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Ultimate Guide to Classic Solitaire

Classic solitaire, a game which in Britain is known as “Patience” is familiar to Americans who grew up with the Microsoft Windows “games” icon. Classic solitaire of course originates with tactile playing cards.

Though Windows turned the game into a way for people to idle time in front of a screen, solitaire has long been the one of the best ways for an individual to escape the clutches of boredom. On rainy days, or when the power is out after a storm, one of the best ways to pass time is classic solitaire.

The good news is learning the game is not very difficult and it’s quite possible to be a solitaire maestro very quickly.

The Rules of Classic Solitaire

It is actually quite easy to play classic solitaire. The game itself functions very simply. The goal is to get all the cards into the right suits. Sounds easy, right? Not so much. There are several different rules and plays that one must know in order to win consistently at classic solitaire. The reality is this is a game of strategy.

The key to understanding classic solitaire is to make sure to understand that the cards must be suited according to numerical order. The ace, therefore, is on the bottom and on the top should be a king. In between the cards must be ordered from the number two card all the way to the queen.

Though it sounds straightforward, the way to play the game involves some skill. Specifically, a player must be willing to consider all moves on the board before advancing. In this way, classic solitaire is much like chess.

To start out, the cards must be shuffled. Upon shuffling, the first of seven cards are placed face up. The next six cards are placed face down. After the first seven are dealt, then the six cards are dealt with the first card face up and the next 5 face down. This pattern continues. At the end, the first slot should have one card face up, the second slot two cards, one face up and underneath a card face down. This pattern continues out to all seven cards. These seven card slots are where the player’s “board” is.

If one of the seven initial cards dealt is an ace, that card is placed face up above the board. This is where the suiting of cards will take place. At any point during the game, if an ace is dealt then it will occupy one of the four slots above the board to suit the cards. After cards are dealt, there should be various moves to make before taking a card from the top of the undealt deck. The next step is learning how to make the different moves of classic solitaire.

How to Play Classic Solitaire

Playing classic solitaire is actually very easy. The key to success in this game is taking your time. Once the board is completed, the first step is to organize what is in front of you. Of the seven cards facing up, there is usually a good chance that the cards can be eliminated. The cards must alternate between red and black. Suit doesn’t matter. Clubs can go with hearts or diamonds. Cards must be organized in descending order.

Here’s an example of how to take care of the board: if there is a black 6 and a red 5, remove the red 5 and place it over the black 6. Make sure to place it on the black 6 just enough to see the color and denomination of the card. As the board gets cleared of the initial card, reveal the cards underneath the cards that were face up. This usually includes plenty more moves.

If there are two sections of cards, for example, a black 4, red 3, and a black 2, try to move those cards into a position that will open up one of the seven slots for a king to take its place. The only card that can be moved to an empty slot is a king.

As the board continues to be cleared out, there may be aces. Move those above the board. Usually, there is a temptation to start filling a suit. Resist this urge! In classic solitaire, a player is not allowed to move a card out of the suits once it is placed there. Once all the cards have been handled on the board, the next step is to look at the deck.

In some classic solitaire variations, a player is only allowed to go through the deck once, or they are allowed to reveal three cards at once. In the case of three cards, the only card that can be played is the top cards. This can be frustrating for new players. The best thing to do if new to classic solitaire is play one card at a time.

This makes playing the game a bit easier for a novice. As the card comes up from the deck, check the board to see if it can be played. Sometimes, the only play may be to put the card into the suit if there’s an ace. For example, if there is an ace of spades and the two of spades is in the deck, the smart play is to put that card on top of the ace.

The key at this point is not to rush. There will be some folks that go through the deck too quick and get frustrated. The best way to play classic solitaire is to reveal the card from the deck. Once the card is revealed, look over the board to find the right play. Once the play is found, put the card where it needs to go.

At that point, there could be several other moves that can take place. For example, if pulling a red 5 from the deck and a black 6 sits unoccupied on the board, place the red 5 on the black 6. At this point, there could be a black 4 available on the board. Moving it over to the red 5 is the smart move and can open up several different moves before getting more cards from the deck.

Remember, classic solitaire is a game of strategy. The biggest obstacle is when there seem to be no moves left and there are still cards left unrevealed. At this point, if there are no moves left, then the game is over. If all the cards on the deck are dealt and all the cards have been revealed, then it is time to put the cards in their proper suits. Just simply put the cards where they belong in ascending order.

That’s it! The game has been won. Though it seems simple, there is actually much to classic solitaire.

Origins of Classic Solitaire

Classic solitaire has origins in both Britain and France as a strategy game. Its history is quite interesting – it is said that when Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled in St. Helena, he passed time on the remote volcanic South Atlantic island by playing many games of solitaire. It is said the game goes all the way back to the 1750’s.

Though playing cards have adapted with the times along with different playing modalities, the game’s essence remains as a way to keep the mind sharp. One of the best comparisons of solitaire is jogging – it’s an individual endeavor that’s meant to sharpen the mind.

There’s much strategy to solitaire, and regardless of where the game has evolved, it’s still one of the best ways to pass time while keeping the mind sharp.

Classic Solitaire Strategies

There is no secret to classic solitaire, the goal is simple. Perhaps the most important of strategies is patience. Take the time to look at all the different moves. There may be one or two moves that you will not see the first time. This is perhaps the most frustrating aspect, because one will see a move after the fact, but it is too late to remedy it.

There are some helpful tricks though. If there is a situation where you can move a card to reveal some cards underneath, for example, there are two red 3’s that are facing up and a black 4, one of the smart moves early in the game is to take the card from the larger pile. That said, if there is a king and revealing a card would get you that much closer to putting a king in its own spot, then move the king that way.

Another great strategy is to make sure don’t place the cards in the suit pile until all the cards are played. That said, if you are playing classic solitaire with taking three cards from the deck, it is wise to place the card in the suit pile if there is no play on the board. This move will reveal other cards underneath.

Overall, the best strategy to classic solitaire is play the cards wherever and however you can! If you sit on a move, that move may not be available on the next turn through the deck.

Classic Solitaire Terms

There are several terms the serious classic solitaire player will know. The terms are as follows:

  • Cells: This refers to “free cell” games. It is basically where you can move cards.

  • Fanned: Cards in a pile are overlapped but can be seen

  • Foundation: Cards are squared and they are built up. For example, the ace is a foundation card.

  • Reserve: Area where building cards is not permitted

  • Squared: Cards are built on top of each other

  • Stock: Cards are squared and face down

  • Tableau: The layout or what has been referred to in this article as the “board”

  • Waste: Where cards brought into play are sent

In terms of building, there are simple terms, which is “by suit”, “by suit sequence”, “by color”, “by alternating color.” These terms are exactly as they sound.

Terminology for playing includes:

  • Available Cards: These are cards that can be played

  • Released Cards: Cards that were once blocked, but now aren’t

  • Suitable Cards: Cards that can be placed

  • Base Cards: Cards that are at the bottom of the base

Variations of Classic Solitaire

It is no surprise that such a popular game has variations. Here are some of the most recognizable variations of classic solitaire:

  • Forty Thieves: Very simple version where all the cards face up, makes it easier to solve the game

  • Free Cell: One of the hardest games, cards can be placed in different areas, are all face up, but difficult to solve

  • Golf Solitaire: Cards are placed face up and instead of putting them in piles, the goal is to get them all played

  • Pyramid Solitaire: Build the cards in the shape of a pyramid and discard them as they add up to 13.

Classic Solitaire FAQ

Here are some of the most asked questions about classic solitaire:

  • Are jokers used in classic solitaire?

No, the joker is not used. Classic solitaire only works for suits and the 52 cards in the deck. However, if missing a card, use the joker as a substitute for the missing card.

  • Are there unsolvable games of classic solitaire?

Yes, in fact that’s the charm of the game. Often it is difficult to win the game. That’s why many folks love to play classic solitaire, because the game is not easy to win.

  • Can I remove cards from the ace pile?

Even though it’s not allowed in some games, you may do so in many versions of classic solitaire. The great news about the game is that you are the one who basically makes the rules! So, if your house rules are no removing the cards, you can use that rule.

Final Thoughts on Classic Solitaire

Classic solitaire is a great way to pass the time. This game is beloved by many because of how simple it is and yet how hard it is to solve at times. There are many great online versions of the game. Have fun with this great game the old school card style, or the online method!