Subject Advice


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I have been running a group since 2013 although I learnt Canasta in my early teens, playing with my parents and sister in the late 1950s.

I started the group after reading the Third Age Matters magazine and noting that there was a subject expert for Canasta. I contacted him for advice and since then the group has gone from strength to strength with about 30 members playing weekly in Plymouth, until the lockdown!

The reason I have included Bolivia is that some of my group after reading the rules which come in the special 2 card pack of Canasta, (see below) asked if they could try Samba and then Bolivia. The result was that most of the group now play Bolivia! It is a much more challenging game!

Please get in touch using the contact form above or via 07798 736909 if you have any questions. 

Margaret Thompson, Canasta & Bolivia Subject Adviser

MT canasta


Canasta1 Canasta originated in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1939. It is played with 2 packs of cards and 4 players although you can play with 2, 3 or 6 players.
Initially, you make melds of 3 cards of the same value which you build on to make a Canasta (7 cards). Cards have different values according to their face value. The purpose of the game is to reach 5,000 points. The more points you score, the more card values you need to put in an initial meld - in other words, you are handicapped. This is what makes the game interesting.



Canasta 2 I am not sure of the origin of SAMBA & BOLIVIA. It is better to learn to play SAMBA first and then to progress. You play with 3 packs of cards and can have runs as well as melds of the same value cards. I show an example of Sambas here, showing the runs. The object of the game is to reach 10,000 points and make at least 2 canastas in each hand.



Canasta3  With Bolivia, in addition to making Canastas and Sambas, you can make a Bolivia – a canasta of wild cards. Again you have to achieve 2 Canastas in order to go out but one of them must be a Samba (a run). Here you can see a Bolivia hand with melds of wild cards (Jokers & 2s), runs and same value cards.



There are basic rules for all these games but there are also variations. I have produced a set of rules for each game and these are used by my group. Although some members who joined my group played different variations in the past, they now play “my” rules. These are available using the links below:

Canasta Rules

Samba Rules

Bolivia Rules


During the lockdown, I discovered through a member of the group that we could play online on an iPad with another 3 members. I am happy to give details to anyone who wants to try it. I understand there is “Canasta Palace” but I failed to get on to the website after waiting for several minutes. There is also a game on

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