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Ultimate Guide to Baker’s Dozen

This variation of the classic solitaire card game is named for its thirteen columns. It’s related to some other variations of the solitaire card game, also known as Patience. Other similar versions include Capricieuse, Martha, and Perseverance in the Bisley family of solitaire card games.

The goal is to move all of the cards from the original thirteen columns into the foundation piles by suit. This makes it similar to other solitaire card games. However, Baker’s Dozen often takes a bit more strategizing than other versions of solitaire, especially as you start out with all the cards visible.

The Rules of Baker’s Dozen

Baker’s Dozen is named for the thirteen columns used on the tableau, the term being used to describe receiving thirteen items rather than the expected twelve.

The game uses a standard deck of cards – fifty-two cards, with thirteen cards in each of four different suits. Once shuffled, the cards are dealt into thirteen columns of four on the tableau. Often the dealer will put seven columns in a row at the top and six in a row at the bottom. To the right should be a space where the foundation piles will be created.

Any king that is in the top or middle of a column must be placed on the bottom before the game starts. This ensures that it is the last card and will not allow the column to go empty. If there are two kings in one column, they must be both put at the bottom of the column without flipping them or changing the order. If you are playing an online version, the computer will usually do this for you, so that you don’t have to worry about it.

Like many solitaire card games, the goal is to get all of the cards into the foundation piles, beginning with the aces. Each foundation must be built in sequential order, ace to king, entirely within the same suit. An ace can be moved to any empty foundation pile.

Only one card can be moved at a time, and then only to be on top of the next highest sequential card (eg. An eight put on a nine).

Once a column is empty, it will remain that way. No cards can be placed in an empty column.

The game is won when all the cards in the deck are in the foundation piles. If there are no more ways to move the cards, and there are still cards “stuck” in the original columns, the game is lost.

How to Play Baker’s Dozen

One interesting facet of Baker’s Dozen is that it begins with all the cards on the tableau face up. There is no mystery as to where any of the cards are. It is more of a matter of getting to the cards that you need.

Only one card is open on each column. This card is at the bottom of the column but stacked on top of the other cards. Thus, it is often called the “top card”. Cards on the tableau can be made into sequences, similarly to any solitaire card game. In Baker’s Dozen, suits do not matter when making a sequence. Any open card can be put on top of any open next higher sequential card (eg any six can be put on any seven). Suits do not matter in where you put the cards, and there is no limit to the number of cards in a column.

Because there is only one card open per column, at any one time there is a maximum of thirteen possible cards to move. Very often, many of these cards can not be moved because there is nowhere to put them.

Unlike other solitaire card games, you cannot move sequences. You can only move one card at a time. If a card is within a sequence, you must move the cards on top of it before you can move that card. This makes the game more difficult and slower than many other versions of solitaire.

When a column is emptied, it must remain that way for the rest of the game. You cannot put a card – any card – into an empty column.

As you play, the goal is to “free” cards to put them into the foundation piles in sequential order by their suit. You must move the other cards one at a time in order to get to the cards underneath them. This can be particularly tricky if a high card is “blocking” or on top of a lower card (eg. A queen on top of a three).

Once a card is in the foundation pile, it cannot be removed again. A card can only be put into the foundation pile when it is the next sequentially higher card in that suit.

Because kings were placed at the bottom of the columns when the game was first dealt, kings will never move. This includes any double kings where two kings ended up in the same column. Any other card can move to any other column so long as it is put on the next higher sequential card, but because kings are the highest card, they cannot move at all, with the exception of being placed in the foundation pile at the end of a winning game.

Common Strategies for Baker’s Dozen

Baker’s Dozen often takes more planning than other versions of solitaire. Luckily, all the cards start face up, so you can start strategizing the second the cards are all dealt.

When your cards are dealt, look through them all. Where are the aces? What are the biggest obstacles? Are there a lot of higher cards blocking lower cards? Which columns are “safe” to start building sequences on?

Remember: Patience is a virtue! It is often a player’s instinct to move cards into sequences as quickly as they become available. That is not always the best strategy. In fact, if a card is the last card in a column, often the best thing to do is to leave it there. Build on top of these cards, because once a column is empty, it stays that way.

Also, if you leave a card at the top of a column, you aren’t “trapping” it within a sequence. This gives a space for another card of the same numerical value to be moved to later For example, if a nine is at the top of a column, and you refrain from moving it on top of a ten, you can later move another nine to that ten, freeing up whatever was underneath the second nine.

Do try to start building up your foundation piles early. Get the aces out of the columns. Once a card is in a foundation pile, however, it can’t come back out. Make sure that you don’t leave yourself no moves because you wanted to get cards into the foundation pile quickly. This is even more important in Baker’s Dozen than in other solitaire games because you can only move one card at a time, and you can only move a card if there is a place to put it (eg. A free open card next higher in the standard card sequence).

Remember when you are trying to get to those aces – think ahead! You need to think longer term, like in chess. If you move a Jack that was blocking an Ace onto a Queen in another column, that won’t do you much good pretty soon if the Queen is sitting on top of the two.

Because you can only move one card at a time, sometimes it is useful to make your sequences all the same suit. This way, you don’t have to move any cards to get to a card ready for the foundation pile.

Make sure you don’t make large sequences on top of a low card that you will need for your foundation pile. You will have to move the entire sequence, one card at a time, to get to that low card.

In fact, it is often good to try to build up your sequences in the columns which have mainly high cards at the bottom. That way, you don’t have to worry about moving a long sequence out of the way to get a lower card. If you can get to a king at the bottom of the pile, this is the safest place to move a longer sequence.

Because a large part of this game is trying to “free” cards, remember that putting cards in the foundation piles takes them off the board. You can put a card in the foundation pile in order to free up the card below it. This is often a good strategy when you are early in the game, especially when you are moving low cards already in a sequence to the foundation pile. For example, if you move a three into the foundation pile that was on a four, you now can move another three onto that four.

Moving cards into the foundation piles is often a balance of trying to get them there to win and strategizing how to get to other cards.

Baker’s Dozen Terms

The terms used in Baker’s Dozen are identical to the terms used in classic solitaire. These include:

  • Foundation Cards: The foundation cards are the aces. They must be “freed” by moving other cards away from them before they can be moved over to begin a foundation pile.

  • Foundation Piles: Foundation piles are made by putting cards sequentially by suit on top of the respective ace. They follow the standard sequential order: Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King

  • Tableau: This is the area where the game is played, including all thirteen columns and the foundation piles. It is also sometimes called the “board”.

Variations of Baker’s Dozen

There are a few common variations on Baker’s Dozen. These include:

  • Spanish Patience: In this variation, any card can be placed in an empty column. This makes the game a bit easier.

  • Castles in Spain: Similar to Spanish Patience in that any card can be placed in an empty column, the biggest difference is that sequences must alternate colors.

  • Good Measure: The game begins with two aces being taken out and immediately placed in the foundations. The rest of the deck is shuffled and dealt into ten columns of five cards. The game is then played in the same manner as Baker’s Dozen.

  • Portuguese Solitaire: In this version, empty columns can be filled, but only with kings. Thus, in some versions of Portuguese Solitaire, you do not have to move the kings at the beginning of the game. They can be moved later to the top of empty columns.

Baker’s Dozen FAQ

Q: Do you use the jokers in Baker’s Dozen?

A: Nope, the poor jokers don’t get to play. The game only uses the standard fifty-two card deck.

Q: Are there unsolvable games?

A: Oh yes! Baker’s dozen can definitely be dealt into an unsolvable game. If high cards are on top of all the low cards or if there are nowhere to move cards, all is lost. There have been games dealt where the player couldn’t even make a single move!

Q: I didn’t mean to do that! Can I go back and fix a mistake?

A: If you’re playing at home alone, we won’t tell. Online versions often don’t let you undo a mistake though. And remember – once you’ve cleared a column or put a card in the foundation pile, the rules usually say it stays that way!

Q: Where does the term Baker’s Dozen come from?

A: Not really related to the game, but you can click this link to find out more about the origins of the term.

Q: This sounds fun! Where can I play Baker’s Dozen online?

A: You can find Baker’s Dozen and many other versions of Solitaire at www.playsolitaire-online.com

Final Thoughts on Baker’s Dozen

Now that you know how to play, go try your luck at this fun version of the classic solitaire card game. We warn you – it’s trickier than it sounds!