the meld.
Otherwise you can discard natural cards at the end of your turn.
There are two Wild cards in the game: Little Wilds and Big Wilds. The two cards are the same except that the Big Wilds are worth more points.
You can use Wild cards to make melds. A Wild card can act as any other number/face card in the game. When you create a meld with Wilds though, there must be more natural cards in the meld than Wild cards. Once you meld a Wild card, it must stay in the set that it was first added to.
You cannot create a meld of Wild cards.
If you discard a Wild card, it will freeze the Prize Pile.
Stop cards work different from the rest of the cards in Canasta Caliente.
When you discard a Stop card, it blocks the next player from taking the Prize Pile.
Outside of discarding a Stop card, there is only one other way of getting rid of them. When you are about to go out, you can meld Stop cards. You need to have three or four of the cards in your hand to meld them though. You cannot use Wilds in place of other Stop cards. If you do not have three or four Stop cards in your hand, you cannot go out as the only other way of getting rid of them is to discard one each turn.
Whenever you draw Bonus card, you must immediately play it face up in front of yourself. You will also immediately draw a replacement card from the Draw Pile.
If you forget to play a Bonus card when you draw it, you can play it on a future turn. When you play the card you will draw a replacement card.
Should you forget to play a Bonus card and the round ends, you will lose 100 points for each Bonus card in your hand.
You may never discard Bonus cards. The only way a Bonus card can get in the Prize Pool is if it was turned face up to start the round. When a player collects the Prize Pile, they will immediately play the Bonus card in front of themselves.
Ending the Round in Canasta Caliente
In order for a player/team to end the current round, you must create at least one Canasta. If you have not created a Canasta yet, you must keep at least one card in your hand at the end of your turn.
Once you have created a Canasta, you or your partner can play the last card from your hand. You can play your last card through either a meld, or by discarding a card at the end of your turn.
Even if you can go out, you don’t have to. You can choose to continue the round to try and score more points, or reduce the number of cards left in your partner’s hand.
If you are playing with a partner, before going out you can ask your teammate if you should go out. You don’t have to ask them. If you do ask them though, they will either answer yes or no. Their answer is binding. Should they answer yes, you must go out. If they answer no, you can’t go out.
Once one of the players goes out (plays all of the cards from their hand), the round ends. Players will then score points for the round.
Draw Pile Runs Out of Cards
If the Draw Pile should run out of cards before a player has gone out, each player will take the Up card from the Prize Pile to start their turn.
Should the last card you draw from the Draw Pile be a Bonus card, you will play it like normal. The round then ends immediately.
You can only take the Up card if you can use it in a meld. Players will keep taking turns until a player goes out, or a player doesn’t take the Up card.
You can choose not to take the Up card (ending the round), unless you are forced to take it. If the Prize Pile isn’t frozen and you can add the Up card to one of your melds, you must take the card.
If neither team ends up going out, neither team gets 100 points for going out.
Scoring in Canasta Caliente
Each player/team will score points as follows. If you are playing in teams, both players will tally their points together.
First you will add up the value of each of the melds that you ended up creating. The value of each meld is equal to the numbers printed on each card that you played to the meld.
Next you will subtract the value of each card left in your and your teammate’s hand. You will subtract the number printed on each card from your total.
Next you will check to see if you acquired any bonus points. You can score bonus points in the following ways:
- 100 points if your team ended the round by going out.
- 100 additional points if you went out concealed. To go out concealed you must play all of the cards from your hand in melds in one turn. This includes creating one Canasta. The player that goes out could not previously had melded any cards or added cards to melds created by their teammate. (This is extremely rare).
- 500 points for each Natural Canasta (no Wilds)
- 300 points for each Mixed Canasta (has Wilds)
- 100 points for each Bonus card. You only score these points if your team has created their initial meld.
- 400 points if your team played all four bonus cards and you created your initial meld.
- -100 points for each Bonus card that you play if you didn’t create your initial meld. If you played all four Bonus cards and didn’t create your initial meld, you will lose a total of 800 points.
If no player/team has reached 5,000 points, another round is played. The player to the left of the previous dealer becomes the dealer for the next round.
Winning Canasta Caliente
The game ends when at least one of the players/teams scores 5,000 or more points. The player/team that has scored the most points wins the game.
If you choose to use the Caliente variant add the two Caliente cards to the deck of cards before you shuffle them.
Playing the Caliente Card
If you have a Caliente card in your hand, instead of drawing the top card from the Draw or Prize Piles, you can choose to play the Caliente card next to your melds. You may only play the card if you/your team has played less melds than your opponents.
After playing the card you will keep drawing cards from the Draw Pile until you have a total of eleven cards in your hand. If you already have eleven or more cards in your hand, you will not draw anymore cards. You shouldn’t play the card unless you have few cards in your hand.
After filling your hand to eleven cards, you can meld any of the cards from your hand. You cannot play another Caliente card this turn though.
To end your turn you will discard a card.
Instead of playing the Caliente card to draw cards, you can discard it. When you discard a Caliente card, you will treat it like a stop card.
Scoring the Caliente Card
During scoring the Caliente card can score points in a couple different ways.
If you play a Caliente card it stays in front of you for the rest of the round. During scoring it will score you -100 points.
Should you have a Caliente card in your hand when the round ends, you need to double the points you lose for each card left in your hand. If you only have the Caliente card in your hand, you lose zero points. If you hold both Caliente cards in your hand at the end of the round, you will triple the negative points for each card left in your hand.
Canasta Caliente Frozen Prize Pile Variant
In this variant the Prize Pile is always frozen. You may only take the top card from the Prize Pile if you either:
- Use the top card to form a set with two other natural cards to create a three card meld.
- Add it to an existing meld that has six or fewer cards. You cannot add the top card from the Prize Pile to a Canasta (7 or more cards).
Player Count Rules in Canasta Caliente
Canasta Caliente can be played with a number of different players. The number of players will change some of the rules for how you play the game. The rules stated above are for four player games. Changes to the rules for other player counts are listed below.
- Each player is dealt 15 cards at the start of each round.
- Both players will play by themselves.
- When drawing from the Draw Pile, you will draw two cards instead of one. At the end of your turn you will discard one card.
- To end a round you need to create at least two Canastas.
- Each player is dealt 13 cards at the start of each round.
- Each player plays by themselves.
- One of the teams will have two players while the other has three players.
- The team that has three players will sit out one player each round. The player that is sitting out cannot help their teammates.
- The players will divide into two teams of three.
- One player from each team sits out each round. The players that sit out cannot help their teammates during the round.
If you have three decks of cards (the game normally comes with two decks) you can choose to use the following rules:
- The players can either divide into two teams of three or three teams of two. Each player is seated between two opponents.
- Each player is dealt 13 cards.
- You will play until one team scores 10,000 points. When a team reaches 7,500 points, it needs 150 points to make its initial meld.
- You do not receive a bonus for acquiring four Bonus cards. Should you acquire five or six Bonus cards though, you receive a bonus of 600 points.
- A team needs at least two Canastas to end the round.
Canasta Caliente FAQ
If a player discards a Caliente card, does it lose its ability if it is picked up by a player and played later on?
The rules do not specifically address what happens if you discard a Caliente card and a player picks it up later. All the rules say is that you should treat it like a Stop card when you discard it.
As the rules don’t specifically state what you should do, I personally would say it is best for the players to agree on how it should be handled. If all of the players can agree, I would handle it in the agreed upon way.
Personally I would treat it where the card still has its power if a player picks it up and uses it on a future turn. I say this because the rules don’t specifically say that it loses its powers once it is discarded.
Any Other Questions?
If you have any questions about how to play Canasta Caliente, leave a comment below on this post. I will try to answer any questions asked as best and as quickly as possible.
Canasta Caliente Components
Canasta Caliente includes two decks of cards. The two decks consist of the following cards:
- 88 natural cards (eight cards each of 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace)
- 12 Wild cards (eight Little, four Big)
- 4 Bonus cards
- 4 Stop cards
Year: 2000 | Publisher: Hasbro, Parker Brothers, Winning Moves Games | Designer: Phil Orbanes Sr
Genres: Card, Set Collection
Ages: 7+ | Number of Players: 2-6 | Length of Game: 60 minutes
Difficulty: Light | Strategy: Light-Moderate | Luck: Moderate
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