Pyramid Solitaire: Play Online For Free, Learn How To Play & More!
To better understand Pyramid Solitaire, we’ll start with a brief background on solitaire (in general). The game of solitaire has been played for centuries. It became a popular pastime amongst the wealthy and aristocrats, who would play the game with expensive hand-painted playing cards, purchased from the finest French artists. In time, with the mass production of cards, solitaire filtered down to the masses, journeying to the new world in the late 19th century. There it acquired the name Klondike, due to being a popular game amongst the prospectors during the gold rush. (Keep reading to learn more, including how to play Pyramid Solitaire, or scroll up and play free Pyramid Solitaire online now!)
However, though the popularity of such solitary card games simmered away through the twentieth century, it was not until the advent of the modern computer that things truly began to take off. With Windows 3.0, Microsoft introduced solitaire to the public, primarily to teach new computer users the basics of drag and drop, as well as how to use a mouse.
The games proved a success, achieving a level of fame they had previously never enjoyed. In the following updates to Windows Solitaire, Microsoft introduced new versions of the game, including FreeCell, Spider Solitaire, as well as Pyramid Solitaire.
Pyramid Solitaire is still played with a standard 52-card deck. However, it differs significantly from prior versions of solitaire. Primarily in the arrangement of the cards on the tableau and the prominence of maths when matching cards. Unlike most games of solitaire, suits are irrelevant.
How To Play Pyramid Solitaire (Easy Pyramid Solitaire Rules)
If you know Classic Solitaire, you'll be familiar with the basic concepts of stacking cards. Still, when learning how to play Pyramid Solitaire, you'll notice several key differences. In this game, suits do not matter, nor do ranks, in the traditional sense.
If you’re short for time, check out our quick start guide on how to play Pyramid Solitaire. Otherwise, keep reading for more information on the pyramid solitaire rules.
How To Win Pyramid Solitaire
To win you will need to pair up the cards in the pyramid, once the entire pyramid has been dismantled, from the bottom up, you win. It’s as simple as that!
Pyramid Solitaire Rules
The Pyramid Solitaire rules are fairly straight forward. To start, you need to understand only one simple rule. You can remove cards from play if they add up to 13. For example, 8 + 5 = 13. In the game, a jack is worth 11, a queen 12, and a king 13. You can discard kings immediately, without requiring a second matching card, at any time.
You can only remove cards if they have no cards blocking them in the tableau, by which we mean, they have no cards below them covering their corners. When dismantling the pyramid, work from the bottom up. The strategy comes from deciding the direction with which to move up the pyramid.
Once you've matched any cards that are already in play, you can begin turning over a card at a time from the stock pile. If you can't match it to any in the pyramid, or you choose not to play it, then place it in a waste pile. Once you have worked through the stock pile, the waste pile becomes the new stock pile.
However, it is essential to note that it is possible to have an un-winnable hand. If you have an ace as the capstone to the pyramid, as well as two queens in the bottom row, and two more in the sixth and fourth row, you are mathematically unable to win.
Don't worry. Deal yourself another set. The more you practise learning how to play Pyramid Solitaire, the easier it will become to spot an impossible hand.
How To Set Up Pyramid Solitaire
Dealing out the cards is pivotal to playing Pyramid Solitaire. Take a deck of shuffled cards, and lay one card down, face up. Then lay two more cards, face-up beneath it, layering them on top. Then do a row of three, then four, until you have seven rows, thus completing the pyramid. You should have dealt 28 cards in total. The pyramid will be 7 cards tall, with the base comprising seven cards. Each card you laid down should only cover one lower quarter of the card(s) above.
Take the rest of the cards, and place them to the side; this will be your stock pile.
Play Free Pyramid Solitaire Online
Now that you know how to play Pyramid Solitaire, start practising! You can play free Pyramid Solitaire online all day long at SOLITAIRE100.com. You don’t even need to download anything or sign up!
A Short History Of Pyramid Solitaire
Unlike other versions of solitaire, such as Klondike or FreeCell, whose histories are as meandering as they are interesting, the origins of Pyramid Solitaire are significantly more mysterious. Some have claimed its invention dates back to the 18th century. Interestingly, this would place around the time modern Egyptology emerged, following the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon Bonaparte in the late 18th century. Napoleon was himself supposedly an avid player of solitaire, at least following his exile to St Helena in 1816. As such, several variants of the classic game are named in his honour.
Nonetheless, it grew in popularity after being released in the Microsoft Entertainment Pack 2 in 1990. At this time, it was not yet called Pyramid but was instead termed Tut's Tomb, appearing alongside other classics such as FreeCell. The name referenced the tomb of the legendary young Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Unlike its brother, FreeCell, which became a worldwide phenomenon, Pyramid remained something of a niche version, although still becoming amongst the most played versions of solitaire available.
Following 2001’s Pretty Good Solitaire, Tut’s Tomb changed to King Tut, which is a slight variation of the rules. It wasn’t until Windows 8 and the Microsoft Solitaire Collection that a regular version of Pyramid became widely playable on Windows systems.
Variations Of Pyramid Solitaire
If the story of solitaire has one underlying theme, it's that of constant innovation and invention. Each new version of the game spawned further iterations, until the modern-day, when there are thousands of variations. Just as the original Classic Solitaire led to FreeCell, Spider and even Pyramid; so too has Pyramid Solitaire developed a range of new versions for fans of the original to try out.
Here are some of the most popular variations of the game:
In Tut's Tomb, players employ a three-at-a-time deal from the stock into the waste pile. The top cards in the stock are not available to play. Additionally, when you deal cards into the three waste piles, they block off the cards already in play. Therefore, the cards you most recently deal must match to expose the cards dealt earlier.
As opposed to regular Pyramid, where a player aims to discard all 52 cards, in Tut’s Tomb the aim is simply to clear the pyramid of 28 cards. Many players widely considered this to be significantly less interesting than Pyramid itself, where players must use skill to decide which matches to play and which to leave.
Another variant rule is that in Tut's Tomb, you can match cards to the card directly underneath if no other card is covering that card. Whereas in regular Pyramid, you must unblock cards by removing the cards closer to the base of the pyramid, thus creating an additional element of strategy.
The successor of Tut's Tomb changed one fundamental rule, by requiring that you discard all 52 cards of a deck. All other rules remained intact, including beginning with a pyramid of 28 cards in an overlapping pattern, as well as the rule of 13 – whereby players can only discard cards once they add up to 13.
However, as solitaire enthusiast Michael Keller notes, the game may well be impossible, with a large part of the game only being down to luck as opposed to skill.
In 1996, Michael Keller set about creating his own version of Pyramid, inspired by other variants such as Par Pyramid, which Albert Morehead and Geoffrey Mott-Smith created. These variants make the game easier to win, as the standard game may have a win rate of 1 in 200, which is extremely low!
Keller wanted to transform Pyramid into a complete open solitaire. In his version, he envisaged the cards being dealt face-up at the start of the game: similar to FreeCell. The reasoning was, that such games offered more of a puzzle-like experience, requiring skill and strategy, as opposed to dumb luck.
He trialled a range of different variations, including one in which there were four rows of six cards below the pyramid; however, this blocked too much. Eventually, he hit upon the solution: three rows of eight cards. Players worked their way up the row but could see the cards that would ultimately be available to them. As such, Keller had infused the game with another element of strategy, missing from the original. He named the game Giza, after the Egyptian pyramid of the same name.
Following careful analysis, Keller realised he had completed his objective: Giza had a win rate of between 1-in-3 to 1-in-4, depending on the skill of the players.
In 1997, Keller wrote Giza up as a computer program, with versions of the game being available in both Pretty Good Solitaire and Solitaire Plus.
Aside from the three main variants listed above, there are a bunch of other, less famous, versions:
Relaxed Pyramid: Similar to Tut’s Tomb, but without the three cards being dealt from the stock. Players are only required to move the cards from the pyramid to the foundation to win the game.
Apophis: In this version, players have the option of using three separate waste piles, as opposed to one. The strategy is very similar to Pyramid, but like Keller's Giza, this version is easier to play as there are more cards available to match.
Triangle: Instead of dealing into a pyramid, the player deals the cards into an inverted pyramid, or triangle.
In addition to variations of the game, players can also choose to use a variety of different rules, including:
Deal out a reserve of six or seven cards below the pyramid. Matches can be made from the selection of exposed cards or the stack. You do this by playing with a cell that you can fill from either the tableau or waste cards.
If a card does not cover another card in a combo, then players can match it to the card beneath in the pyramid. For instance, if a queen is overlaying an ace, then you can match the cards. However, if another card is also overlaying the ace, the cards cannot be match. Most versions require both cards to be fully exposed.
Using A Spanish Deck
One interesting variant is where players use a different deck of playing cards. Most people are only familiar with the standard deck; in fact, it is so widely used throughout the world that it has become known as the international or anglophone deck. However, the deck actually originated in France, who as we have mentioned, were well renowned for their card painting skills.
Interestingly, many different decks of cards came from Europe, including both the Italian deck and Spanish deck. The Spanish deck differs significantly from the French deck, being composed of between 40 to 48 cards. When playing with a 48-card Spanish deck, then the highest value cards are kings, which hold a value of twelve. Therefore, instead of adding to thirteen, players aim to combine cards with a value of twelve.
How Is Pyramid Solitaire Scored?
One version of the scoring system for Pyramid Solitaire revolves around the Bonus. If playing digitally, look for the Bonus at the top of the screen. At the start of a game, players begin with 100 points in the Bonus. Through the game, the points slowly decrease, with 1 point being lost for every 3 seconds played.
Following this, players can earn additional points as they progress through the pyramid. However, they can also lose points. Players gain points by:
Discarding a pair of cards totalling 13: number of bonus points doubles
Discarding a king: number of bonus points trebles
Match an entire row of the pyramid: 50 Bonus points
Clear the reserve cards: 50 Bonus points
Players can lose points for:
Using the Undo: -100 Bonus points
In this version of the scoring system, time is of the essence. However, there are alternate versions which are used when playing with a regular set of playing cards in real-life. In this scoring system, a perfect score is zero, meaning the pyramid has been completely demolished. If the pyramid is not complete, then you count all the remaining face-up cards in the pyramid, the number of remaining cards is the score.
Tips And Tricks To Win Pyramid Solitaire
After becoming familiarised with the history of the game, the numerous variations that exist, and possible scoring systems, it's time to get playing. However, before you start matching cards, it's crucial to appreciate the value of strategy. Simply matching cards together however and whenever might result in a lucky win, but more times than not you'll find yourself blocked from the peak of the pyramid.
Therefore, learning as many tips and tricks as possible will help transform you from a keen novice to a wily professional. So, consider these tips next time you play:
1. Scan the board at the start
Before you even match your first set of cards, remember to scan the entirety of the board. Work out which cards you can match from the existing pyramid, which directions you might want to take, and what cards you’ll need when you get to the top.
Examining the board isn't just crucial for strategy; some games are unwinnable. While digital versions of the game will filter out any impossible games, when playing in real-life you won't have the option. So, if for instance, you have a 7 in the top row, but it's covered by four 6's, then the game is entirely unwinnable. Shuffle the deck, and start again.
2. Consider how to match cards
If there are three of a particular kind of card in the pyramid, then don't match the fourth card in a stack with another card. If you do so, the three in the pyramid will be significantly harder to get rid of, later on.
3. Remove the king
As soon as you can, remove a king. As they are already worth 13, it is never a wrong move to remove the king from play. Don't wait around, play it immediately; it will open up the pyramid and make future plays easier. Kings are essentially a free card.
4. Don’t match between stock pile and waste pile
When playing the rule that you are able to go multiple times through the deck, don't begin matching cards from the stockpile with the waste pile until you have to. Or at least until the last time you are able to go through the deck. The cards will remain in the same order. However, the aim of the game isn't to match cards in the stock and waste piles, but to remove them from the pyramid. Therefore, removing cards from your deck decreases the options available for removing cards from the pyramid, making life more difficult for yourself.
5. Always play from the discard pile
Don't play a card from the deck, if it is the card you need. Move it to the discard pile and turn over another card from the deck. However, only do so if the card on top of the discard pile is useless at present. Doing so will increase the information available, as after turning over the card from the deck, a better play might open up.
Although some scoring systems time players, you should still delay playing a particular card until you have to, as Pyramid is all about evaluating your options. You may play a card early on that you wished you had available later. Therefore, plan ahead, keep your eye on your path up the pyramid, and try to remember as many cards from the deck as you can. The more you learn about the board, the easier your game will be.
7. Keep it even
When working up the pyramid, try to take cards equally from both sides, it will make the later game substantially more manageable. If you focus on only one side, then by the end of the game, you can end up with a single line of five cards. To win, you will need to pray you have five specific cards left that will match the particular order needed to win. As the odds of that are slim, keep your options open, and work both sides of the pyramid.
So, there you have it—the complete guide to Pyramid Solitaire. The only thing left to do is get practising. The more you play, the more adept you will become at the game.
Either way, have fun, score high, and demolish that pyramid. You can play free Pyramid Solitaire at SOLITAIRE100.com. Good luck!