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How to Play Solitaire: Rules and Strategies for Beginners

By Assaf - 08/02/2022

When you need a single-player card game, Solitaire, which is also known as patience or cabale, offers an enjoyable challenge. While you can play multiple variations of solitaire, this post focuses on the most popular version:Klondike Solitaire, which is what most people recognize as Classic Solitaire. Also known as Canfield, Klondike first became popular in the late–19th century and is named after the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1800s in Canada. Hoyle's Games first described this card game in its 1907 edition of.

Solitaire objective

The object of Klondike Solitaire is to use a series of columns to build the foundation piles of cards, starting with the ace and ending with the king for each suit. Once you have done that for all four suits, you have won the game.

Solitaire Set-up

You deal out four types of piles in Solitaire: the tableau, the foundations, the stock, and the talon.

1. Deal the tableau

Starting from left to right, deal cards from a shuffled card deck into the seven piles that form the tableau, which is the main playing area. You place the first card face up to make the first pile, then you deal one card face down for the next six piles. Then starting from left to right, place one card face up on the second pile, and deal one card face down on the four piles to your right. Keep doing this until you have dealt all seven piles.

2. Place the stock (hand) pile

Put the undealt cards into the Stock. You will draw from this pile of cards throughout the game. Typically, you place this pile above the first card of the tableau—the one you dealt face up that has no hidden cards beneath it.

3. Leave room for the talon (waste) pile

You won’t have anything in the waste pile while you’re dealing, but you soon will. So leave room next to the stockpile to place unused cards—cards that you draw from the stockpile but cannot play on the tableau or on the foundation piles. Always lay these unused cards face up in the talon, or waste pile.

4. Leave room for the foundation piles

You also need to leave space for the four foundation piles, which is where you will build the foundations for each suit as you progress through the game. You place the ace for each suit in each pile, followed by the 2, and so on until you get to the king.

Solitaire rules

You’ll be up and playing in no time since Solitaire's rules are relatively simple and straightforward. Follow this basic description for the rules and the general process for playing a game.

1. Survey the tableau and decide your first move

You can only move face-up cards. Aces can be put in the foundation piles. Cards can be moved between columns as long as they are alternating color and descending order. You may have several moves, and you want to rearrange as many face-up cards as you can to reveal face-down cards in the columns. 

2. Start foundation piles in ascending order (ace to king)

You must begin your foundation piles with an ace, and each pile must be a single suit in ascending order (ace to king). If you have an exposed ace on the tableau when you start the game, you can immediately move it to a foundation pile. For example, if an ace of hearts is face up, you can move it to a foundation pile, and if you see a 2 of hearts face up, you can move that 2 on top of the ace on the foundation pile—and then the 3, and the 4, and so on. Remember, they must all be of the same suit. If you have a 2 of diamonds, you can’t put it on top of an ace of spades—you have to wait until you get an ace of diamonds to build the foundation pile for the suit of diamonds.

3. Rearrange your piles using face-up cards

You can build up stacks of cards on the tableau so that you can keep revealing new cards. However, all cards exposed face up must be stacked in descending order and with alternating colors of suits. So if you had a queen of hearts exposed on your tableau, you could stack a jack of spades on top of it, and a 10 of diamonds on top of the jack, and so on. Suit doesn’t matter, only color and descending order does. With that queen of hearts, you simply need the next lower card (a jack) and the opposite color (black), which is spades or clubs.

You can move cards individually or entire columns at one time. If you see a face-up king of spades, take the whole column you just built (queen of hearts, jack of spades, and 10 of diamonds) and place it onto the king. Now your column still descends and alternates by color.

If you move a face-up card or group of cards to another column, check to see if you have exposed a face-down card. Anytime your move exposes a face-down card on the tableau, you can turn that single card over, making it face-up on that tableau pile. Now you have a new face-up card to play.

Remember: Make productive moves. Don’t move cards to simply make a move unless it helps you get more cards onto your foundation piles or allows you to reveal hidden cards—or make progress toward revealing hidden cards.

4. Draw from stockpiles/waste piles to make moves

If you don’t have any moves on the tableau—meaning you can’t move anything to the foundation piles or you have no productive moves to make—you can draw from the stockpile and waste pile. 

At this point, you have two ways to play: 

  • You can draw one card at a time from the stockpile. Draw the card and lay it face up on your waste pile. You can try to play this card, just like any other face-up card, by placing it anywhere on the tableau or foundation piles. If you can’t play the card, leave it face up on the waste pile.

  • You can draw 3 cards at a time from the stockpile. You draw them by individually placing each card face up on the waste pile, which means you can only play the third card at first. If you cannot play the card, leave it face up on the waste pile. If you can play the card, then you have the option to play the one that is now revealed—the second card you drew from the stockpile. You can repeat this process, playing the face-up card that is revealed on the waste pile until you have no more plays. Drawing three cards makes play more challenging because you can’t access every card in the stockpile right away. 

When you have a waste pile, check it before you draw from the stockpile. You always play the face-up card on the top of the waste pile and play through the waste pile by continuing to play any face-up card revealed on top. 

If you have no additional cards to draw from the stockpile, simply turn over the waste pile and make it the stockpile. Never shuffle the waste pile.

5. Restart empty tableau columns with a King

If you have removed all of the cards from a tableau column, leaving an empty space, you can start a new column with a king. You can place a single king or move an entire column of cards that begins with a king into the empty space. When you empty a column in the tableau, you get a new place to stack cards, allowing you to expose the other face-down cards throughout the tableau and further build your foundation piles.

Can you win every Solitaire game?

While there is sometimes luck involved when it comes to winning a game of Solitaire, they are  more winnable than most people think. Although sometimes cards are dealt in such a way to make it impossible to win, one study found that between 82% and 91% of Klondike Solitaire games are winnable. You can improve your odds by learning some strategies to win Solitaire consistently.

Solitaire game strategies

You can try many approaches to playing solitaire, but we highlight a few of the most common strategies in this list:

  • Consider drawing from the stockpile as your first move. Draw from the stockpile and then examine your options, working your way through the remaining cards in the stockpile. This allows you to find aces and other cards that you can begin building foundation piles or tableau columns with immediately.

  • Play your aces and 2s on the foundation piles right away. As soon as the aces and 2s are revealed, you need to place them on foundation piles, giving you more space and more opportunities to clear cards.

  • Pay attention to color order when stacking. Cards must be stacked on the tableau by opposite color, and there can only be two cards of each color (for example, red 7s can only be a 7 of hearts and a 7 of diamonds). So pay attention to what you have revealed and have played while you’re stacking. If you’re hoping for a red 7 to move your 6 of clubs to, but you’ve already put one red 7 in the foundation pile and one is in play on your tableau, you have to find another way to move that 6.

  • Exercise caution when moving and emptying piles. Try to reveal cards to give you more options for play. You may be tempted to move several cards to a single foundation pile at the very beginning of the game, but each card comes in just two colors. If you move them to foundation piles too early, you may not have the black 5 you need to move a column of cards that begins with the 4 of hearts. 

  • Don’t leave empty spaces without a king. By playing a King in an empty tableau space, you have a spot to get cards out of your way so you can expose more face-down cards.

  • Consider moving cards from columns with lots of face-down cards: The more face-down cards you can expose, the more cards you have in play, increasing your chances of building your foundation piles.

Solitaire variations

This guide deals with Klondike Solitaire, but you can also play many Solitaire variations. Try these other types of Solitaire games if you want to switch things up:

  • Spider: You use two decks for Spider Solitaire and set it differently by making 10 columns. When you finish dealing, the first four columns should have six cards, and the last six columns should have five cards. Each column ends with a face-up card. The remaining cards go into the stockpile. You make columns of cards that descend in order from king to ace.

  • FreeCell: In FreeCell, using just a single deck, all cards are dealt face up in eight columns at the very beginning of the game. You deal single cards, left to right, and end up with the first four columns containing seven cards and the last four containing six. As the name implies you have four “free” cells above the dealt cards, opposite the space for your four foundation piles. You can move individual cards back and forth to each cell to free up other moves.

  • Yukon: While Yukon gameplay is similar to Klondike, you deal all the cards and have no stockpile. Deal 21 cards face down and deal the remaining cards face up, one into the first column and five each into the other six columns. 

  • Forty Thieves: Similar to Spider Solitaire, Forty Thieves uses two decks for a total of 104 cards. Deal four face-up cards into each of the 10 columns in the tableau and place the remaining cards in the stockpile.

  • Golf: Golf Solitaire requires five face-up cards in each of seven columns and a single face-up card in the foundation. Place the rest of the cards face down in the stock. You only have two moves: drawing a card from the stockpile to create a new foundation card, and shifting a card from the tableau to the foundation card.

  • Pyramid: In Pyramid, you deal a pyramid of overlapping rows of cards, starting with one at the top, two in the next row, and so on until you have the last row of seven cards. The remaining cards go face down in your stockpile. You can only move exposed pairs of playing cards that add up to 13 from the pyramid to the foundation.

Start playing! 

Ready to get started playing solitaire? It’s easy: All you need is a standard deck of cards (52 in total) and a basic understanding of how to play the game. Just shuffle up and deal out the tableau as described above, and start building those foundations! Play Solitaire today.


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