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Can you play a wild card on an existing Canasta if it becomes the 4th wild card in the meld?

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It depends on which rulebook you follow.

Most commonly, Canasta rules say that a legal meld cannot contain more than 3 wild cards:

A meld is valid if it contains at least two natural cards of the same rank - aces down to fours inclusive - and not more than three wild cards.

Melds must be valid at all times, whether during the initial meld, or when adding to an existing meld:

A player may add additional cards to a meld by his side, provided that the melds remain valid (having no more than three wild cards).

You can find these rules here and here.

However, some rules teach a variation on this rule, and say that rather than being limited to 3 wild cards, a meld cannot have more wilds than naturals:

It is possible to add a wildcard to a column of cards of any rank on the table. The wildcard is then seen as a card of that rank (but the value remains unchanged). However, there may never be more wildcards than natural cards within one meld.

Under this rule, a meld with 4 naturals and 4 wilds would be a valid meld.

Under most circumstances, these 2 rules function the same; they prevent a Canasta from being made with 3 naturals and 4 wilds; and prevent melds such as 1 natural and 2 wilds.

Note that if you need to meld an extra wild in order to go out, you can always just add it to any meld you already have; it seems like it would be a very rare situation that a Canasta is the only place you have to add it to.

  • This is somewhat accurate. Both Britannica and Hoyle also state that any meld (incl. canastas) may not have more than three wild cards. I think the equal-to-or-less-than-naturals is really only a glorified house rule, and the question can just be answered 'no'. That said, yes, 'it depends on the rule book' isn't wrong. – lly Jun 19 '18 at 8:36

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