I played Canasta all day long. Men against the women. I played so much Canasta my fingers are calloused from shuffling cards. My dreams were filled with dreams about cards stacking and aligning themselves according to their value. There’ll probably be one more game today before I move on to Dad and Kathy’s for yet more Christmas cheer.
The trick to playing Canasta is to tell your partner what you have in your hand so he will know how to play the current round. This tactic is a violation of the rules, but only if you say it in a NOT helpful fashion. For example, if you want your partner to play an 8 of Spades, you might say, “If you have an 8 of Spades you might want to hold onto it in case I have the 9”. However, it would be considered cheating if you say, “Don’t play the 8 of Spades there, because I’m going to play the 9 here.” See the difference?
The other trick to playing Canasta is to be mindful of when to tell a fellow player to hurry up. You generally never tell a player on your team to hurry up because you don’t want your teammate to make a mistake. Instead, you bombard him with ‘helpful advice’. However, when someone on your opponent’s team is slowing things down, that’s an opportune time to express your indignation and offense at not knowing ahead of time, what cards she should be playing. This is doubly so, if the opponent happens to be your mother.
Looking at another player’s cards is a violation of the rules, except when the other player is holding them in such a way that you can see them, or except for when you wish to ‘help’ her. ‘Helping’ your opponent by looking at her cards is not frowned upon. You’re also allowed to play your cards out of turn in case you ‘forgot’ to play them during your own turn. This is especially ‘helpful’ to your teammates as he makes decisions about his own turn. After all, it would be a shame if he forgot to make a play because you forgot to play something earlier.
The final game of Canasta ended in an epic 3 on 3 battle for all the marbles. At one point Dave, Papa and I were down by 3,000 points. The cards were smoking. My fingers were cramped. My eyelids, heavy. It was 11pm. And then all at once, I drew the two cards I needed to go out. In the final talley we won by less than 1,000 points.