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Ultimate Guide to Monte Carlo

Some cards games are exceptionally relaxing to play and are excellent for getting children into solitaire-style card games. Monte Carlo has some similarities to those types of games but is very easy and soothing to play. It can teach developing minds to match numbers and types of cards.

This game is sometimes known as Wedding, Double and Quits, or Good Neighbors. Monte Carlo’s most common name has nothing to do with any city or casino game but probably takes its namesake from the fact that luck plays a big role in overall success. Despite this, there are strategies and tricks you can utilize to optimize your play.

The game revolves around finding matching pairs of cards in a limited playing space, then refilling the space when cards are discarded and paired off. Sounds simple enough, right? Let’s dig into the details and see how best to maximize one’s chances of winning.

Rules/How to Play

Monte Carlo is what a lot of folks would call a patience-based pair-matching game. It’s meant to be played with only one person, just like classic Solitaire.

We’ll start with the overall goal of the game, which is to get rid of all the cards from the table (or “tableau – the playing area) via pairing them up in matching pairs of two. While this sounds easy enough, there are a few tricks to it to keep the game interesting.

For starters, you must lay out 25 cards (out of 52) into a 5x5 grid. This means that there should be five cards in rows both horizontally and vertically. Any other cards are set aside to be used later once this current spread of cards is dealt with. This “reserve” deck should be face-down so that you can’t see what you’re about to draw.

Next, you take a look at the cards and find pairs of cards in terms of numerical value which are adjacent to each other either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Basically, any two pairs of cards which have the same number can be combined into a pair; it doesn’t matter if they belong to different suits. The only things which matter are numbers or types, since jacks go with jacks, queens go with queens, and so on.

Any pairs you find may be removed from the tableau. They do not need to be removed immediately, and in fact, withholding from taking away all possible pairs is part of the strategy to consistently winning Monte Carlo. Once all the pairs that you can see have been consolidated, the remaining cards in the tableau are moved upward and to the left to make room for the reserve cards, which fill in the grid until you have another 5x5 grid and begin the process again. You continue doing this until you’ve used up all of the cards in your reserve.

Simple, right? The game ends when either you’ve run out of all your cards or you’ve reached a point where you can no longer combine cards into pairs. This can occur if you have, for instance, two 3s and two 4s, but they are intermixed with each other such that no pair is adjacent. The card layout would look like this:


So the game would be over by virtue of the player being unable to combine any more cards into pairs according to the game’s “adjacent-only” rule. If all of this feels pretty quick, that’s because it is; games of Monte Carlo usually only take a few minutes from beginning to completion, so they’re great if you only have a moment between tasks or if you want to play a handful of fast games really quickly.

Pretty easy to grasp, right? You might be wondering where the strategy for this game comes into play. Let’s check out some tips and tricks down below.

Strategies and Tips/Tricks

While it might appear that luck plays the biggest role in this game, the truth is that strategy has a big influence as well. Forethought and planning can aid your chances of victory, as well as keeping track of which cards you’ve already discarded.

One important thing to remember is that you don’t have to immediately remove a pair of cards just because you see that they are adjacent. In fact, leaving certain cards in play to set up other adjacent pairs is a great way to increase your odds of success.

Consider that you, the player, can know beforehand when you’re going to have to consolidate cards and when you’ll need to draw more cards. You should think about whether you can create more pairs by leaving certain cards in play for extra “restocking” periods when you take cards from the reserve pile.

The key strategy for winning at Monte Carlo is found when you mentally visualize how the cards are going to fall once more cards are brought in from reserves. Simply grabbing all the pairs you can once you see them will possibly place your entire grid into chaos and ruin any synergy that might have emerged once you drew cards from the reserve deck.

For instance, imagine if you had two 7 cards only one space away from one another, only they exist on separate rows. When you took away your last pair of cards in your current grid you had to move the second 7 up into the first row, away from its partner. You just cost yourself an easy pairing and possibly separated those 7s for the rest of the game! Easy mistakes like this are ways in which players fall into the traps of randomization, preventing them from achieving a real victory.

Another great strategy to improve your Monte Carlo play involves remembering which cards you’ve already paired off and which ones remain in the reserve pool for you to draw from later. Let’s say you have a random 8 in your grid and you’ve paired off the other two around. That leaves one 8 left in the reserves that you know you’ll pull sooner or later.

Therefore, you can try to clear off space beneath where the 8 currently sits and organize it to be in a close position to a likely spot for the remaining 8 to be placed from the reserve pile. In this way, you might set up your 8 to be paired off immediately once you drop its companion from the reserves. Keeping track of what you’ve already paired away can help you plan for the long term and minimize luck’s influence on your grid.

Luck has a huge influence in whether or not you stand a chance of winning the game in the long wrong, although it's quite easy to come close each time with a little smart pairing and a good memory.

Altogether, Monte Carlo is not the most strategy-heavy card game out there but there are definitely ways to increase your odds and practice your long-term tactics. This kind of thinking can also translate to other card games which rely on smart forethought to even have a chance at being winnable, such as La Belle Lucie.

Glossary of Terms

Before you start setting down your cards and getting into some quick games of Monte Carlo, try to remember these key terms so that you won’t be confused when you’re reading up on great strategies.

Tableau: The playing space of the game.

Suit: The four standard variations of cards in a playing deck, consisting of hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs.

Reserve: These are the cards that don’t form your initial 5x5 grid. You leave these cards face-down and only draw from them once you’ve exhausted all the moves you want to make in your current 5x5 grid.

Consolidation: The act of setting up the 5x5 grid once you’ve removed all the pairs you wish from the current grid. It’s filled in with cards from the reserve pile.

Adjacent: A term applicable to cards which are “touching” another in any direction. This can be vertically (top to bottom), horizontally (left to right), or diagonally.

Other Variations of This Game

There’s a specialized variant of Monte Carlo which you might enjoy more than the standard ruleset. This is called Monte Carlo Thirteens, and it’s basically the same game with a cool mathematical twist.

Essentially, Monte Carlo Thirteens does away with pairing cards with the same rank or numerical value. Instead, the object of the game is to pair cards whose total values add up to 13 together. In this variation, Jacks are worth 11, Queens are worth 12, and Kings are worth 13. Because of this, Kings are counted as a “pair” by themselves and are immediately removed once flipped. Aces are worth 1.

This version of the game is definitely more challenging but can rely on a lot of the same tips that are used with the standard ruleset. For instance, remembering which cards you’ve already done away with can help you plan how to combine your pairs into the most efficient groups of 13.

Monte Carlo Thirteens also has a little more variation to its play, since you can make up a total of 13 with more combinations of cards than simply matching them, which only allows for two pairs for each card. Instead, 13 can be made from 1 and 12, 2 and 11, 3 and 10, 4 and 9, and so on.

This can be a fun version of the game that’s a little more challenging than simply matching pairs. It’s better-suited to older children or folks who like to challenge their brains a little harder than that which is offered by standard Monte Carlo.


Can I mix-and-match cards from different suits? Yes, you can. The only part of the card that matters for this game is the number value or category (if it’s a jack, queen, or king). Suits are irrelevant.

Can I move cards when I’m not pairing them off? No. The only time you’re allowed to move cards is when you’re removing them or consolidating the grid. Any other move is considered an illegal move.

How do I know which cards to move when I’m consolidating? Move all cards to the left. Any cards that overflow or would make the second row 6 cards instead of 5 get bumped up to the first row. This same principle is repeated down through the rows until you have a grid of 5x5 once again.

Can I move any cards anywhere when I’m consolidating? No. You must move the cards to the left and up, as previously discussed. Any other movement style is considered an illegal move.

How should I set up my grid if I don’t have enough cards to make it 5x5? In this case, make sure the horizontal row of cards remains 5 for as long as possible. It's okay to have fewer vertical rows than five as you run out of cards.

For Monte Carlo Thirteens, what do the face cards count for? Aces count for 1, Jacks count for 11, Queens count for 12, and Kings count for 13. Kings are considered pairs by themselves in this game and can be removed without another card at your discretion.

Can I start with more than 25 cards in the grid? No, as any other number would not be able to make a perfect grid of 5x5.

Final Thoughts on Monte Carlo

It’s not the most skillful or strategy-heavy game out there, but Monte Carlo is a great card game for beginners, children, or folks who simply want to relax with a calming card game at the end of the day. The pairing system is pleasing to many people’s minds and, if you’re in the mood for more challenging play, Monte Carlo Thirteens is always available to provide you with a game dependent on easy math calculations. Perhaps most important, Monte Carlo can prepare you for more advanced Solitaire-style games which require a lot more forethought and strategy. Try out a few games of Monte Carlo today!