Waldo Canasta is a variant of the card game canasta that developed in Uruguay in the 1940s and was derived from earlier rummy games. All canasta variants have an objective of melds of sets of seven cards, but Waldo Canasta adds elements of related games to create more dynamic game play. Waldo Canasta was first discovered on Bermuda-bound cruise ships in the 1960’s and played by a family for nearly thirty years before being codified by Waldo T Dinosaur. Waldo Canasta was formerly known as “pot-of-gold canasta” or “horse race canasta,” for the “horse race” to get the first canasta so as to use the cards of a pot-of-gold.
Waldo Canasta blends elements of Bolivia and Racehorse Canasta, themselves variants of basic canasta. Like Bolivia, Waldo Canasta allows canastas of wild cards (jokers or deuces) and sambas, 7-card straight flushes in the range of 4 to Ace. Like Racehorse Canasta, each player is dealt a 15-card hand as well as an 11-card “foot,” called a pot-of-gold in Waldo Canasta. There are also “red” (natural) and “black” canastas, the latter including one or two wild cards. The pot-of-gold enters plays only when a player or a player’s partner completes a first canasta. Much of the scoring is similar to Racehorse Canasta (suggesting that “horse race canasta” was a corruption of “racehorse”), with samba worth 1500 points and a wild-card canasta worth 2000.
Waldo Canasta requires three players, playing individually, or four players, playing as two teams. Four decks of 54 cards (52 cards plus two Jokers) and mixed together in order to deal initial hands of 15 cards and pots-of-gold of 11 cards.
The object of Waldo Canasta is to be the first player or team to reach 15,000 points. Players and teams score points by earning bonuses for melding canastas and sambas, scoring red threes, or [going out], and for the sum of the point values of cards melded (see [Waldo Canasta#4. Scoring|scoring]).
Because of the number of cards used, play tends to be more varied than in basic canasta. Waldo Canasta offers players or teams the opportunity to pursue one of several different strategies beyond the basic meld-and-deck pickup of the basic game. Waldo Canasta deals rarely end up with the one-sided play of basic canasta in which one player or team ends up being “fed” by the others. Waldo Canasta also allows players and teams to change their strategy during a deal, by changing their goals for the deal.
Most significantly, Waldo Canasta allows for both an offensive and defensive style of play. Players and teams can either decide to use a deal to amass many points—thereby giving opponents the opportunity to score a lot, too–or to play to go out quickly, thereby denying opponents the opportunity to score or causing them to suffer large penalties.
The initial dealer is chosen by high card draw or other means and deals 15-card hands to each player. Using part of the deck not used by the dealer, the player to the dealer’s right deals the 11-card pots-of-gold face down to each player.
Unused cards are placed face-down as the deck the top card is turned over to form the seed card of the discard pile. Should the card be a red three, the card is buried in the deck and another is drawn.
The player to the dealer’s left begins play. This player begins by melding any red threes in the hand. The player can then pick up the seed card by playing a matching pair and showing an opening meld, or, more typically, drawing two cards from the deck, plus one extra card for each red three played. Should the player draw a red three, that card is played immediately, and a replacement card is drawn.
After drawing cards, the player may make an opening meld or signal the end of the turn by discarding a single card onto the discard pile. Play then continues to the left.
In subsequent turns, players draw 2 cards from the deck or pick up the deck by matching the top discard with a pair. Once a player or team has made an opening meld, cards cab be added to previously played sets or new sets melded. When a player completes a first set of seven (either a canasta or samba), the pot-of-gold is picked up and further melds using those cards are permitted. (In partnership Waldo Canasta, the teammate picks up his/her pot-of-gold but cannot play any cards until it is his/her turn.)
In each deal, a player or team must make an initial opening meld that is equal to or greater than a certain number of points. The exact number of points varies through the game and is dependent on the player’s (or team’s) accumulated score at the start of the deal.
At the beginning of a new game of Waldo Canasta, the opening number of points is 90, but the value ranges from 50 to 150, subject to this table.
|Accumulated Score||Points for Opening Meld|
|Less than zero||50|
|Zero through 4999||90|
|5000 through 9999||120|
|10000 or higher||150|
When making an opening meld, players are free to use as many cards or sets as necessary. Players who open by picking up the deck can also count the value of the top card on that pile towards the number of points needed.
To play a new set, a player melds 3 or more cards. For canastas, the initial set must always include a least a pair from the player’s hand and may include one or two [wild cards]. For [sambas], initial melds must include three consecutive cards in the suit and may not contain any wild cards. In subsequent turns, the player (or the player’s partner), can add one or more cards to preexisting sets or start a new set.
Threes are never used for canastas or sambas, and Ace is always the highest rank. Once melded, cards or sets cannot be rearranged with one exception: if two three-card samba melds can be joined or bridged to form a complete samba with the play of an additional card, the play is allowed.
While picking up the discard pile, usually leads to the play of a new set, the triplet formed by the top discard and the player’s pair can be added to a pre-existing meld that is 3 or 4 cards long. For example, if a player had previously melded 4 fives (or a combination of wild cards and at least two fives), and then player picked up the deck by matching a pair of fives with a five that was the top discard, the triplet of fives can be added to the 4 fives (in case forming a canasta). However, had the player previously played 5 or 6 fives (or some combination of 1 or 2 wild cards and fives totaling 5 or 6), the new triplet must be played separately.
Canastas and sambas can be completed during a player’s turn. Up to two wild cards can be used per basic canastas, although using wild cards changes the canasta from a “red” or “natural” to a “black” or “unnatural” canasta and lowers the bonus from 500 to 300 points. Canastas are stacked, with either a red or black card to represent whether the canasta was a natural.
A player can add cards to either end of a samba, subject to the samba not containing an Ace (the highest rank) or a Four (the lowest). Wild cards cannot be added to sambas and more than one samba in the same suit can be melded per player or team.
A special rule governs the completion of two three-card sambas that are separated by one rank, for example, the melds A through Q and 10 through 8. A player (or player’s teammate) bridge these melds by playing the missing middle card to form a complete samba. Only the middle (fourth) card of a samba can be used in this way.
A player or a teammate can lay off, or add, to a completed canasta, by melding additional cards onto the canasta itself. For example, to a completed canasta of fives, additional fives can be laid off. Wild cards cannot be laid off on any canasta and cards cannot be laif off on completed sambas.
At the end of every turn, a player must discard. Any card other than a red three can be discarded. Black threes and wild cards play special roles as blocker cards as neither type can be picked up with a pair.
A player or team that has any combination of canastas and samba totaling at least 2 can go out, ending a deal and scoring a bonus. Going out means getting rid of all cards in a hand. Like other turns, going out includes discarding, that is, the last act of the player “going out” is to pay a discard. If a player cannot play a discard, a player cannot go out.
In partnership Waldo Canasta, the player seeking to go out can ask his/her teammate “Partner, do you want to go out?” but is not required to do so. However, if the question is asked, the player must follow the answer the teammate gives. This is the only communication allowed in partnership Waldo Canasta (coaching of teammates or other players is not allowed).
When a player goes out, the player may meld three, four, or five black threes. This is the only time that black threes can be legally melded in the game.
Should a deal continue until the deck has only 1 or 2 cards left, the player whose turn it is draws the remaining cards and plays as normal. If that player discards without going out and does not discard a wild card to freeze the deck, the next player in turn has an opportunity to pick up the deck and make a meld. If the next player cannot pick up the deck (or chooses not to pick it up), the deal ends and no one scores the going out bonus. Otherwise, the play continues until a player cannot (or chooses not) to pick up the deck or a player goes out.
Scoring has two components: the base and the count.
The base is the total number of bonus points earned by forming canastas and/or sambas, playing red threes, and going out (if applicable).
Natural “red” canastas (no wild cards used), 500 points each Unnatural “black” canastas (wild cards used), 300 points each Sambas, 1500 points each Wild card canastas (“Bolivias”), 2000 points each
Red Threes, 100 points each for 1-4 red threes; 200 points each for 5-6 red threes; 2000 points for all 8 red threes. If a player or team has not made an opening meld, then the points for Red Threes are subtracted, not added to the score.
Going out bonus, 200 points
Count for cards melded, including cards that have been laid off
Count for cards not melded are subtracted from the count using the point values listed above and these special rules
Irregular hands or irregular pots-of-gold. Must be corrected before the first discard of the deal is made; otherwise the irregularity stands.
Drawing too many cards. The excess card(s) are shown to all players and the next player has the option of either keeping the excess card(s) at the top of the deck or burying them inside the deck.
Insufficient value of opening meld. All of the melded cards are returned to the player’s hand and the opening meld requirement for the player or player’s team is increased for that deal as follows: 50 to 60, 90 to 110, 120 to 150, 150 to 180.
Improper plays. Must be challenged immediately or otherwise the improper play stands.
Coaching of the play of cards by a teammate. The opponents get to meld the cards in questions as they see fit.
The following game variations have been used while playing Waldo Canasta:
Unlike basic canasta, in which each player or team typically seeks to pick up the discard pile and make as many melds as possible, strategy varies in Waldo Canasta depending on the accumulated scores and the play of the current deal. However, for most strategies, the distribution of Black Threes, wild cards, and Eights, Nines, and Tens, will be significant.
Play for sambas and bolivias: When you control the middle ranks (8-10) and have a fair number of wild cards, consider this strategy. Because sambas cannot include wild cards, playing for sambas usually means a longer-than-average deal and more scoring chances for your opponents. You can offset that by playing your wild cards to form bolivias..
Dominate all ranks: If you have many pairs and triplets, including the ranks not played by your opponents, consider this strategy and pick up and meld (most like basic canasta).
Conceal canastas or sambas: By holding in your hand 5 or 6 card sets, you are more likely to see your opponents discard the cards you need to make complete sets.
Go out quickly: If you are way behind in the accumulated score, or if all players/teams have relatively low scores, consider this strategy. You will definitely want to form “black” canastas and use extra wild cards with concealed pairs.
Block the discard pile A high risk strategy, but by using wild cards as blocker cards, you can often create an “all in” situation in which the discard pile becomes very rich in valuable cards. TO use this high-risk strategy successfully, you must possess at least one pair of a rank likely to be discarded by the player to your right.
Conceal key cards by discarding cards that could be melded by you now or sometime in future, you can sometime conceal the key cards your opponents need to complete canastas or sambas. Consider this strategy if you hold multiple cards of a specific card that the opponents require.