Solitaire - How to Play


The game Solitaire – which means lonely or solitary in French – is played and enjoyed by millions of people around the world. In fact, Solitaire (known as Patience in England nowadays), is the generic name for a multitude of variations of the same card game played by oneself.

Nobody knows when Solitaire was invented but it is generally accepted that some version of the game was developed as soon as playing card games became popular around the time of the Middle Ages. The most widely accepted idea is that the French were responsible for developing the more popular versions of Solitaire, with some historians even going so far as to say that the Little General, Napoleon Bonaparte invented the game while in exile in on the island of St. Helena. Many forms of Solitaire of that time period relate to Napoleon. Other historians claim that Solitaire originated from Eastern Europe, based on early books found on the subject.

The rules of Solitaire appeared in game books from around the 18th and 19th centuries and since then, many new variations of the game have evolved, including the very popular Spider Solitaire – made famous by United States President Roosevelt.

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The Deck of Cards in Solitaire

As mentioned, there are many forms of Solitaire, each with their own formats and regulations. The standard game of Solitaire is played with a deck of 52 cards on a flat surface such as a table or even the floor. A deck of cards consists of the following: four suits of thirteen cards each (hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs). Each of these suits consists of four face cards – an Ace, a Jack, a Queen and a King. Finally, each suit also consists of the numbers ranging from two (also known as a Deuce) and up to (including) ten.

Setting up the Solitaire Playing Board

  • The player shuffles the deck of cards very well so that they are well mixed within the pack.
  • One card is dealt face up.
  • This is placed at the beginning of an imaginary line and six other cards are dealt face down across that line, next to the first (face up) card.
  • The player then goes to the second card in the row and places another card face up on top of it.
  • Cards are thereafter placed faced down across the line on top of cards three until six.
  • This process is continued by placing a face up card on the third card in the row, with facedowns on the fourth to sixth cards.
  • The process is completed when the player is faced with a row of seven cards facing up. This is known as the playing board.

Playing the Game of Solitaire

  • The object of Solitaire is to use up all the cards in the deck by playing them.
  • After the player has created a row of seven face-up cards as described in the above section, the rest of the deck of cards is held in the player’s hand face down.
  • The first three cards are dealt off the top and turned over so that the player can only see the face of the third card that was dealt off the deck.
  • To play the cards, the player needs to place each of the remaining cards on a pile on the playing board in numerical order (highest to lowest) and in alternative colors. Essentially, this means that the player needs to place a black card on a red card (or vice versa) and a five on the number six. If we take this as an example, we see that if the face card is a red six, the player needs to play a black five on it.
  • Aces have a special task on the Solitaire playing board: Every time a player pulls an Ace, it is placed above the row of seven cards and is built on from highest to lowest. Therefore, a two is placed on the ace, and then a three and so forth.
  • Another thing to remember is that piles of cards can be moved from stack to stack. An example would be as follows: The player has a pile of cards with a black eight, a red seven, a black six and a red five. In theory, this pile could be moved to another pile that starts with a black nine. Thereafter, the player turns over the top card of the pile of cards that were moved to the other stack and starts to play on that pile.
  • The object of Solitaire is to continue until there are no cards left. Of course, this is not always possible because a player might reach a point where there are no more moves to make (ie. no more piles to move, no option to build on aces and no more spots to place cards that are left), yet there are still cards left to play. In this case, the game of Solitaire cannot be won.

Solitaire Tips and Strategies

As with every game – especially card games – there are always tips and strategies that can go a long way in helping the player win in the long run. Although Solitaire is dependent on the ‘luck of the draw’, a player’s skill still plays an important part in the outcome of the game and can definitely determine whether he or she will win or lose.

  • Players are advised not to draw from their deck of cards until they are absolutely sure that there are no more possible moves on the Solitaire playing board.
  • It is generally advised not to put cards in foundation piles unless they are not needed to ‘anchor’ lower cards from the playing board or deck of cards.
  • Cards should not be moved unless players can recognize instant gain and benefits.
  • Players should try not to play all three cards that are drawn from the stockpile. If only one or even two are played, the player will be able to pull ‘fresh’ cards next time around. Playing all three cards means that the rest of the cards in the pile stay in the same order.
  • In the case of a card that that cannot be played on the playing board, but can be played in a foundation, the player should opt for the latter in all events.
  • Aces and deuces should always be played immediately.
  • Cards should only be moved from column to column if they free a down-facing card. Other than that, they should not be moved.
  • Building a foundation should be done only in the following circumstances: a down-facing card will be freed from another pile when that column space becomes available; a King will fill a spot that is cleared; the next card will remain protected and a down-facing card will be freed.
  • When you have to choose between stacks that contain multiple cards in order to free a down-facing card, you should generally play the card that is in the stack with the largest number of cards.

Playing Online Solitaire

Since the first computer software programs began making an appearance – even before the advent of the internet – Solitaire has been a very popular pastime for players. When the internet burst onto the scene in the late 1990's, it was only natural that Solitaire would find its way to online sites. The game can either be played as a purely social pastime or it can be found at online gambling sites.

In general, when playing online Solitaire, there are three main areas on the screen: the building stacks, the deck and the game play. The building stacks are shown on the bottom half of the screen and the extreme left stack has one card and all the following stacks having one additional card. If the player removes the top card from a pile, the next card will automatically be turned over.

The deck can be found in the top right hand corner of the screen. It displays all the cards that are not found in the source stacks. Suit stacks are found in the upper right hand corner of the screen and are not occupied in the beginning.

Winning at online solitaire is dependent on the version being played and other factors. In general, it depends on how many cards a player can successfully put in the suit ranks by the end of the game of Solitaire. A player starts to see a profit in an initial stake after he or she has managed to place 11 cards in the suit stacks. Between 12 and 52 cards can be considered pure profit for the player.

Solitaire can be found a variety of sites on the internet and their variations and quality obviously differ from casino to casino. Players should look out for online sites that are powered by good software companies to ensure top quality graphics. With so many different sites available offering the game, there is no reason for players to compromise on quality.

Another exciting form of internet entertainment related to the game comes in the form of Solitaire tournaments. These events essentially allow players to play the game and if they get a high score, they stand in line to win cash prizes. These tournaments are becoming enormously popular in the online gaming industry.


Solitaire has been popular in one form or another for literally hundreds of years. Where once it was dependent on a player having access to a deck of cards, it has evolved into a pastime that can be easily be played from literally any location in the world, and at any time of the day or night. Online gaming has taken Solitaire one step further and provides players the opportunity to take part in exciting tournaments and feel part of a wider gambling community.

Solitaire is a game that may initially seem complicated to play but with a little practice, the player is soon hooked. It is not for nothing that one for sit for literal hours playing this game – whether with a traditional deck of cards or on the internet.

Posted by CCJ Team

Solitaire Resources

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