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How to Play Solitaire Card Games

Sometimes called "Patience," Solitaire includes a large family of solo or individual card games. Regardless of the variations, the player competes against himself striving to improve on his score in each successive game. The first reference to Solitaire was published in the early 1870s and was titled "Illustrated Games of Patience" by Lady Adelaide Cadogan. Other pamphlets followed, and within 30 years there were at least seven publications about the game. Many famous authors, including John Steinbeck, Somerset Maugham and Fyodor Dostoevsky reference Solitaire in their novels. Franklin Roosevelt enjoyed playing "Spider," his favorite. Solitaire is now featured on the Internet and on CDs in hundreds of popular variations.

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  1. Obtain a standard 52-card deck that is used for most games. Remove the Jokers. The cards are ranked: Ace (low), then deuce, three, four, five, all the way to the King. In other games, they are ranked from the King, Queen, Jack and down to the Ace in descending order. Suits have no rank and are distinguished only by color.

  2. Arrange the cards in a specific pattern according to the rules of the game. This is sometimes called the "layout tableau." Sometimes the pattern shifts during the course of the game.

  3. Turned (or "face-up") cards that are not part of the pattern are referred to as "foundations." Cards may be placed or laid upon a foundation in designated (ascending or descending) sequences. Sometimes suit colors are alternated as well. In most variations, the object of the game is to play cards onto the foundation piles.

  4. Any vacant place where a card may be legally played is called a "space." A vertical row of accumulated cards in the layout or pattern is called a "file." This is somewhat similar to the Chess term that describes a vertical row of squares and the movement of a Rook. Cards in a file are overlapped and each card is easily visible.

  5. The unused part of the deck is called the "stock" and is drawn in accordance with the rules of the game. The discard pile (or "kitty") consists of cards that cannot be played at the time they are drawn. Sometimes these cards are called the "talon." Once a card is played, it is said to be "released." Playing cards in a proper or legal sequence is called "building." Sometimes this is done in ascending order and at other times in descending order. Depending on the game, suit colors may also be alternated.

  6. Most games of Solitaire require a single deck, but it is best to understand the rules of the variation you select. Klondike is probably the most popular Solitaire game played today. It consists of seven stacks of cards, each of increasing length from none to six cards. There is an exposed card on the top of each pile. The four foundation piles (the Aces) are the building blocks of the game. Finally, you have the deck (or talon). The suit colors are alternated during the play. The King is the high card on each pile. The idea is to build the foundation piles for each suit starting with the Ace of a given suit and then the deuce of that suit and so on. Three cards are drawn from, but only the top card can be used (if possible.) Klondike is a good introductory game for the novice player.

  7. Tip

    If you are new to Solitaire, play Klondike as a basic game. There are plenty of free Solitaire games on the Internet. Try to learn one new variation at a time. This is supposed to be a fun way to relax. Enjoy.


    Do not plunge into a complicated or intricate game until you are ready. There is no need to purchase a Solitaire CD program, as there are plenty of free materials out there.

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Things You'll Need

  • Two decks of standard playing cards (some variations call for 2 decks only)
  • A score sheet

About the Author

Joe Andrews

I am an avid collector of playing cards, and card memorabelia. I founded the Grand Prix "live" Tournaments Organization nine years ago. I have played competitve "live" card game events for more than thirty years. I also wrote complete instructional books on Euchre, Hearts, Spades, Whist, and Barbu. In addition to card games, I am a numismatist, and enjoy researching U.S. coin history, as well as appraising coin collections. In my spare time, I listen to music, especially classical and jazz.

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