Samba is a meld-making card game, in the same genre as other fun games such as Canasta or Hand and Foot. Canasta and Samba are very similar games, with one a few small rule changes that differentiate the two.
Canastra is traditionally played with a single deck, while the Samba card game is played with multiple, usually two though sometimes three.
How to Play Samba?
Samba is played with two shuffled together Joker variants of the Standard Anglo-American 52-card deck. With the Jokers added, each deck totals 54 cards, making for a total of 108 cards in the Samba deck.
In addition to the 4 Jokers present in the deck, the 2s of each suit (♥♦♣♠) are also considered wild cards. These wild cards may be substituted in a spread, also known as a meld, for other cards that might be used in the spread normally.
For example, an appropriate spread may be made up of a sequence of cards of the same suit. A 4♦5♦6♦ could be a legal spread. The same spread may be played without the 5♦ if there is a 2 in your hand. The wild cards do not need to be of any particular suit, so the spread of ♦ could be played with the following cards: 4♦2♣5♦.
In order to win a game of Samba, unlike in other meld-making Rummy style games, a player must reach the score total of 10,000 points. Once this is done, the round of play ends and scores are totaled. The Player with 10,000 points is the winner.
At the start of the round, each Player is dealt 15 cards, with the remaining cards left in the center of the area of play as the “Stock”. When cards are drawn through the course of play, they will be drawn from the stock.
The top card of the stock, before the game begins, will be flipped face-up and placed next to the stock. This is the discard pile. If the first drawn card from the stock for this purpose is a wild card, or a red 3, then it will be placed on the bottom of the stock and a new card will be drawn.
Start of Play
Each Player will start their turn by either drawing two cards from the stock, or drawing from the discard pile.
In order to draw from the discard pile, certain conditions must be met:
- The Player must have a pair of cards matching the rank of the card on the top pile.
- Or the Player must play a meld that reaches the point threshold of that round.
This threshold is based on the number of points a Player has at the start of that round.
- Having negative points requires only a 15-point meld to take from the pile.
- Between 0 and 1495 points requires 50.
- Between 1,500 and 2,995 points requires a meld of 90 points.
- Once a Player has more than 3,000 points they will be required to meld a 120-point play before they may take from the discard pile.
Melds, or spreads, must be made of particular sets of cards. Either cards of the same rank must be played, for example:
9♦, 9♣, 9♥
Or a spread must be made of sequential cards of the same suit, for example:
5♣, 6♣, 7♣
Wild cards may also be used, and these are either the Jokers or the 2s of the deck. The wild cards are not dependent on their suit, for example:
4♦, 2♥, 5♦
There is a special meld, known as the “Samba”. This is is a sequence of 7 cards of the same suit.
There are also two special cards, the red and black 3s. The red 3s are not used to form melds, and are instead placed on the table and replaced with cards from the stock when they are drawn.
If a Player that places a red 3 on the table has at least two melds, they will be awarded 100 bonus points at the end of the round, unless they do not have at least two melds played. In this case, 100 points are deducted at the end of the round instead.
Black 3s cannot be used for melds unless it is to “drop” or end the game. Black 3s, when discarded, prevent any Player from drawing from the discard pile until it is covered by another discard next turn.
A summary of the rules for Samba can be seen below.
- Cards cannot be drawn from the discard pile unless your team has met the point requirement.
- A meld requires a minimum of 3 cards to be played.
- Samba can be played in pairs, similarly to games like Hearts and Spades.
- The game ends when one Player reaches 10,000 points. That Player is the winner.
Samba is scored using the following score sheet:
Melds are also scored in the following way:
|Pure Meld, no Wild Cards||500|
|Meld with Wild Cards||300|
|One Red Three||100|
Points may also be deducted in Samba for the following reasons:
- Red 3s that were not placed on the table: -1500
- Red 3s played without two melds: -100
- Three wild cards in a single meld: -100
- Drawing when it is not your turn: -100
- Playing cards when it is not your turn: -100
As cards are drawn and discarded during the course of the game, this example will be from a freshly dealt start of the game.
The above represents a possible starting hand, with one possible meld being:
- Use your black 3 cards defensively, a Player cannot draw from the discard pile on your turn when you discard the black 3.
- The Samba is difficult to get, but is worth roughly 1/7 of the total points needed to win the game. If you already close to a Samba, or if there is a meld on the table that you can play off of, try to go for go for it.
- The wildcards may only make dirty melds, which are worth less points, but it is still a substantial number of points, and discarded wildcards can be picked up and used by other players. Use your wildcards when you can.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many decks of cards do you need for Samba?
Two Joker variant decks of the 52-card Anglo-American Standard decks should be used. Hence, the total number of cards in a Samba deck should be 108 cards.
Can you play Samba with 6 Players?
Yes, the Samba card game can be played with up to 6 Players without changing the rules at all.
What is the difference between Samba and Canasta?
The difference between Samba and Canasta is the use of an additional possible meld in Samba. In Canasta, only cards of the same rank may be played in a meld. In Samba, cards of the same suit but sequential in rank may also be played as a meld.