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Bolivia is a card game of the Rummy family, most closely related to Samba, which is itself is a variation of Canasta. In fact, another name for Bolivia is "Bolivian Canasta". Bolivia plays just like Samba but with some important differences, as we shall see.

As it is explained here, Bolivia is a card game for four people in two fixed partnerships.

The Cards:

Bolivia is played with three standard decks of playing cards, which includes all six jokers, giving you a total of 162 cards.

Within play, all cards from 4 to Ace make up natural cards. The 2s and Jokers are wild - i.e. assuming the identity assigned to them by the player. Additionally, the 3s have special uses as explained below.


The objective of the game is to score points by making melds either as "groups" - i.e. three or more cards of the same rank; or as "sequences" - i.e. three or more cards of the same suit in numerical order.

In Bolivia melds may contain as many as wild cards as you like. In fact, you can even meld three or more wild cards as a set of their own. There are no restrictions as there is in Samba. A "canasta" of seven wild cards is called a "Bolivia" and earns a 2500-point bonus.


Three or more cards of the same rank.

Three or more cards of the same suit in sequential order. For this purpose, 4 is low and Ace is high.

Escalera (Samba):
An "Escalera" is a sequence of seven cards. Once a normal "sequence" has been laid out, either partner may extend on it by adding more cards. Once there are seven cards in the sequence it becomes an "Escalera" and receives a bonus of 1,500 points.

To meld a group, you need three or more cards of the same rank. Once laid out, either partner may extend on it by adding more cards. Once there are seven cards in the group, it becomes a "Canasta".

Canastas are of two kinds - "Natural" meaning the Canasta has no wild cards; and "Mixed" which means it contains one or two wild cards.

A Canasta of seven wild cards is a "Bolivia", and earns a bonus of 2,500 points.

Red 3s:
A Red 3 may be melded as a single card. Every melded Red 3 is worth 100 bonus points, but only when you have the required two Canastas to go out. Any side to have melded all six Red 3s scores 1000 points for them.

Black 3s:
Black 3s can be melded in groups, but only on the turn on which you go out. Each Black 3 is worth 5 points. They can also be used to block the discard pile for the opponent to the player's immediate left when discarded.

The Deal:

Deal and play are clockwise, and the deal proceeds to the left at the end of each hand which is determined as by when one side "goes out".

Each player is dealt 15 cards, one at time, and the rest of deck is placed face down in the center of the table to form the stock. The top card is turned face up and placed beside the deck to create the discard pile. And play begins.

The Play:

Left of the Dealer plays first, and play continues around the table in a clockwise direction.

A player's turn consists of:

  1. Draw two cards from the stock
  2. Meld if they can and so desire. You can make as many melds as you like. You are not restricted to making just one.
  3. Discard one card to the discard pile. (a discard is not required when going out)

The following rules apply:

  • When the top card of the discard pile is a wild card (i.e. Joker or 2) or a Black 3 it may not be taken.
  • Your initial meld must meld the minimum requirements.
  • To "go out" your team must have an Escalera and a second major combination - either another Escalera, a Canasta or a Bolivia.
  • If you're caught with any Black 3s in your hand when someone goes out, they each count as - 100 points against you.

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:

  1. Take the top card from the discard pile
  2. Meld this together with the two cards from the player’s hand
  3. If this is the partnership’s initial meld, the player may meld further cards to make their minimum requirement.
  4. Then, take the whole of the rest of the discard pile
  5. The player may then make further melds if they so wish
  6. Finally, discard one card to end the turn.

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 Discard Pile

Naturally, then, if the top card of the discard pile is a Black 3, a 2 or a Joker, it is impossible to take the pile. Therefore, discarding a Black 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.

The Intitial Meld:

Depending on a partnership's score, their initial meld in each hand is subject to the following minimum requirements:


Minimum Initial Meld

0 - 1495

50 points

1500 - 2995

90 points

3000 - 6995

120 points

7000 +

150 points


15 points

Going Out - Concealed and Unconcealed:

A team "Goes Out" when one member tables all cards. In order to "go out" your team must have the minimum requirement of an Escalera and a second major combination (as noted above). Before going out, a player may ask their partner if they can go out but you don't have to ask them. If you do so, your the partner must answer "Yes" or "No" and the answer is binding. That means if your partner says "No", you may not go out. You must therefore retain at least one card in your hand after you meld and discard, even if this means retrieving cards you just tabled.

Going out "concealed" means that you meld all your cards in one go in your initial meld.

"Going Out" rewards the partnership with 100 bonus points. Going out concealed earns you 200 bonus points.

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 tallies up the value of their melds, plus the total value of the individual cards that comprise those melds, and MINUS the value of cards left in hand.



20 Points

K > 8

10 Points

7 > 4

5 Points

Black 3

5 Points

Red 3

100 Points


20 Points


50 Points


All Six Red 3s

1000 Pts

Each Escalera

1500 Pts

Each Bolivia

2500 Pts

Each Natural Canasta

500 Pts

Each Mixed Canasta

300 Pts

Going Out Unconcealed

100 Pts

Going Out Concealed

200 Pts


The first team to reach 15,000 points wins the game. If both teams are over 15,000 points at the end of a hand, then the team with the higher score wins the game.


Bolivia Rules - Rummy-Games.com
Bolivia Card Game Rules - Our Pastimes Card Games
Canasta - Card Games Heaven

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