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Spider Solitaire Expert Tips

Sometimes choose most hidden

There are many occasions in Spider Solitaire games where the player is presented with a choice of which column to turn a hidden card in.
For example, it might be possible to use a clear column to turn a hidden card in either the first column or the second column, but both cannot be guaranteed.
The convention wisdom is to choose the column which contains the fewest number of hidden cards, thinking that the chances of soon regaining a clear column are maximized.
This strategy is very often a poor one. Before continuing, the player should take into account everything contained in the current game state, not just the number of hidden cards.
Many players find this technique extremely unintuitive and therefore never even consider it.

Sometimes choose order over turning

Adding order to a game state means both to combine runs in the game state and to reduce the number of suit changes within runs (or changes that bring the game state closer to completing suits)
Thus, the more order contained in a game state, the easier it usually is to move cards between the columns and it's more likely that certain cards can be accessed when needed, which also means that it's more likely that a suit can be built.
In short, more order means a better chance of winning the game. There is no exact number for the amount of order in a game state, it's more about adding or removing order.
Thus, the concept of order provides a measuring stick. In a sense, it a measure of freedom to move cards about, and it is subjective.

Inexperienced players tend to overlook the order of the game and concentrate almost solely on turning hidden cards.
Only when all the hidden cards have been flipped does their attention then shift to ordering.
However, when an experienced Spider Solitaire player is faced with a choice of, say, giving up an empty column to either turn a hidden card or to add more order to the game state, they will carefully examine the game state and choose the option that they feel is most likely to result in a win.
Very often, the better option is to add order to the game. This also has the advantage that turning hidden cards later in the game is likely to be easier.
For the 4-suit player who does not undo movies, this is an extremely important lesson to learn if they wish to maximize their win ratio.

Disorder over order

Many times in games, it's advantageous to leave a run disordered, meaning that it contains more suit changes than it has to.
Disorder can often be shifted from one column to another by removing changes in suits from one column at the expense of adding them to one or more runs in other columns.
This is usually much easier to accomplish when at least one column is vacant.
The player should choose to leave the disorder (more suit changes) in columns where they are less likely to hinder a win.
Knowing which columns comes with experience.

A most obvious example is probably when a column has all of its hidden cards turned.
Before the next deal, it's usually advantageous to leave such a column with the fewest number of changes in suits as possible, preferably none.
This way, after the deal, it's much more likely that the column can be emptied.

Moves have consequences

Novices mostly perform moves with little regard for how each move might affect the game state.
This is one key reason why they lose most games.

For example, a player might move a six of hearts on top of a seven of hearts. This seems like it should be a good move. But what if moving the six of diamonds atop of the seven of hearts might have led to more gains?
And what if by waiting, a future game state could have made even more productive use of the same seven?

The advanced player realizes that actions, such as moves, have consequences.
Sometimes they are slight and even non-existent, but very often, they are profound. Some consequences are good, and some are bad.
And sometimes, what looks to be good or bad can turn out to be the opposite after further inspection.
Before enacting any move, the player should have in mind what is being gained and what is being lost, if anything.

The gist of it is that the beginner thinks primarily of performing moves with the purpose of creating suited runs which eventually contain every rank, while the advanced player thinks more in terms of gains and losses.

Rank break chaining

A simple technique called rank break chaining can help win more Spider Solitaire games.
As an example, the current game state might contain a vacant column and in another column there is only a nine on top of one hidden card.
Assuming no other good play, the obvious move would be to place the nine into the empty column.
Even if the turned card could not be placed, there would still be at least two good possibilities of immediately gaining an empty column following the deal, assuming there was one.

But instead of immediately placing the nine into the vacant column the player should first study the game state, looking for an unused ten that might be opened.
Perhaps an unused ten exists which might be opened by placing the four which is atop of it into the vacant column, and then moving the nine of clubs onto the ten.
The net result is again that the final hidden card under the nine would be turned, but it would be accomplished in a way that added more order to the game.

This process might be extended, as perhaps the game state also contains an unused five which might be opened, onto which the four could be placed.
Rank breaks are thus removed in a chain. As each rank break is overcome, more order is added to the game state and the chances of an eventual victory increase.
Such opportunities arise very often in games and the player should be on the lookout for them.

Consider unavailable scenarios

All players need to visualize possible move sequences to some extent.
Many times which visualizing sequences of moves, the player will encounter an envisioned position that would be quite favorable if only it wasn't for some obstacle that cannot presently be overcome.
Sometimes there will be more than one obstacle. The player then moves on to other envisioned sequences.

However, it often pays to take a closer look at what might be accomplished if that obstacle were not in the way, what might be gained and lost, and what is required to remove the obstacle.
If it seems worthwhile, the player should keep the forbidden opportunity in mind and what must occur for it to be realized.

For example, perhaps an open jack is required to enact a long complicated sequence of moves that would ultimately complete a suit, but the game state has no unused jack.
But one might turn as the game unfolds. The player might then take full advantage of it. And in the meantime, the player can sometimes protect the sought-after opportunity by playing in a manner that does not remove the possibility.

Often, this means delaying moves that might produce a gain but don't need to be played at once.
By delaying the realization of the lesser gain, the hope is that a greater gain might later be realized instead. If not, the lesser gain can still be taken, that is, as long as the player doesn't wait too long.

Steve N. Brown
I hold a master's degree in mathematics. As well as solving difficult math problems, I've always enjoyed playing games of strategy because they challenge me to think. So, when Spider Solitaire became popular around the turn of the century, it was very easy for me to get hooked on the game. At that time, there were no good books on how to play the game and the online advice was also very poor. So, I learned how to play the game on my own through experimentation, careful observation, and an awful lot of practice. One thing led to another and, eventually, I wrote a book on the topic: 'Spider Solitaire Winning Strategies'.

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