Solitaire: How To Play Solitaire, How To Set Up & More!

Table Of Contents
Simple Terminology
How to Play Solitaire (Easy Classic/Klondike Solitaire Rules)
How to Set Up Solitaire
Free Solitaire Games Online
Tricks of the Trade
How Often Can You Win?
History Of The Game
Brain Training
Professional Solitaire

Before there was candy crush or angry birds, before clash of clans or Pokémon Go, there was the original solo game: solitaire. There are over 150 different versions of this time-honoured game. So, read on to discover the secrets and history of this legendary game. Plus, learn how to play solitaire with our simple solitaire rules below. We also explain how to set up solitaire with cards! This article focuses in on Classic Solitaire (Klondike Solitaire) but you can check out the games in the menu for more information on other popular solitaire card games. Don’t forget to put your skills to the test. Play our free solitaire card games any time on any device!

Simple Terminology

There are several game-specific terms, but we’ve narrowed down some simple solitaire jargon to help you understand the basic solitaire rules:

Suit: There are four suits in a deck of cards: hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades. Hearts and diamonds are the colour red. Clubs and spades are black in colour.

Tableau: The interactive area of solitaire game play. The tableau varies depending on the type of solitaire card game.

Pile: A pile of cards.

Stock: A type of pile. In most solitaire games, a stock pile is usually a single pile of cards, kept face down, that can deal one card during game play.

Foundation: The area to be filled with game-specific piles. At the beginning of most solitaire games, the foundations are usually empty and the objective of the game is to create complete foundation piles.

Waste: A type of game-specific pile. Cards in waste piles are either re-used or permanently removed from the game play.

How to Play Solitaire (Easy Classic/Klondike Solitaire Rules)

Here, we’ll focus in on how to play solitaire (specifically Classic Solitaire, also known as Patience or Klondike).

If you want to learn how to play our other free solitaire card games, check out our Spider Solitaire, Pyramid and FreeCell pages.

To play or read more about solitaire in a different language, check out the following links: Solitaire in French, Solitario in Italian, Solitär in German, Пасьянс in Russian, Solitario in Spanish, Pasjans in Polish, Solitaire in Romanian and Patiens in Swedish.

The diagram below is a quick start guide on how to play solitaire (Classic/Klondike Solitaire). Keep reading below for a more detailed set of solitaire rules.

How To Play Solitaire (Classic/Klondike)

Classic Solitaire Rules (Klondike Game Help)

You typically play solitaire with a regular 52-deck of cards, although versions exist using mah-jong tiles or pegs.

Classic Solitaire (aka Klondike Solitaire) is exclusively a card game.

To begin, from the face-up cards, see if you can place any on top of each other. You can move cards to the next highest-ranking card of the opposite colour; for example, you can put a black five on a red six. Once you remove a face-up card from a column; the card below is turned over. There should always be a face-up card in the column. You can place down a king if a column has no cards.

Once all the matches have been made, you can turn over a card from the stock pile. If you cannot play the cards you have drawn, turn over another card. Once you have worked through the stock pile, the unused cards become the new stock pile.

Continue in this manner, build up the tableau to create a complete sequence with alternate colouring. If you uncover an ace, you may lay it in one of the four foundations. You can remove cards from play and placed into the foundations in sequence, from ace to king, and by suit, e.g. all clubs go in the club foundation, all hearts in the heart foundation.

The trick of the game is to unblock the cards laid face down in the tableau, thus allowing you to complete the foundations. As mentioned previously, if a free space appears in the tableau, in the place of column, think carefully about which colour king to place down as it will determine the future of the game.

Classic Solitaire (Klondike Solitaire) Rules

Classic Solitaire Turn 1 and Classic Solitaire Turn 3

There are two variations of Classic Solitaire (Klondike Solitaire): Classic Solitaire Turn 1 and Classic Solitaire Turn 3. In the former, you can turn over one card from the stock pile at a time; in the latter, you can turn over three. When turning over three cards, you must place the first card over first, then the next one, and finally the last.

Classic Solitaire (Klondike Solitaire) Turn 1 vs. Turn 3

Now that you’ve understood how to play Classic Solitaire (Klondike Solitaire), get practising with our free solitaire games and good luck!

Don't forget, you can also learn how to set up solitaire with real cards below!

How To Win Classic Solitaire (aka Klondike Solitaire)

It's hard to imagine losing against yourself, but with Classic Solitaire, it's an option. But, don't think of solitaire as a battle of wits between two opponents; Classic Solitaire is a puzzle. You're aiming to organise the shuffled deck into a pattern.

Players release cards, placing them down in the column to create a foundation, in sequence and suit, from ace to king. The objective is to complete each foundation and when all four are complete, you win.

How To Set Up Solitaire

In order to play with real playing cards, you need to know how to set up solitaire. See below to learn how to set up Classic Solitaire (Klondike Solitaire).

To learn how to set up other solitaire card games with real playing cards, check out our Spider, Pyramid, and FreeCell pages.

How To Set Up Classic Solitaire (aka Klondike Solitaire)

All you need is a standard pack of 52 playing cards. When dealing out the cards and playing the game, you will need to create the following:

Tableau: Seven columns of cards

Foundations: Four piles where an entire suit will be built up, starting with aces and ending in kings.

Stock Pile: The cards from which you draw.

To deal the tableau, start by laying six cards in a row face down, then on the far-left place a card facing up, creating the seventh row. Imagine each row numbered one to seven; this is how many cards the row should contain, with the last card placed down always facing up. Lay the cards down in a staggered manner, so that the top section of one card pokes out above the card laid on top. Then take the remaining cards, and place them in the top left-hand corner, above the first row. In the beginning, the foundation and waste piles are empty.

Once you've learned how to set up solitaire, you can play the games according to the detailed or simple solitaire rules above!

Free Solitaire Games Online

Solitaire is a great way to spend an afternoon. Having become increasingly popular since its inclusion in the first Microsoft Windows software, many people still play to this day. At you can enjoy free solitaire games online. Take your pick of Spider, Pyramid, FreeCell, or Classic (Klondike Solitaire). You can play solitaire for as long as you want on any device. Don’t worry if your favourite game isn’t here yet, we specialize in just solitaire so more free solitaire card games are coming soon!

Tricks Of The Trade

But how do you go from amateur player to solitaire pro? Well, it helps to know some of the tricks of the trade. Here are five methods that will help boost your game:

1. Always draw a card from the deck on your first move.

To start the game, you want as many options as possible. Therefore, by drawing a card from the deck, you can increase your chances of making the best possible moves.

2. Place aces and 2s straight into your foundation.

As aces and 2s are unable to help reveal more cards, place them into your foundations straight away.

3. Don't clear any spaces just because you can.

Unless you have a king to fill a space, don't clear it just because you can. It is better to wait until you have a king to put in the vacancy. By clearing spaces unnecessarily, you are blocking cards you might need later.

4. Play your kings right.

However, don't just place a king down in a vacancy. Consider how you can use your kings to reveal more cards in later plays. If you have a red queen, you will need a black king. Think ahead, then play your kings right.

5. Work on the biggest columns first.

Part of the aim of the game is to reveal the hidden cards. By the nature of how solitaire is dealt, there are more hidden cards on the right than the left. Therefore, aim to reveal the columns on the right more often, bringing these cards into play.

Consider if you have two red 9s available, with an open black 10. Use the red nine from the column with the most cards, as it will have the ability to reveal more cards than the other options.

If you fancy taking solitaire to the next level, and genuinely honing your skills, try competing against another person. Give each other tips and hints. With a competitive edge, your play is sure to improve. Perhaps you might even be able to become a solitaire professional.

How Often Can You Win?

It might be surprising for such a simple game, but mathematics has struggled for years to calculate the winnability percentage of Windows Solitaire games. Some have even gone so far as to describe it as “one of the embarrassments of applied mathematics.”

If you hardly win any games, don't be disheartened! Famous mathematician Irving Kaplansky once played 2,000 games but only won a miserly 36.6 per cent. Once computers got in on the act, the win rate rose to over 80 per cent. Yet, little was certain about what the correct odds were. Or put simply: how often can you beat Patience?

Enter Charlie Blake and Ian Gent at the University of St Andrews, UK. Together they wrote a computer program called 'Solvitaire', to calculate the approximate odds of winning solitaire. The program dealt 1 million random hands and then analysed the best strategy to win each hand. It examined 20 billion partial player positions, calculating play sequences up to 2,274 moves, before discovering that the average chance of winning a game of Classic Solitaire is around 82 per cent.

Although the mathematical odds are still unknown, the program has at least put to rest much of the doubts.

History Of The Game

In recent years, the game has become world-famous, thanks to being added as a standard game in old Windows computers, alongside other classics like minesweeper and pinball wizard. However, the origins of this lone game go back much further into time.

In short, Solitaire first became popular in France in the early 19th century but many believe the game originates from Germany or Scandinavia. Then in the 20th century, the game grew in popularity, first in Britain, before jumping across the pond into North America. It's now a multi-generational game. It's a great way to kill time or keep your mind sharp.

Play Your Cards Right

Solitaire has been around for centuries. But it lacks the extensive history of dice and token games, which trace their lineage back to the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt or the great Kings of Mesopotamia. In the shadow of these gaming titans, playing cards, at least the kind of paper and cardboard, are a relatively recent innovation.

As with many medieval inventions, playing cards can be traced to 12th century China and Japan. From there, the gaming form followed the trade routes and winds, arriving in the Persian Empire, seeping through the Arabic world, before eventually arriving upon the shores of Europe, by the 14th century.

According to historical records, the first account in Europe of playing cards is credited to 1367, where a court in Switzerland, banned cards for being a 'prayer book of the devil.' For several decades both the regal authorities and the Catholic Church sought to prohibit and condemn the use of such playing cards. However, as has repeatedly been the case with prohibition, use merely increased.

Within one hundred years, card decks had become wildly popular. Designs were highly sought after. Artists spent hours producing intricate designs, with a guild of card painters being formed in Nuremberg – who are continuing to this day.

France increasingly became the centre of playing card production, with authorities imposing taxes by at least 1583. Even today, French playing cards are amongst the most popular.

Have A Little Patience

The origins of solitaire remain a source of speculation, with places ranging from Germany to Scandinavia all believed to be its home. However, perhaps because of the prominence of France in the production of playing cards; the French are often heralded as the creators of the game. The two most prominent English names of the game are both derived from French. Solitaire referring to the solitary or single-player setup, and Patience, which describes the slow and enduring aspect of a game. The only person you are competing with is yourself.

As legend has it, solitaire was invented amid the bloody French revolution, when a lonely prisoner in possession of a deck of cards, spread them and began to play by himself. Soon he had taught the rules to the other prisoners. Then, from there, the game spread like wildfire, escaping the revolution where many did not.

However, the legend seems unlikely, as the first-ever written proof for the game was published in Germany in 1788. In a book titled, 'The new Royal l'Hombre' after a Spanish game popular at the time, the rules of a variety of different games are described. In a chapter dedicated to Patience, the books explain the rules of the game. Strangely, at this point, Patience was still considered a two-player game with each player taking it in turns: one player completed their tableau, while the other sat and watched.

Despite this little wrinkle in the legend, Patience has still maintained its French connection. The great French conqueror, Napoléon Bonaparte, reportedly played solitaire after his banishment and exile in St Helena in 1816. Thereby further enhancing the popularity of the game and its solitary nature.

It was during this fad that many of the terms used to this day became established, for instance, tableau. However, many of the alternate names also date from this era, for example, Rouge et Noir, La Belle Lucie, and Coquette.

A Victorian Fancy

By the late 1800s, solitaire was a top-rated game, particularly in France and the UK. In England, publications such as Lady Adelaide Cadogan's Illustrated Games of Patience in 1874, William Dick's Game of Patience in 1883, as well as Professor Hoffman's Illustrated Book of Patience Games in 1892, kept the game in the public eye.

Bizarrely, Patience had also been used as a form of cartomancy – telling the future using playing cards. The origins of such practices began in the mid-1700s; but had become mildly popular by the end of the Victorian era, when seances and mystics were both prevalent and popular.

However, when the game finally emigrated to the new world, it lost much of these flights of fancy, becoming common amongst the hardened prospectors of the Canadian gold rush. The area in which the gold rush took place: Klondike, lent its name to the card game, being used up until the present day. Other popular names in North America include Fascination, Triangle, and Demon Patience.

Today, the most popular books about Patience are The Complete Book of Solitaire and Patience Games by Geoffrey Mott-Smith and Albert Morehead, published in 1949 and remaining in print till the present-day, as well as, the Penguin Book of Patience by David Partlett, which is an authoritative source on the game.

Microsoft Solitaire

While solitaire had maintained its popularity amongst kids killing time on a rainy afternoon, it was not as commonly played as it had been before the twentieth century. Surprisingly, this analogue game wasn’t destroyed by modern computers but saw a complete revitalisation.

In the 1980s, the first solitaire collection was commercially available. Brad Fregger published 'Solitaire Royale' via Spectrum Holobyte in 1987, becoming available on both PC and Apple Macintosh.

However, in 1990 Microsoft Windows solitaire was released on Microsoft Windows 3.0, becoming the big breakthrough for the game. Though confusingly, this was a version of classic Klondike Solitaire. From then on, a series of variants became increasingly popular, leading to a plethora of different solitaire variations. Part of the motive was to adjust computer users to the drag and drop elements new to computing.

Today, Microsoft Windows Solitaire has been installed on an estimated billion computers or more. Despite its long history as a game, many mistakenly believe it all began with Microsoft. Now you know better.

In 2019, Microsoft Solitaire was inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame. The Microsoft Solitaire Collection hosts over 35 million players each month, from over 200 countries and territories and including 65 different languages. The regions with the most solitaire players in descending order are the US, Japan, Brazil, China and the UK. However, they're not the places with the most players per capita, which are Cocos Islands, Anguilla, Vatican City, Barbados, and New Zealand. So, we all know what the Pope is doing on his days off.

National Solitaire Day

Now that you are fully acquainted with the origins of the great game, we can take a moment to celebrate the joy it has brought to many small moments. Some people go a step further, dedicating an entire day to celebrating the enjoyable game. Every May 22nd is National Solitaire Day in the US, where card-game lovers can celebrate and learn about the centuries-old game.

However, celebrations aren’t restricted to the real-world analogue version. Fans embrace the digital edition as well. After all, without Microsoft Solitaire, the game would never have become the phenomenon it is today.

As Paul Jensen, a Studio Manager for Microsoft Casual Games put it, “…For the past 30 years, Microsoft Solitaire has been providing great entertainment to hundreds of millions of players in every corner of the world, and we're happy to announce that May 22nd of each calendar year will officially be designated as National Solitaire Day, recognising the day Microsoft first include Solitaire in Windows.”

Therefore, since 2018, the Registrar at National Day Calendar has proclaimed May 22nd as National Solitaire Day.

But how to celebrate such a momentous day?

Well, isn't the answer obvious? Play solitaire!

With more options than ever including desktops, laptops, tablets and phones all capable of playing the old game, there's no excuse. Or if you're feeling particularly retro, head over to the dining room table and deal out the cards the old-fashioned way.

Brain Training

With modern time-killing games being fast-paced little puzzles, with rapid rounds, our attention spans have been growing shorter and shorter. Games of strategy and thought are even rarer. As a result, we rarely train our brains to develop such skills. However, there is no better game to boost our attention and sharpen our minds than solitaire. I mean, it is ‘Patience’ after all.

Here are some key benefits from playing a strategy game such as solitaire:

1. Boosts Your Focus

You need to think your way through the task at hand and plan moves ahead of time. By engaging with the game, your brain improves its attention span boosting your focus and comprehension. Freed from distractions, you have the time to focus entirely on the task at hand. Keep playing, and over time, your brain will adapt to this new normal, giving you laser-guided focus for your future tasks.

2. Awaken Your Awareness

In our daily lives, we often forget to pay attention to the details. We often rush moving from task to task, that we fail to spot the realities hiding right beneath our nose. Or as the old saying goes, we 'can't see the wood for the trees.'

However, with solitaire, recognising shapes and numbers, and sorting them into patterns is a pivotal aspect of the gameplay. Therefore, through continual gameplay, players develop their spatial and situational awareness. Which card needs to go where? How do I move the cards around to unlock a card blocked behind others? Such questions and strategic techniques are pivotal to improving our brains.

3. Mastering a Skill

Though solitaire is an easy game to learn, once you've learned the basics, you can move onto the advanced versions, such as Classic Solitaire Turn 3. Additionally, as with most skills, applying the basic rules in a series of complicated situations boosts your brain's ability to strategize. Chess is easy to learn, but hard to play, as is the case with solitaire. Speeding up your gameplay, or making the least possible moves can be extremely difficult. However, not every game of Patience is easy; sometimes, you deal a hand only a master can complete. By playing frequently, your mind will naturally improve.

Professional Solitaire

When picturing esports, you usually imagine big stadiums cheering on games such as Fortnight or DOTA II. However, once upon a time, solitaire was the big thing in online gaming. Yes, you read that right.

Back in 2002, Mary Dion, a former accountant quit her job to become a professional player. In one year, she earned over $250,000 playing solitaire and a few other games at the site World Winner. After entry costs and other deductibles, Dion made an incredible $100,000 for playing a card game.