Pennies–also called Pennies from Heaven–is a North American version of the popular South American card game canasta. It is played with four decks (including two jokers from each deck) and two teams of three people each. Many of the concepts, such as melds, are the same as in canasta, but many are different–such as being dealt two hands, one of which remains face down until a player makes his first canasta.
The six players set around a table, alternating team members. Each player is dealt a hand of 13 cards and a "foot" of 11 cards that remain face down until the player makes or completes the first canasta (a seven-card meld). The remaining 72 cards are placed face down in a stack–called the stock–in the middle of the table. The top card is turned over to start the discard pile. During his turn, a player may draw two cards from the stock or pick up the entire discard pile. The player then can start a meld or add to a team meld. Players must end each turn with a single discard. A discard stack can be picked up if it does not have a wild card (jokers and twos) or a three on top. The player must use the top card plus at least two natural (not wild) cards of the same rank in a meld.
Melds and Canastas
Melds must have four to seven cards. After a meld is put on the table, any team member may add to it during his turn. Cards in melds have different values: jokers are worth 50 points, aces and twos are worth 20 each, eights through kings are worth 10 each and threes through sevens are worth five each. Canastas have bonus points above just the values of the cards. A mixed canasta (up to three wild cards) is worth 300 points, a natural canasta (no wild cards) is worth 500 points, a wild canasta (seven wild cards) is worth 1,000 points, and a sevens canasta (seven sevens) is worth 1,500 points.
As in canasta, threes have a special role in Pennies. Red threes count 100 points each and can be laid down the moment they are encountered. Black threes have no value but can stop a discard pile from being picked up if they are the top card.
Going Out and Winning
A player can go out only if his team has made all four kinds of canastas: mixed, natural, wild and sevens. To go out, a player must lay down all (or all but one) card in melds or additions to team melds. The final discard cannot be a seven. It is not necessary to ask permission from a team member before going out, but if you do ask you must do as the team member requests. Cards held by team members (including any feet that have not been picked up) are deducted from the melds on the table. The game is over when at least one team reaches 20,000 and the team with the highest score wins.
- playing cards image by Mijakowska from Fotolia.com