How to Play: Solitaire

Hello everyone! My name is Dan, I work at the Main Library, and I love games. In this series of posts, I’m going to be teaching you how to play some classic games that are easy to learn, fun to play, and quite possibly already in your home! First up, let’s look at games that require only yourself and a deck of cards: Solitare!

The most famous type of card solitaire (and more than likely what immediately came to mind when you read the word “solitaire”) is called Klondike. Klondike is set up by dealing cards face down into 7 columns, each with one more card than the last. Flip the top card of each stack face up, and put the rest of the deck off to the side. Your setup should look like this:

The goal of Klondike is to get all the cards in 4 stacks (called the “foundations”): one for each suit, with aces at the bottom and kings at the top. As you can see, we’ve had a fortunate deal: the ace of spades is right there, ready to be played on the foundation! Whenever a card is moved, leaving only face-down cards below it, the top card of that column is flipped face-up. Most of the time, you won’t be playing cards to the foundation, though. The other option is to put a card on a card with the next highest rank that is of the opposite color. Number cards go on the next highest number, tens go on jacks, jacks go on queens, and queens go on kings. Kings can’t be played on any card and need a column to be completely cleared (leaving an empty space) to be moved there. You can also move an entire (or partial) stack if the highest card can be legally moved. In our example game, the 4 of hearts can be moved onto the 5 of clubs, and the 10 of clubs can be moved onto the jack of hearts, revealing the next card in each of those columns. If you’re out of plays, flip cards from the rest of the deck three at a time. The top card of that stack can be played as well. (In our case, we could play the 8 of hearts if we had a black 9 available.) If you run out of cards in the stack, flip it over (don’t shuffle!) and start over.

Hopefully, you’ll end up with a situation like this:

All the cards have been revealed, and they’re all in neatly ordered stacks. Playing them to the foundations is trivial, and you’ve won! Klondike can be a frustrating game, though: some deals just aren’t winnable. If you want to increase your chances, try turning up only one card at a time instead of three from the stockpile or adding another deck (deal out two more columns and use four more foundations if you do).

Klondike is far from the only card solitaire game; there are hundreds! One of my personal favorites is called La Belle Lucie.

To set up La Belle Lucie, deal the whole deck face up into “fans” of three cards each. You’ll have one card left over: set it by itself.

Like Klondike, the goal is to play every card to the foundations in all four suits, ace to king. However, the movement rules are different. Only the top card of each fan may move, and it can only move to the next highest rank in its own suit. Kings can’t move at all. In this game, the queen of diamonds in the top row can be placed on the king of diamonds in the middle of the third row (after playing the two aces on top of their fans to the foundations, of course!) This game is a good deal more strategic than Klondike since you know where all the cards are. I typically look for the next card to be played to the foundation in each suit and work through the series of moves needed to get it on top in my head. 

In this game, only single card moves are legal, so any cards below a descending series of cards (or a king) are locked away. For this reason, in all but the most blessed deals, you’ll end up with something like this:

There are a few moves available here, but nothing that will do us much good. When you hit this point, just scoop up all the cards that you haven’t played to the foundations, shuffle, and redeal them in face up fans of three like before. You can do this twice per game. Also, I play with the option to bring one card to the top of its stack after you’ve used both redeals, which makes things a bit easier when there are only a few stacks.

There’s even an option for playing solitaire when you don’t even have a table: One-hand Solitaire! It has probably the simplest setup of all: just shuffle the deck, hold it in your hand, then draw four cards from the bottom of the deck into your hand.

Then, if the first and fourth cards have the same suit, as they do here, remove the two middle cards. If they are the same number, remove all four cards. If neither is the case, draw another card from the bottom, shift the cards, so only the top four are visible, and check the suits and numbers of the outside cards again. Later on in the game, when you remove cards, shift again to the current top four, which will reveal older cards. This may cause a chain reaction of removal! The goal is to have removed all the cards when you’ve gone through the entire deck. Of course, whether or not you win is all down to luck (and it isn’t very likely), but it’s a fun way to pass a few minutes.

If you liked the sound of these games, I highly recommend It’s a completely free website with over a hundred solitaire games and variants. All three of these are there (it’s where I discovered La Belle Lucie), alongside many more.

Want to know more? Here are some related materials from our electronic resources:

The Book of Cards For Kids

Ultimate Book of Card Games

The Manchurian Candidate (Solitaire plays a key part in the plot!)
If there are any games you would like to see me cover in a future post, let me know in the comments or send me an email at Happy gaming!