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Dollars from Heaven

(A variation of Pennies from Heaven)

Contributed by Noel McClintock

Players and Cards

There are 4 or 6 players in two teams, It is best with only 4 players, sitting alternately. 4 packs of cards are used, including 2 jokers for each pack - a total of 216 cards. If there are 6 players, use 5 packs (270 cards). All twos and jokers are wild. Red and black threes have special properties as in regular canasta. The values of the individual cards, as in Canasta, are:

Joker.....50 points each
Two, Ace.....20 points each
K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8.....10 points each
7, 6, 5, 4, black 3.....5 points each


The dealer deals 13 cards to each player, one at a time, which the players may look at, followed by a further 11 cards to each, which must not be looked at and are kept in a face-down pile until the player has completed a canasta. The remaining stock of cards is placed face down in two separate piles and a top card is turned face up between the two stock piles to start the discard pile.


A turn consists of the following stages:

  • Drawing the top two cards from the stock or taking the top 5 cards from the discard pile.
  • Possibly starting a new meld or adding one or more cards to your own side's melds.
  • Discarding one card from your hand face up on the discard pile.

Melds and Canastas

A canasta is a meld of seven cards. Five types of canasta are possible.

TypeDescriptionBonus Points
Natural (red) canastaSeven cards of the same rank with no wild cards.500
Mixed (black) canastaContains one, two or three wild cards. The remaining cards are all of the same rank (not threes or sevens).300
Wild canastaAny seven wild cards.1000
Sevens canastaSeven sevens (no wild cards)1500
Sequence CanastaA sequence (run) of 7 consecutive Natural Cards from the same suit, known as a Samba2000

A meld can be started with three or more cards and built up to a canasta by adding cards on later turns. No meld may ever contain more than seven cards. If you have completed a canasta, it is permissible for your team to start another separate meld of the same rank.

A mixed meld in course of construction must contain at least two natural (non-wild) cards and cannot contain more than two wild cards. A natural meld can be turned into a mixed meld by adding wild cards to it.

A sequence meld in course of construction must always consist of a run of three or more consecutive cards of one suit.

A game consists of 4 deals, and the number of points a needed by each team for their initial meld increases for each new deal as follows:

  • First deal: initial meld at least 50 points
  • Second deal: initial meld at least 90 points.
  • Third deal: initial meld at least 120 points.
  • Fourth deal: initial meld at least 150 points.

Bonuses for red threes and canastas do not count towards this minimum - it must be achieved by means of the value of the cards in the meld.

Discarding, freezing and taking the pile

Sevens cannot be discarded except when used as the final discard when going out. Jokers can never be discarded. Any other card, including a wild two, can be discarded. Sevens held in your hand after completing a sevens canasta can be used in a sequence canasta (samba).

You can never take the pile if the top card is a wild card or a black three.

If the top card of the pile is a natural card and you have two matching natural cards in your hand, you can always take the pile, provided that you immediately meld its top card together with the two cards from your hand. The remaining cards from the pile cannot be used until your next turn.

If your side has not melded before, you must at the same time put down sufficient cards from your hand, in this and possibly other melds, to satisfy the minimum meld requirement. Only after meeting this requirement are you allowed to take from the rest of the pile.

If a wild card (not a joker) is discarded, it is placed sideways in the pile, which is then frozen. If the pile is not frozen (i.e. does not contain a wild card buried in it), you may take the top 5 cards of the pile if the top card matches one of your team's existing (pure or mixed) melds of fewer than 7 cards, and in this case you must add the card to the meld. However, if a card is discarded that matches one of your completed 7-card canastas, you cannot take the pile unless you have two matching natural cards of that rank in your hand, and you use these three cards to start a new meld of that rank.

If your opponents have a meld of 5 or 6 cards and the pile is frozen, you can safely discard a card of the same rank as their meld. Even if the next player has a pair of matching cards, they cannot use it to take the pile, since they can neither make a meld of more than 7 cards, nor start a second meld of the same rank before the existing meld of that rank is completed.

The pile can never be taken to use its top card to start a new sequence meld. If the pile is not frozen, it can be taken to add its top card to a sequence meld of fewer than 7 cards which you already have on the table.

Picking up the Foot

You are not allowed to look at your face down hand of 11 cards until you have personally completed a canasta - i.e. contributed the seventh and last card to a canasta for your team. When you first complete a canasta in this way, after discarding at the end of that turn, you pick up your 11 face down cards and add them to the cards in your hand to use at your next turn.

Red and Black Threes

Anyone who is dealt or draws a red three must immediately place it face up with their team's melds and draw a replacement card from the stock. Red threes do not count towards a team's minimum meld. If a red three is turned up as the first card of the pile after the deal, it freezes the pile. At the end, if you have completed your canasta of sevens, each red three you have laid out counts for 100 points bonus. A team which has all eight red threes counts 1000 points instead of 800. If a player has not yet completed a canasta and picked up their 11 card packet (foot), any red threes in the 11 cards count minus 100. If a team has not completed a canasta of sevens by the time the other team goes out, all their red threes count minus 100 each (minus 1000 if they have all eight).

Black threes cannot be melded except by a player going out, who can at that point put down three or more of them as a meld (no wild cards are allowed in a meld of black threes). If a black three is discarded, the next player in turn is not allowed to pick up the pile, but as soon as the black three is covered it ceases to have an effect.

Going out and winning

You can only go out when your team has completed all five types of canasta. You must have at least one example of each type - natural, mixed, wild, sequence and sevens - completed with 7 cards in each, and you may also have additional canastas or smaller melds of any types. If your team has not satisfied these conditions you are not allowed to play in such a way as to leave yourself with no cards. You may (but need not) ask permission to go out from one of your partners, and if you choose to ask you must do as the partner says. To go out you meld all of your cards, or all except one, which you discard. Your final discard can be a seven.

After a player goes out both teams score for all the cards in their melds, plus any bonuses for canastas, and the team that went out scores 100 bonus for this. They subtract the value of all the cards left in their hands, including the 11-card packets (feet) of any players who have not yet picked theirs up. Scores for red threes are added or subtracted as appropriate.

It can happen that no one succeeds in going out before the stock runs out. In that case the play ends at the moment someone wishes to draw cards from the stock, but there are no cards left there. However the game can continue without a stock as long as each player is able and willing to take the previous player's discard. If the game ends because the stock has run out, the hand is scored in the usual way, except that of course that neither team gets the 100-point bonus.

The play can also end if one player has a hand consisting entirely of sevens, but at least one team has not completed its sevens canasta. If possible, you must play to avoid this situation: you are not allowed to meld all your other cards, leaving yourself only with sevens; you must keep at least one legal discard. However, if you discarded your last non-seven on your previous turn, and you then draw two more sevens from the stock pile, you have no way to discard. In this situation you may meld all but one of your sevens (if legal) and then because you have no discard the play ends. Both teams score in the usual way and no one gets the 100-point bonus for going out.

After four deals have been played, the team with the higher number of points wins. In case of equality, another hand is played.

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Last updated: 20th May 2015