Guest Author - Robin Rounds Whittemore
REMAINING CARDS AND DISCARDS IN CANASTA:
After eleven cards have been dealt to each player, the remaining cards are placed face down on the board or table. The top card is turned face up. The first player can take the first face down card or the face up card.
The face up card can only be taken by a player who can play the card at that time. There is no taking the card and saving it for another time. This means that two other cards in your hand have to be the same rank as the card you want to pick up. You cannot pick up a card and play it with two wild cards for a meld.
Should you take the face up card, you are also entitled as well as obligated to take any cards underneath the face up card. This can help you make more melds. It could also hurt you if you do not have enough cards to make many melds and have a lot of points in your hand when someone goes out.
As in Rummy, when you finish your play of picking up, you must always discard. The rule of discarding is ignored only if you put the finishing touches on one last meld before going out.
A black three on the face up pile means that the next player cannot pick up the pile. They must draw from the face down pile. Even when a pile is frozen, a black three is not a waste as it could prevent the next player from picking up the top card as well as all the discards.
If you put a two or Joker on the face up pile, the pile is frozen. You may want to put a marker of some kind near the pile to remind everyone that the pile is frozen. Sometimes the pile adds up and you can easily forget that the pile is frozen. One idea for a reminder marker is to place the card that froze the pile to the right of the pile.
The only way to unfreeze the pile and take the top card on the pile; is to have at least two cards of the same rank as the last card that was laid down to take the pile. If you only have a wild card and one card that matches the top card of the frozen pile, you cannot take it. Even though two cards and a wild card make a meld of three, that play would not be allowed.