I played Canasta many years ago in my teens - so memory may have faded somewhat - but O would like to refresh and try playing more. On revisiting the rules, I am confused by the Freeze Pile / Stop Card as described by Scarne (the rules by which we used to play).

The 'Frozen pile' is created by either a wild card (Joker/Deuces) OR a RED three being placed on the discard.

The 'Stop card' is either by a wild card OR a BLACK three

A Red three 'freezes' the pile, and a black three 'stops' the next player picking up the discard - but how do you know if a pile is stopped or frozen when a WILD CARD (J's/2's) is used?

I have looked everywhere for explanation of this ruling, but nowhere can I find a reference to a 'stopped' card, only to the 'Frozen' pile. Has this 'stop card' part of the game now changed and is it no longer used?

A wild card on the discard surely 'freezes' it and takes precedence over being a 'stop'card. Does this mean that it is ONLY a BLACK three which 'stops' the discard for just the next player?

Hope this makes sense! Never seemed to be a problem years ago, but now I can find no reference to a 'stop card' and Scarne's version seems unclear - I am not sure which way to play this.


Thanks Joe & Gendolkari, I am aware of all the points you make on the rules. I though my question was straightforward, so to clarify I will quote Scarne on the points concerned!

“frozen pile - discard becomes frozen whenever it contains a wild (J’s & 2’s) OR A RED THREE (contrary to a comment above). Discard may only be taken up when player holds two natural cards ....etc”

“Stop card. When the upcard is a WILD card (J’s & 2’s) OR A BLACK THREE. It is a stop card; the next player cannot take the discard pile......etc”

Why is Scarne implying that a card which is known as a freeze card (J’s & 2’s) when added to the discard, can somehow become ‘just’ a stop card?

I don’t think I am ‘overthinking it’ given Scarnes unclear explanation!

So I will go with J’s, 2’s AND red 3’s s freezing the pile - but only BLACK 3’s as being a stop card.

Technically, I guess, if you deal with the red 3 in just one hand - pick-up and discard into the discard pile, you are actually disclosing you have one! Yes, not something you want to do willingly - but there may be times when nothing else will do!


I think you are over complicating what a "stop" card is. When looking at the rules to draw a card from the discard you will note that you have to include it on a meld on the table. Also it should be noted that the only time you can play a black 3 to the table in the meld is when you are going out so normally if a black 3 is on the top of the draw pile it is impossible for the next person to draw a card.

Also with red three's they should never be in your hand as when you draw them they are immediately placed on the table and a replacement card is drawn.

As for your overall question the only state that matters for the draw pile is if it is frozen from a wild card being discarded and that can be noted by discarding the wild card perpendicular to the other cards there is a visual that it has been frozen.

If a red 3 is the first card flipped over to start the discard pile at the start of the game it will be frozen just as if a wild card was flipped over.


I am not familiar with the term “stop card”, but it seems to be used here to simply mean “a safe discard” as in a card that cannot allow your opponent to pick up the discard pile no matter what.

Wild cards are also safe discards, but they have the added effect of freezing the discard pile. In order to mark that the pile is you place the wild card sideways, so that it sticks out even when other cards are placed on top of it.

A black 3 does not have any lasting effect on the discard pile; it only is something that cannot be picked up while it is on top, so it is discarded normally and covered up / hidden after that.

A red 3 can never be discarded, because if you ever draw one you must meld and replace it immediately. However, if the starting card of the deck happens to be a red 3, then it starts sideways and marks a frozen discard pile.

So in terms of what that makes wilds, they are BOTH “stop cards” AND cards that freeze the pile. The 2 terms are not mutually exclusive. A stop card is simply one that can’t be picked up; it hasn’t no direct relationship to freezing. I think it’s much simpler to not think of “stop cards” as any special thing. Any card that is safe to discard can be a stop card. This includes black 3s, wilds, or any card at all if the pile is frozen and you know your opponent can’t have 2 more in their hand (because the rest are melded or in your hand).


When I have played Canasta we always put a card that freezes the pile in the discard turned sideways. This way the card is sticking out the side to remind you that the pile is frozen.

In contrast a stop card is played the same direction as the other cards as the stop is only in affect when it is the top card of the pile. When a stop card is on the top of the discard pile the pile cannot be picked up for any reason.

In the rules you are reading the WILD cards can be used to freeze the pile, or as a stop on the top of the pile. I would differentiate them by turning the wild if it is to freeze the pile.

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