Buraco is a meld-making card game deriving from the Rummy Genre. It was first popularized in the mid-40s in Argentina and Uruguay. It is a variation on the popular Rummy offshoot Canasta, and exists in the Canasta sub-genre of Rummy games.
The game is also particularly popular in the Middle East, where it is referred to as “Brazilian cards” due to its origin in South America, as well as its name, which is derived from the Portuguese word for “hole”. The name refers to the negative score a Player or Partnership can accrue if they play poorly.
How to Play Buraco?
The Buraco card game is distinct from other variations of Rummy, because it does not include the Jokers. Instead, it uses the standard Anglo-American configuration of 52-cards.
As Buraco is a partnership game, it can only be Played with 4 Players. There is a 2-Player variation, which will be explained in the FAQ section below.
Once the decks are combined into one deck, they should be shuffled. Each Player should sit in a cardinal direction around the deck, with partners sitting opposite each other. North-South, and East-West will form the two partnerships. No Player should be sitting next to their partner.
Before the start of the game, each team will draw one card from the top of the deck. The team which draws the lower card becomes the Dealer. Once the Dealer is established, the Player to the counter-clockwise of the Dealer will try to cut exactly 22 cards from the top of the deck.
If this Player successfully cuts exactly 22 cards, their team gains 100 points immediately. These cards will be separated into two hands of 11 cards. One of these hands will then be turned 90° on top of the other, and these cards will be placed in the corner of the board. These cards are known as pots.
While the pots are being made, the Dealer will distribute 11 cards to each Player, one at a time. The remaining cards will be placed in the center of the board in one face-down pile, known as the stock.
From there, the game begins with the first draw. The first draw is unique to Buraco, relative to other Rummy games. This is because the discard pile has not been created at the start of the game.
The first Player to draw will draw the top card from the stock. If they choose not to take it, the card can immediately be turned up next to the stock, in order to create the discard pile. The Player may then draw one more card.
All 2 cards in the deck are considered wildcards. This means they may take the place of any one card in a Book or Run. For example, K♦, K♣, 2♣, or 4♦, 5♦, 2♦, 7♦.
As is normal with Rummy games, each Player’s turn begins with drawing one card, and ends with discarding one card. During their turn, between these two actions, a Player may meld cards or play individual cards which fit in to melds that they or their teammate have already placed on the board.
After discarding, a Player may not make any more actions for their turn.
There are two melds in Buraco that may be played during the course of a game. Runs, and Books.
Runs are sequential groups of cards that are at least 3 cards in length. A run is incremental in rank, with all cards of the same suit(♥♦♣♠). For example, 4♦, 5♦, 6♦.
A Book is the other kind of meld in Buraco. However, unlike other Rummy-style games, Books may only be made in Buraco with face cards. This includes the Aces, meaning Aces, Kings, Queens, and Jacks are the only cards that may be used for Books in Buraco. For Books, suit does not matter like it does for Runs.
Melds may only be placed on the board if they meet a particular score threshold. From 0-1500 points, the value of the card’s points (which are explained below in the Scoring section) must be greater than or equal to 50 Points. If a team has 1501-2000+ Points, then the value of a meld must total 75 Points.
Ending the Game
Players will continue until one partnership accrues 2,000 or more points. The first partnership to reach this 2,000 Point threshold wins the game.
When a Player uses all of the cards in their hand, they will take one of the pot hands and use them as their own hand. If a team has not taken at least one pot card by the end of the game, there will be a scoring malus against them.
Also, in a niche situation, if the Stock is emptied, one of the pots will be added to the Stock. If the Stock is emptied a second time, the game ends and neither team is granted bonus points for ending the game.
Cards that are still in the hand at the end of the game will have their point totals subtracted from the partnership’s overall score. Melds that are on the board also grant bonus points, in addition to the point value of each individual card.
- You may build on your own team’s runs, but not on your opponent’s runs.
- Books are only made of face cards.
- Suit counts for Runs, but it does not matter for Books.
- The rules of Buraco allow for Books, unlike Canasta.
Scoring & Points
Melds grant bonus point totals depending on whether they are “clean” or “dirty”.
A clean meld has no wildcards in it, while a dirty meld has at least one wild card. A clean meld is worth two hundred bonus points, in addition to the individual card values. A dirty meld is worth one hundred bonus points.
This chart will explain how to score the value of each individual card. Remember, cards that are in your hand at the end of the game should have this point value subtracted, rather than added, to the total score.
The following is an example of a Dirty meld, and a Clean meld, as well as their total point values.
8♦, 9♦, 10♦, J♦, Q♦
A clean Run, worth a total of 250 Points. 200 for the clean meld bonus, and 50 for the individual card values. It also meets the 50-point initial meld requirement for teams with less than 1,500 points.
K♦, K♣, K♠, 2♣
A dirty Book, worth a total of 150 points. 100 for the dirty meld bonus, and 50 for the individual card values. It also meets the 50-point initial meld requirement for teams with less than 1,500 points.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many cards do you deal in Buraco?
Hands, both those dealt to the pot and those dealt to each Player’s hands, are always dealt in increments of 11 cards.
What is the difference between Buraco and Canasta?
In Canasta, the only melds which are allowed to be played are “sequences”, also known as Canastras or Runs. These are cards of incremental value of the same suit, like a Straight Flush in Poker.
Buraco, however, allows for an additional meld, often referred to as a “Book.” Books are cards of the same rank (All Kings, all Aces, etc.), but different suits. Books are like three or four-of-a-kind combinations found in other card games.
Can you play Buraco with two players?
Although more difficult, it is possible to play Buraco with two players. Instead of partnerships, each Player will be playing against each other.
Deal each Player 22 cards, instead of the normal 11. Each pot will still be made of 11 cards however. In 2-Player Buraco, for ease of play, Players should also be allowed to play cards on each other’s melds.