How was Modern Canasta created?

Modern American Canasta is a popular card game, especially in North America. It has an interesting history rooted in the mid-20th century. Architect Alberto Serrato and lawyer Segundo Santos collaborated to create the game in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1939. Their goal was to develop a card game with the same level of strategic depth and fun as Bridge but with less complexity.

The English word “basket” translates to “Canasta” in Spanish, which is the name ultimately given to the game. The name Canasta likely alludes to the “melds or sets of cards” that players try to gather. More likely, however, the reference is to the small bread baskets that were used to hold the draw and discard piles.

Canasta, a dynamic and strategic card game, has challenged players worldwide since the mid-20th century. Players achieve success by forming melds of 7 cards to make canastas. The primary objective is to accumulate 8,500 points.

How did Canasta evolve throughout its history?

In the 1940s, the game spread from Uruguay to Argentina, where it became immensely popular. During this time, players significantly improved and added to the many rules.

Introduced to the United States in the late 1940s, Canasta became a big trend by 1948, especially among social groups and American women. Its easier learning curve compared to Bridge increased its appeal.

Peak Popularity: In the early 1950s, the game’s popularity peaked. It was common to play at home and at social gatherings. Several books were written outlining the rules of play, including strategies and original play, by many of the foremost Bridge experts of the time, such as Charles Goren and Oswald Jacoby.

Revival (1960s–present): Despite a decline in popularity following the 1950s due to the numerous variations in the rules, players continued to play Canasta worldwide. As the 1960s and 70s progressed, Modern American Canasta emerged, leading to a resurgence that began in the late 1950s.

To further consolidate and define the rules of play, the Canasta League of America was formed in 2012.

The final upswing in popularity came with the development and publication of the online game Canasta Junction in 2017, which allows players to play with each other from all over the world.