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I started playing Canasta this past weekend with some of my relatives. We played with four people, two teams of two. I understand most of the strategy for the game, but freezing the pile generally seems like a terrible idea.

I noticed that, in general, the team that froze the pile wasn't the team that ended up picking it up. What it did create was large discard piles, and whoever picked it up got a lot of points that hand, along with the wild card that the other team used to freeze the pile in the first place.

In some cases, the reason a player froze the pile was to avoid discarding something that the other team had already melded, but it still seems more beneficial to dump a card on a relatively small discard pile that you know will get picked up. Plus you wouldn't be losing a wild card in the process.

I also understand that this gives you some leeway in discarding; suddenly you're able to discard cards that have been melded and are on the table since there is a low chance that the opposing team is still holding onto them.

I feel like I might be overlooking some other benefits of freezing the discard pile. When is it beneficial to freeze the discard pile? In what circumstances might this be a good play?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

When your team doesn't have enough points to start, but the other team has started, they will be able to take the pile more often and you don't want to keep cards because they have them open.

Sure, freezing the Box costs a wild card, but a lot of time I prefer to lose a wild card instead of giving the box to my opponents over and over.

Also a really good strategy is to freeze the box to let it grow; you keep a trap in your hand to get the box.

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