How To Play Solitaire

How to Play Solitaire

Card games can be fun when played with other people. However, you can also enjoy some games even when you're by yourself. One classic example of a solo-player card game is solitaire.

The objective of the solitaire is relatively straightforward. However, there are rules to remember. Once you understand the rules, your gameplay can proceed smoothly.

How do you set up the playing area? What are the solitaire rules, and how do you win?

Solitaire Objective

The object of the game is to release certain cards from the hand and play them into position to build each foundation sequentially and by suit. The Solitaire game is won when the entire deck of cards is built onto all the foundations.

Solitaire Game Play

Solitaire, sometimes called Klondike Solitaire, is a game that requires one player and a standard 52-card deck of playing cards.

The cards are arranged in seven piles, and the goal is to organize the cards into four stacks, one per suit, in ascending order from ace to king.

Solitaire Setup

There are four types of piles in a classic game of solitaire:

  • The tableau is composed of seven piles of cards, with seven cards laid out in each of the seven columns.
  • The foundations are composed of four piles where a whole suit or sequence is built up. The foundation piles are hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs.

Most solitaire games have aces as the “foundation” or base card at the bottom of the pile.

  • The stock or hand pile is composed of the remaining cards after the other cards are distributed to the tableau at the game’s start.

Cards from the stock pile are eventually brought into play according to the rules.

  • The talon or waste pile (also called discard pile) is where cards that cannot be distributed in the tableau or foundations are placed. These cards are placed face-up in the waste pile.

Ranks of Cards

The cards ranked from highest to lowest are the following: King, queen, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and ace. Jokers are not included in the game.

The Deal

Seven piles of cards lined up from left to right are needed to form the tableau columns. Starting from the left, place the first card on the first pile face up, then deal one card face down on each of the following six piles to the right.

Repeat the process, placing one card face up on the second pile from the left. Deal one card face down on the following five piles, repeat for the third pile, and so on.

After setting up the cards, your tableau should have one face-up card on the leftmost pile and one face-up card on top of six face-down cards on the rightmost pile.

The remaining cards not placed on the tableau should form the stock or hand pile.

When you begin a game of solitaire, the foundations and waste pile should not have any cards.

Solitaire Game Rules

When transferring cards from the talon to the tableau, you can only place cards in descending order and alternating colors.

For example, a four of diamonds may be placed on top of a five of spades. If another pile has a six of hearts, you can transfer both the four and five to that pile.

How to Play Solitaire

Solitaire consists of several rules that make the game appear challenging at first. However, once you become familiar with the rules, the gameplay objective is relatively straightforward.

You can transfer faced-up cards to other piles in the tableau in descending order and alternating colors according to their ranks.

If the tableau has an empty spot, you may transfer a king to that spot.

Suppose there is an ace in the tableau. You may transfer that card to a pile with a two of the opposite color or place the ace to the foundation.

When you cannot move any more cards within the tableau, you may select three cards from the top of the stock pile face down and place them on the talon face up.

If you cannot transfer the first card on the talon to any pile in the tableau, you must select another three cards from the stock pile and repeat the process.

If your stock pile runs out of cards, reshuffle the talon and form it into your new stock pile.

While transferring cards between piles in the tableau, you can also form your foundation stacks simultaneously.

You can transfer only the top card on the tableau or talon to the foundation piles in ascending order and according to the suit. For example, you can move a two of hearts to a foundation pile with an ace of hearts on top.

While you can play this game using physical playing cards, some websites and downloadable apps offer online solitaire. These apps may provide opportunities to play with other players online and even win some prizes.

Online solitaire can be played using traditional rules, and there may be additional features depending on the app. Check the reviews of those apps first to be sure that they are safe and secure to use.

How You Win or Lose in Solitaire

To win the game, you must transfer all the cards to the foundation files. In other words, if all the cards are arranged in ascending order according to their suit, you win.

On the other hand, you lose the card game once you can no longer make any permissible moves and there are no more cards left to play, making the foundation piles incomplete.

Types of Solitaire

There are different versions of solitaire you can play if you prefer some variety.


In this version, you start by shuffling a standard deck of playing cards and creating a tableau of 13 face-up cards in three rows (two rows of five cards each and one row of three cards). The remaining cards will form the stock.

To play, you need to discard pairs of cards that add up to 10, such as 7 and 3 or 6 and 4. You can also discard four face cards that match, such as four kings. Replace the discarded cards on the tableau with new cards from the stock.

You win once you discard the entire deck of cards.

Pyramid Solitaire

This version of solitaire requires a standard 52-card deck, where 28 of the playing cards are dealt face up to form a pyramid on the tableau.

The pyramid has seven rows, where the bottom row has seven cards, and the top row has one card. The objective is to remove cards from the pyramid by matching and discarding cards that total 13.

You can match the cards in the pyramid with each other or with the cards from the stock pile.

Monte Carlo Solitaire

In this type of solitaire, you create a five-by-five grid of face-up cards. The remaining cards not in the tableau go to the stock.

The goal of Monte Carlo is to transfer all your cards to the discard pile by pairing cards of the same kind. You can only move pairs of cards horizontally, vertically, or diagonally adjacent to each other on the 5 x 5 grid.

After removing all possible pairs, the grid is rearranged. New cards from the stock are added to the grid.

Solitaire Variations

Other variations of solitaire include the following:

Spider Solitaire

Spider solitaire uses two decks of cards. With ten tableau piles, no foundations, and no talons, spider solitaire is a much more difficult version of traditional game.

The game’s objective is to place 13 same-suit cards in descending order from the king to ace in a tableau pile. If you cannot make any more moves within the tableau, you can place one card from the stock pile to each empty tableau pile.

A fully sequenced suit is removed. You win when no more cards are left.

Forty Thieves

Forty thieves solitaire, sometimes called Napoleon at St. Helena, is similar to the traditional solitaire, except it uses twice the number of cards. There are 10 tableau piles with four cards per pile, hence the name “forty thieves.”

You form piles in the tableau in descending order (king to ace) of the same suit, and any card may fill an empty space in the tableau.

Since the game uses two decks of cards, there are eight foundations for eight suits. You win the game when all cards are transferred to the foundations in ascending order per suit.


Yukon uses one deck of standard playing cards. The game does not have a stock or talon pile, and all 52 cards are placed in seven tableau piles at the start of the game.

The game uses the traditional seven-pile tableau, except the second up to the seventh piles receive five additional cards face up.

The objective of Yukon is similar to the traditional solitaire, except for one additional rule. You may move any group of faced-up cards regardless of the sequence in the tableau.


This game was created in the 1980s as a computer application. FreeCell is played by dealing 52 playing cards to eight tableau piles.

The first four piles have seven cards each, while the last four piles have six cards each. All cards face up. Rather than have stock and talon piles, FreeCell has four empty storage piles.

The player may move any one card anywhere in each pile they choose. However, the player may move only one card at a time, causing some games to last longer.

The sequencing objective in FreeCell is similar to traditional solitaire.


Emperor is a time-consuming game similar to spider solitaire. You play this game with two standard playing card decks forming ten piles of four cards each in the gameplay area.

The first three cards in the column are faced down, while the fourth card is faced up.

You can only move cards one at a time. The objective is to release the aces and build up the eight foundations out of the tableau.

Streets and Alleys

This solitaire card game is similar to FreeCell. In streets and alleys, the four aces are placed in one column of the gameplay area, forming four rows serving as foundations.

The remaining cards are shuffled, and piles of six cards each are placed on both sides of each ace.

You can only play the top card in each tableau pile. Players may build up the foundations with cards from the same suit as the first ace.

Players may also move cards within the tableau as long as the moved card is one rank lower than the card to where it is being transferred. The cards do not have to be of different colors to be placed together.


This card game places all 52 cards individually faced up in the tableau. You can create rows anytime or when there is enough space.

The player can stack a card on another card to its immediate left or third to the left if they are of the same suit or rank.

For example, to the left of the nine of diamonds is the ten of diamonds, ace of spades, and nine of clubs. You can place the nine of diamonds on top of the ten of diamonds or the nine of clubs.

The game’s objective is to perform as many moves as possible to stack the entire deck up.

Solitaire History

Solitaire originated in Germany and was first recorded in 1788. Early reports suggest the game started as a method for fortune-telling.

When the game reached France, rumors spread that Napoleon played the game during his exile. Some of the terms used in the game, like “tableau” and “talon,” came from France. “Tableau” means table, and “talon” means “heel.”

In the 19th century, solitaire came to England, where Prince Albert was purported to have loved the game.

Solitaire’s popularity increased throughout the 20th century. When a digital version of the game was released, solitaire became more accessible worldwide.