Bolivia Card Game Rules

By Sophie Johnson

Bolivia is a card game for four people playing in partnerships. Players meld sets or sequences of the same suit to earn points. To meld, players lay down cards and both members of the team can build on those cards.

Basics

Bolivia uses two decks plus four jokers--jokers and 2s are wild. Everyone receives eleven cards and the rest are placed face-down as the stock. The top card is turned over beside it to start the discard pile.

Melding

Melds must be at least three cards, although melds can be added to with single cards. Natural cards must outnumber wild cards in a set. Only three wild cards can be used in a set unless it is entirely wild cards.

Sequences can't contain wild cards. Aces are high. Sequences of seven cards are turned face-down in a stack.

Seven or more melded cards is a "canasta." Without wild cards it's "natural," otherwise it's "mixed." Natural set canastas are stacked with a red card on top. Black cards top mixed canastas. You can keep building to canastas.

A team's first meld of a round must contain a minimum number of points: If the team's overall score is below zero, the minimum is 15; it's 50 if the team has scored up to 1,495; 90 if the team has scored 1,500 to 2,995; 120 if the team has 3,000 to 6,995; and 150 if the team has 7,000 or more.

You can't meld 3s unless going out. At that time, meld black 3s only into a three- or four-of-a-kind.

Lay a red 3 down at first chance and replace it from the stock unless it's picked up with the discard pile.

Play

Players draw from the stock or discard pile, meld if desired, then discard. Discards aren't required when going out.

Drawing from the discard pile means picking up the whole thing and immediately melding the top card, combining it with cards from the hand or adding it to an existing meld.

Pick from the stock if the discard pile is frozen (your team hasn't made initial meld; the discard pile contains a wild card, black 3 or red 3). When the pile is frozen, unfreeze it by melding the top card without using wild cards.

If the stock runs out, players draw from the discard pile—including making the necessary meld to do so—until no one can play. Players with one card can't pick up a one-card discard pile.

A side must meld two canastas to go out and one must be a sequence. A player wanting to go out asks, "May I go out, partner?" The partner's answer can be "Yes" or "No." If a player goes out without previous melding, he goes out "concealed."

Scoring commences after someone goes out.

Points

Teams score when melds contain certain cards. Each joker is worth 50; each 2 or ace scores 20; each king through 8 scores 10; and each 7 through black 3 scores 5. Each red 3 is worth 100; a team with all four earns 800 instead.

Cards left in the hand count minus. A black 3 is -100.

Bonuses are as follows: Going out unconcealed or concealed earns 100 or 200 points respectively; natural canastas score 500 each; mixed canastas, 300. "Bolivias"—canastas made of wild cards—score 2,500.

Play continues with a new deal until a side reaches 15,000.

About the Author

Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.