Irene Worthington Baron




Irene Baron:

UPDATED May 2019

Pony Canasta is a rather new and fascinating card game for ages 10-100. Table size will determine how number of players from 2 to 12+. This card game is perfect for children, couples, families and friends. It is played similar to other canasta games with additions that make it exciting and fast.

If you’re bored with slow canastas and tired family games, Pony Canasta is your new game. It originated with dear friends, a couple who that lived 14-years with their five children in an isolated outpost in Ethiopia. They were bored with other card games and devised this one with friends. They taught me how to play it when I lived in Bangkok, Thailand. The game is so fast and fascinating it will quickly become a favorite. Everyone who plays Pony Canasta ends up creating unique strategies to win. Have fun with it!|



CARDS: Two full decks, including jokers, are required PER PLAYER.

WILD CARDS: Wild cards are jokers and deuces (2's).

PLAYERS: Two to twelve or more players may play this game. With two or three players, each plays for himself. If more than three and an even number of players, play as partners/teams if desired.


OBJECTIVE: The objective is for players to grow canastas on the playing board/table or in their hand (surprise canastas).  A player may pick up their pony when presenting their first canasta to the playing board/table.

DEAL: Place all cards face down at the center of the board/table. Leaving them face down, all players use both hands to scramble/shuffle cards around at the center of the board/table. When they are thoroughly mixed/shuffled, each player is to pick up 12-cards from the shuffle without looking at card faces or allowing anyone to see card faces. These cards are designated as that player's PONY which is stacked face down and put aside to use later.

Each player next picks 13-cards from the shuffle for their HAND CARDS. They will keep in hand cards in their hand to play with during the game.  Therefore their "hand" cards number 13 at the beginning of the game. When cards are drawn from the stock or discard pile they will be added to the hand cards if not played on the board/table during that players' turn.

When every player has picked from the shuffled cards their pony and hand cards, they next pull one out of the shuffle pile and display it to all players. The player displaying the highest card pulled out of the shuffle pile will begin the first play. All shuffled cards left on the table are to be arranged by everyone face down into one stack at the center of the table. That stack is called the STOCK. One card of the stock is to be flipped over, face up and placed beside the stock to begin the play. The flipped over card begins the DISCARD PILE.

: As stated above, each person picks one card from the face-down, shuffled cards, shows it to everyone and mixes it back into the shuffle. The player with the highest card begins play. Turns pass to the left.   

At their turn, each player may either draw two cards from the stock or pick up the discard pile if they have melded and have the correct cards in their hand required for picking up the discard pile. If they have not melded, the two cards from the stock pile go into their hand. One card from their hand must be chosen as their discard and placed face up on the discard pile. The face of any card below the top one on the discard pile must not be visible.  Players must plan ahead to keep a card to discard at their next turn. If a person does not have a card to discard, they are OUT OF THE GAME.

Individual players or a team member are allowed to place cards on the board/table only during their turn and AFTER their original meld has been made for that round. If playing with a partner, only one person will keep melds, canastas and red treys combined on the playing board/table in front of them. Only during their own turn may a team member play on their shared/team cards.

TREYS: Treys (3's) may NOT be used to make a meld or canasta. RED TREYS count only as bonus points and are never kept in the hand. When drawing a red trey during play or when forming their original hand, the player MUST place it immediately face up on the board/table in front of them and chose another card from the shuffled cards or top of the stock to replace it.  When a red trey is picked up from the stock during the two-card draw of a player’s turn, it is to be placed face up on the board in front of them and replaced with one from the top of the stock. More than one red trey may be stacked beside one another on the board. Each red trey is worth 100-points. If a player obtains four red treys, their red trey score is 1000-points. BLACK TREYS  are to be kept in the hand to use only as discards. If the discard pile has a black trey the discard pile may NOT be picked up. Black treys freeze the pile until a normal card is discarded on top of it. Players are penalized for black treys held in their hands at the end of the game by having points deducted from their score for each black trey.

Melds are to be placed face up on the table when made. They are made by putting down a set of three or more cards of the same rank or two cards with a wild card. A meld must contain more natural than wild cards, except when beginning a wild canasta. Sequences of cards are not allowed. Players may meld many sets to reach their required meld points. All players/teams meld 50-points on the initial meld. After that, the meld is determined by the player’s game score. Melds are:
50-points for Initial meld; 90-points for any player or team if their game score has reached 15,000; 120-points for anyone or team if their game score has reached 30,000. Additional cards may be added to the meld cards to create canastas during a players' turn during the game. In an initial meld, if a player has selected the discard pile rather than take two cards from the stock, the player may use only the top card of the discard pile in the meld. The other cards of the discard pile must remain in place until the correct count of meld cards are on the board. The rest of the discard pile may then be placed in their hand to be used during that turn or subsequent turns.

When a player/team completes their first canasta they are to pick up their pony/ponies. If a player finds a red trey in their pony, they are to place it on the board/table for bonus points and replace it by taking the top card from the stock pile. After adding the pony to their hand the cards may be used during that turn before a discard is made. The other team member is to pick up their pony when a team canasta is made but may not use any of their cards until their own turn.   

PLAY: When their turn arrives, each player must decide whether to take two-cards off the top of the stock or to pick up the discard pile.  The discard is one card. Discards must always be made with a card from the hand. A player must discard one card when going OUT.

A player wishing to take the discard pile MUST establish his/her right to do so by showing everyone the cards permitting the pickup. These cards are to be placed on the board/table until used during that turn. To pick up the discard pile a player must display one of the same value card as the top card of the discard pile and a wild card OR two of the same value cards.

A player with one card in their hand may discard that one card at the end of their turn and remain cardless until their next turn when they pick up two cards. This is a desperate move, but a legal one. 

A discarded wild card FREEZES the discard pile. If the pile is “frozen,” two cards of the same value as the top card in the discard pile are needed to pick up the discard pile. To pick up the wild card of a frozen discard pile, two wild cards of any combination of jokers or deuces may be used. Any wild card on the discard pile is to be placed perpendicular to other cards in the discard stack so that it is clearly displayed after other discards are placed on top of it.  Subsequent cards discarded on top of a wild card require two matching cards for a pick-up. For example, a “five” on the frozen discard pile requires a player to have two “fives” in their hand to pick up the frozen “five.” A wild card and five is not allowed for pick up a five when the pile is frozen.  If the discard pile is picked up, the player MUST play the top card from the discard pile on the board/table  in one of several ways: (A) as part of a meld; (B) if they have already melded, they may use it as a beginning canasta with two other cards; or (C) to build on or complete current canastas.  If a player has already melded, the whole discard pile may be played to build canastas on the board during that turn or placed in the players' hand. Check with Irene Baron at for questions.

GOING OUT:  A team player desiring to go out must request and receive permission to do so from their partner before playing any cards during their turn. Individual players do not have to ask permission to go out.  To go outa player/team must have a minimum of four canastas including a WILD CANASTA, a NATURAL CANASTA, a CANASTA MADE ONLY OF SEVENS, and a BLACK CANASTA.   A player must make a final discard of one card before going out. Once a player/team goes out, that round is over and must be scored before cards are placed in the center to be shuffled for the next round.

After receiving permission to go out from their partner, if a player cannot go out, the permission remains during the rest of the round.  However the team is penalized 100-points for that round.

CANASTAS:  Seven or more cards make a canasta. Once created, additional cards of that denomination may be added to each canasta. Cards building a canasta are usually placed on the board vertically, overlapping one another, until a canasta is formed.  Once a canasta is formed, the cards of that canasta are stacked together and set aside.  If a wild canasta, place a deuce or joker on top to label it. If a black canasta, place a black card on top. If a natural canasta, place a red card on top. If a sevens canasta, a seven is to be placed on top. Surprise canastas should be placed in a different location on the board to designate their point differences. A surprise canasta is any canasta that is held in the player's hand until, during their turn, the completed surprise canasta is placed on the board to "surprise" everyone. Surprise canastas are worth more points as seen in the scoring section.

Wild Canasta: Contains only wild cards consisting of jokers or deuces.
Black canasta: Contains no more than 3-wild cards and 4-other matching value cards, such as 3-wild cards and 4-fives.
Natural Canasta: Contains no wild cards; all cards are the same value, such as all tens, all fours, etc.
Sevens Canasta: Contains only sevens.
Surprise canasta: Any canasta contained in a players hand until placed on the board during their turn. A surprise canasta is worth extra points.


All cards which have been played must be scored. The game is won by the player/team first reaching 50,000-points or having the highest game score at the set finish time. There are no bonus points for winning a round.

Players who do not go out, including a team member, must deduct the total point values of cards remaining in their hands from their round score of played cards on the board/table. Once red treys and canasta points are counted, players/teams are to count value points of  individual  cards from their board/table  using the points listed below. Each black trey in a player’s hand counts 100-points against them and is to be deducted from their accumulated points.

CARDS                                               POINTS
Joker                                                  50 points (wild card)
Deuce                                                 20 points (wild card)
Ace                                                     20 points
8, 9, 10, jack, queen ,King              10 points
4,5,6,7                                               5  points
Black Trey                                         At game end, each will count 100-points AGAINST player holding one/them
Red  Trey                                         100-bonus points each; four of them = 1000 bonus points

CANASTAS                         POINTS
Wild Canasta                     2500-points (500 extra points if a “surprise” canasta drawn out of hand at one time) MADE OF SEVEN WILD CARDS
Sevens Canasta                 2500-points (500 extra points if a “surprise” canasta) MADE OF ALL SEVENS
Natural Canasta                500- points (300 extra points if a “surprise” canasta) MADE W/NO WILD CARDS
Black Canasta                    300-points (100 extra points if a “surprise” canasta) MAY HAVE THREE WILD CARDS
Going Out                           100-points (must have a discard)

AT END OF EACH ROUND: At the end of each round after recording canasta scores, red trey bonus points and individual card value scores, all cards are placed face down in the center of the table. Shuffling begins for the next round.

END OF ROUND: The round is ended when a player or team goes out OR the stock pile is exhausted.

END OF GAME: Game is over when a player/team has reached 50,000 points OR  a set time is reached.


If a player removes more than two-cards from the stock, they will show all cards to other players and place them in the center of the stock.
If a player melds an insufficient number of points and cannot correct it, they are to return the meld to their hand and discard. The meld for that player/team during that round will be subsequently increased by ten-points for that round.

NOTE: Rules should be easy to understand. Use the above information to answer questions that arise. For additional answers to questions not addressed above, email:


A player should try to place as many melds on the playing board as possible to create canasta opportunities and points. On the other hand, a greater number of cards in a player’s hand facilitates more plays. Holding two cards of the same value in your hand for building a canasta will enable picking up a frozen discard pile during your turn.

Discard single cards. Keep the pairs. Black treys make good discards during intense play.

If you have completed your sevens canasta, add any extra sevens to your sevens canasta pile to keep them from a competitor.


Meld:  50-points initially; 90-points at a 15,000 earned team or individual score; 120-points at 30,000 earned team or individual score
Game is 50,000 points OR a set time.

Jokers =          50 points (wild)
Deuces =         20-points (wild)
Aces =             20-points
8-K =                10 points
4-7=                 5 points

Players pick up 2 cards and discard one during each turn.
ick up your 12-card pony as soon as you lay down your 1st canasta. When one team player makes the canasta, both pick up their pony.
Black treys make a good discard as NO ONE is allowed to pick them up from top of discard pile
Red treys = 100 bonus points; four = 1000 points. They are placed on the table alongside the canastas.

To go out ask partner’s permission if playing as a team.
To go out a discard must be made.
To go out have one EACH of:

WILD CANASTA                      2500 POINTS
SEVENS CANASTA                   2500 POINTS
NATURAL CANASTA                 500 POINTS
BLACK CANASTA                       300 POINTS

Leave a comment below and tell Irene Baron of your interest.
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After playing the game, settle down with a great book that identifies the Christmas star. The title is: Unraveling the Christmas Star Mystery, written by Irene Baron. Buy it through Amazon at:



 29 MARCH 2019

Q-Are the following deals to continue the game the same as the first one described in the rules ( with a shuffle of the decks on the table? 

A-Thanks for your question. Yes. Each time you start a new game, the next game begins the same way. There is no "deal" as in normal games, as each person collects their hand and "pony" before the game begins from the massive pile of down turned cards. No one is allowed to see the faces of any pony until it is collected by the person who owns it upon completion of their first canasta.

1 MARCH 2019

Q-Love the game. Where can I find a score sheet?
A-The game is so changeable, there is no score sheet. You can make your own as you play.

24 FEBRUARY 2019

Q-Two questions-IF a team player forgets to pick up their ponytail and is reminded by a teammate or a competitor, is there a penalty assessed? And, If the stockpile of cards in the trey runs out but a person is the next to play, can they pick up the discard pile because they have a matching pair of the top card that was discarded, or is the hand over once the stack of cards is gone? Thank you
A-It's called a pony, not a ponytail. :-)There is no penalty for being reminded to pick up the pony. If they forget, they may pick it up anytime, but may NOT play any card until their turn arrives again.

If the stockpile of cards runs out in the tray and the person whose turn it is doesn't need it as they are picking up the discard pile, have them do so with the correct cards in their hand. Since there will be no tray of pick up cards and only one in the discard tray after they take their turn, the game is over. 

If the tray is empty but the discard pile thick and the next player needs a pick up card, pick up the discard pile, turn it upside down and put it in the tray to be drawn again. Use the top card as the first card in the discard pile. Continue play as usual.

Q-My mother asked for a Christmas book about ponytail canasta took me a while to finally find pony canasta LOL. any help would be wonderful :)
A-Cameron, there is no book about Pony Canasta. PonyTail canasta is an older game. Perhaps this one is a remnant of the older one, but revised to make it more fun, exciting and faster to play.



Are the following deals to continue the game the same as the first one described in the rules ( with a shuffle of the decks on the table?
Are the following deals to continue the game the same as the first one described in the rules ( with a shuffle of the decks on the table?
Are the following deals to continue the game the same as the first one described in the rules ( with a shuffle of the decks on the table?
Love the game. Where can I find a score sheet?
Two questions-IF a team player forgets to pick up their ponytail and is reminded by a teammate or a competitor, is there a penalty assessed? And, If the stockpile of cards in the trey runs out but a person is the next to play, can they pick up the discard pile because they have a matching pair of the top card that was discarded, or is the hand over once the stack of cards is gone? Thank you
My Mother asked for Christmas a book about ponytail canasta took me a while to finally find pony canasta LOL, any help would be wonderful :)
MY friends and family have been playing Hand and Foot canasta for years. This looks like a great switch to keep everyone interested. hope to play it soon. Thanks
In Pony canaster. If you can meld and have a discard but no cards left in your hand, is this allowed til the next turn to pick up your 2 cards???
Love the game..questions...If you have a surprise canasta played, do you have to meld before you pick up pony and does the surprise canasta count as part of your meld? Does a red surprise canasta count as a red canasta in required canastas to go out?
My neighbors play Pony Canasta every Thursday afternoon..
My grandparents taught my brother and I this game when we were kids. The 4 of us would play for hours! Now on the 1 year anniversary of her death, I wanted to teach the great grandkids but couldnt remember all the rules. This will be a HUGE help! thank you!
they play this game at the Hoover Senior Center in Hoover al and I wanted to know the rules before I attended my first class. thanks
Thank you for the wonderful instructions. I make very unique playing card holders, and this will not only help me learn the game, but understand how I may create a playing card holder just for Pony Canasta!
I am excited about this card game, its wonderful

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