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What is Solitaire?

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Solitaire is any card game that can be played by one person. Solitaire, which in England is called patience, originally referred to a pegboard puzzle but is now the accepted name for the oldest and most popular of all forms of card games. Although the history of solitaire is vague, it is assumed that the game originated from attempts at fortune-telling, possibly as early as the 13th century. There are probably more kinds of solitaire than all other card games combined. There are also variations of solitaire in which two or more players compete.

In most cases, solitaire is played with one or more full decks of 52 cards. The player begins by dealing an original, prescribed layout. He then turns up cards from the undealt stock and tries to match runs by rank, color, and suit. Solitaire games may depend on pure luck, because the tableau, or original layout, determines whether a solution is possible. Other kinds demand skill on the part of the player.


Klondike is probably the most popular solitaire game in the United States. The player, using a regular deck of cards, deals a row of seven cards, the first faceup and the other six facedown.

Then a card is placed faceup on the second card, followed by one card facedown on each of the remaining five cards. The process is repeated, starting one card farther to the right each time until the top card in every stack is faceup. The result is a tableau of 28 cards distributed in rows of one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven respectively. The player builds on the piles in descending sequence, alternating cards by color; that is, he plays a black 9 on a red 10. Any or all faceup cards of one pile may be moved as a unit and matched accordingly with the bottom card of another pile. When a facedown card on a pile becomes the top card, it is turned faceup.

If any of the piles is entirely removed, a new pile may be started by placing a king in the open space.

The object of Klondike is to release the aces and to build the whole pack on these foundations in ascending order and in suit. After the tableau has been dealt, the player puts all the aces, as they appear during play, out to the center of the table. To win, all four foundation aces must be built up to the king.

Cards of the stock, or remainder of the deck, are then turned up one by one for moves to the tableau or to the foundations. Cards that cannot be used immediately are put beside the stock as the wastepile.

The top card of the wastepile is always available for play. The stock cards may be turned only once. When all possible moves are made, the game is ended.


Canfield solitaire is named for a famous gambling house at Saratoga, N.Y. In this card game a regular 52-card deck is shuffled, and 13 cards are counted off facedown forming a packet, which is then turned faceup to form the stock. The next card from the deck is turned up as the first foundation card and placed above the stock to the right. If and when they become available during play, the other three cards of the same rank as the first foundation are played faceup in a row with the first foundation. A row of four cards is then dealt faceup to the right of the stock, forming the tableau.

The undealt portion of the deck is turned up three cards at a time and placed in a wastepile. The player builds up on each foundation in suit and sequence and plays cards to the tableau in descending order and opposite color as in Klondike. The top cards of the stock and wastepile are always playable to either the foundations or tableau. The top cards of the tableau are playable to the foundations or to another tableau. A space in the tableau must be filled with the uppermost card of the stock or of the wastepile if the stock is exhausted. Each time the undealt portion of the pack is exhausted, the player turns the wastepile facedown and goes through it again, three cards at a time, until play comes to a standstill or the game is won.

Although Klondike and Canfield are the two most widely played solitaire games, other popular varieties include accordion, spider, scorpion, golf, pyramid, and clock.

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