Samba is closely related to Canasta, but introduces a couple of variations that for some, make the game that much more enjoyable. For a start, both Groups and Sequences count, and you use three decks of cards.
Samba is usually played by four in two fixed-partnerships, but can be readily extended to 5, or even six players in three fixed-partnerships.
3 decks of standard playing cards, plus 6 Jokers. A total of 162 cards.
Jokers and 2s are wild, and are used to assume the identity of any card the player nominates.
Deal and play are clockwise, and the deal proceeds to the left at the end of each hand. Each player is dealt 15 cards one at a time. The rest of the pack is left face down in the middle of the table and forms the stock. The top card is turned face up and placed beside the stock. This begins the discard pile.
The principal objective of play is to score points by making melds consisting of three or more cards. Melds are composed of either cards of the same rank or cards of the same suit in sequence.
In Samba, melds come in two types; Groups which are three or more cards of the same rank; and Sequences which are three or more cards of the same suit in numerical sequence.
Wild cards may not be melded together separately but may only be used to complete other melds. A Group may contain no more than two wild cards. A sequence may not contain any wild cards.
A player may lay off to their own melds, or those of their partner, but may not lay off cards to their opposition’s melds.
To meld a sequence you need three or more cards of the same suit in sequential order. For this purpose, 4 is low and Ace is high. Once laid out, either partner may extend the sequence by adding more cards. Once there are seven cards in a sequence it becomes a “Samba” or “Sequence Canasta” and receives a bonus of 1500 points.
To meld a group, you need three or more cards of the same rank. Once laid out, either partner may extend it by adding more cards to it.
A canasta is a group of seven cards of the same rank. They are of two kinds – “Natural”, which means it has no wild cards, OR “Mixed” which mean it contains one or two wild cards.
A side may have two canastas in the same rank and may combine its melds in the same rank at any time to form a Canasta.
A side needs two canastas to go out. These two canasta can be natural, mixed, or samba – it doesn’t matter so long as there are two of them.
A red three may be melded as a single card. Every melded red three is worth 100 bonus points, but only when you have the required two sambas or canastas necessary to end the game.
Any side to have melded all six red threes scores 1000 points for them.
Black threes can be melded in groups, but only on the turn on which you go out.
They also block the discard pile for the opponents when discarded.
The Initial Meld
Depending on a partnership’s score, their initial meld in each hand is subject to minimum requirements.
Red 3s and bonuses for a Samba or Canasta do not count toward meeting the minimum.
Drawing from the Discard Pile
A player, instead of drawing two cards from the Stock, may draw from the discard pile when:
a) if the player has two natural cards in their hand that match in rank the top face up card of the discard pile.
The procedure goes:
Note: Therefore, you can never take the pile and add the top card to a group laid out on the table, unless of course, you have two natural cards in your hand that match.
b) If the partnership has already melded a sequence of less than seven cards, and the top card of the discard pile fits either end of the sequence, you may take this one card only from the discard pile and add it to your sequence without drawing two from the stock. In this case, you only get the one card, you don’t take the whole discard pile.
Note: Therefore, you cannot take the discard pile or its top card to make a new sequence meld. The card can only be added to an existing sequence meld.
Blocking the Deck
Naturally, then, if the top card of the discard pile is a 3, red or black, a 2 or a Joker, it is impossible to take the pile. Therefore, discarding a 3, 2 or Joker effectively blocks the next player from taking the pile.
It should be noted, that this is not the same as “freezing the discard pile” as you do in Canasta. It merely blocks the next player from taking the pile.
Two sequences cannot be merged by adding a ‘connecting card’ to form a Samba.
However, you may combine two Groups of the same rank to form a Canasta.
A player goes out when he/she has no cards left in their hand. A player may go out by either melding all their cards, OR by melding all but one, and discarding the last.
A player may not go out unless their partnership has at least two Canastas on the table. If you don’t have the required Canastas or Sambas, you must play in such as way as to retain your one card until you or your partner can go out.
If a player is able to go out, he/she may ask their partner if they can end the game by saying something like, “Can I go out?”. The partner answers “Yes” or “No”, but remember, the answer is binding, and the player must then do as their partner answers.
However, it is not obligatory to ask if you can go out. A player may simply end the game by playing his/her last card.
Depleting the Stock
It may happen, that the stock is exhausted before any player has gone out. In such a case, where there is only one more card to draw, not two, then that player whose turn it is simply draws the last single card, melding and discarding to complete their turn.
When the stock is gone, players continue taking their turns discarding or melding, and even taking the discard pile if they want to. At the point where one player wishes to draw from the now exhausted stock, play ends and the hand is scored.
No one gets the bonus for Going Out!
Once a player has gone out, each side scores PLUS for their melds, and the total value of the individual cards that comprise those melds, MINUS the value of the cards left in hand.
The Value of Cards
The game is played over several hands to a grand total of 10 000 points.