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Ultimate Guide to Spider Solitaire

For the serious solitaire player, there is only one game that fills the bill – spider solitaire. Spider solitaire is perhaps the most difficult of all solitaires because of the specific types of move combinations. Folks can’t just play spider solitaire; the game is complex and intricate. The bottom line is this game is a job and it takes a while to learn. This is not a bad thing, and because it is such a discipline, that’s why many people have grown to love it.

Playing spider solitaire is much different than traditional solitaire. In fact, for many people the arrangement of the tableau creates much confusion along with the rules. Spider solitaire in many ways is a bit more free than traditional solitaire. However, that freedom comes with a price and because of it, spider solitaire is a bit more complex. The complexity of the game is why people love it so much. Solving the game has such a large feeling of accomplishment; it is a well-earned victory.

Since solitaire games became a ubiquitous part of Microsoft Windows programs (just like Pyramid and Freecell), Spider has had a large presence. Since then, there have been many electronic versions of the game, so folks can continue to enjoy the game without having to worry about wearing out cards.

The Rules of Spider Solitaire

Spider solitaire is a bit different than traditional solitaire mostly due to how the tableau is configured. Other parts of the game are remarkably similar in terms of how moves are played and how to get cards suited. That is the good news. The bad news is that there is one massive variable that stands in the way of making the game extremely ease – 104 playing cards. The second deck adds a lot of different wrinkles into this game and adds much to the complexity found within Spider solitaire.

Playing Spider solitaire seems relatively straight forward – the goal is to get all the cards placed into their proper suit and done so before both decks are fully dealt. That said, the simplistic goal of the game belies the complications the game offers due to its set up. The first complication, after the use of two full decks, is how to make moves. The tableau is set up to have ten rows of five cards within each row. This seems easy enough, but the truth is the complications begin here.

When the ten rows of five cards are dealt, the key is there will be four cards that are placed face down and the fifth card will be face up. This is the initial tableau for Spider solitaire. Once the tableau is settled, the next step is understanding all the different moves that can be played by the player. The good news is there is no shortage of moves which are permissible under the rules of Spider. The bad news is those moves are limited because the player is not allowed to get cards from the stock one at a time; instead they must play the cards on the tableau.

After the tableau is built, the next step is getting the cards moved to the right spots. In this scenario, there are usually several moves that can be made, and several columns that can be built. Spider solitaire, unlike traditional solitaire, does not limit the player to alternating the red and the black suits; instead a player can place a black 6 upon a black 7, for example. Players have increased flexibility, but with this game, everything comes with a price.

The price players have for this is they must only go through the stock once. That may seem a bit onerous until the second problem comes into play – if a player goes to the stock, then there are ten new cards facing up. If that is not enough trouble for a player, unlike traditional solitaire, a player can only move the card that is on top of the other cards. So, if there is a card that would go great in another spot but it is underneath a couple other cards, that card is stuck until those other cards can be played. This is the conundrum of Spider solitaire.

Finally, the end point is important to remember – Spider solitaire, like all other solitaires, has the goal to get all the cards suited. This is not very difficult in that there are 104 cards, so there should be eight different suits – hence the name of the game. Once the aces are found, the players can begin to create their foundations while going ahead and clearing out the tableau. Once the tableau is cleared and all cards are in their suits, ascending from the ace to the king, then the game is won by the patient but proficient player.

How to Play Spider Solitaire

There are several different philosophies that go into playing Spider solitaire, but the reality is the best strategy is to be patient. This game requires players to be strategic thinkers and do a variety of planning before going ahead and making a move. Once a move is made, there is really no credible way to unmake the move. The truth is there is a limit to moves that can be made because there are only ten cards that can be played at a time. This leads to much strategy.

The smart players will look to move cards anywhere that is available. Cards can be played regardless of suit or color. Therefore, it is imperative that players use the cards in many different combinations. Revealing all the cards that are face down will help get the cards suited quicker. The goal here is making sure every move is explored before going to the stock.

Once a player goes to the stock, they have to get ten different cards facing up. These are the only cards that can be played, until they get moved around. Once the cards are moved around, then the cards underneath can be played. As the aces come up, these are used as foundation cards to build the suits. Once all eight suits are filled, the game is completed as the spider’s legs are intact.

Origins of Spider Solitaire

Spider solitaire’s history comes from the history of solitaire itself. These games go all the way back to the 18th century. Popular in Western Europe, these card games were exported around the world as England, France, and other European powers gradually colonized more places around the world. These games ended up taking on different regional flavors, and Spider solitaire is thought to originate from this type of history.

Spider solitaire’s big break, if you could call it that, comes from its inclusion in the Microsoft Windows games packages. The good thing is Microsoft’s operating system has made Spider solitaire available to the masses. Thanks to a generation of kids growing up playing this game it now has a large following. There are many apps and other electronic methods to play the game these days, and folks can easily go to the App store of the Play store to get their favorite version.

Spider Solitaire Strategies

There are several different strategies that players can use to solve Spider solitaire games. These strategies are basically common sense and go back to being patient. With patience, it is very possible to consistently solve Spider solitaire games. The good news is employing these strategies will help you win more games and, in the process, impress your friends!

One of the best ways to solve the game is to build cards in their natural suits. This means keeping the cards that are the same suit together. So, if there is a way to keep the cards together, it is important to use it. The reason to do this is it makes building the spider legs much easier. As the cards get suited, it is incredibly easy to solve the game.

Exposing the hidden cards is also very important. The longer those cards remain hidden the more you need to go back to the deck. This is problematic because the stock is sitting there begging to be used. Resist this urge and make sure you do everything possible to expose the cards that are face down on the tableau. This is another great strategy that is designed to increase the chances of success at Spider solitaire.

Building on higher cards is highly recommended. Doing so allows you to knock out a bunch of those lower cards that are keeping the other cards face down on the tableau. Doing so keeps you from going into the stock. The more you avoid the stock, the easier it is to solve Spider solitaire. Also, as you empty the different columns, be sure to use those columns to store cards before sending them to the suited area, this helps keep the tableau organized and easy to work with.

Finally, be patient! This is the most important strategy, not unlike playing rummy. Spider solitaire requires players to have a high reserve of patience. The game is complicated and asks players to think strategically. If traditional solitaire is like checkers, then Spider solitaire is like chess.

Spider Solitaire Terms

When playing any type of solitaire there are some words all players should know. When reading the different guides to playing all the different solitaires, understanding the terminology helps players get through the guides and apply the principles with greater efficacy:

  • Cells: Cards are played in cells and they are most famously important in Free Cell games

  • Fanned: Cards are fanned out, however this is not found in Spider solitaire

  • Foundation: Aces are the base of the foundation and where players want all cards to end up

  • Reserve: Space on the tableau where cards are not allowed to be played

  • Squared: Cards are placed directly on top of each other

  • Stock: The face down pile of undealt cards; in Spider they must be dealt ten at a time

  • Tableau: This is the surface upon which all cards are played

  • Waste: Cards that are no longer in use are sent to the waste pile

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 Spider Solitaire

Spider solitaire has several different variations thanks to how difficult the game is. The most famous versions of Spider solitaire are as follows:

  • Spiderette: Instead of using two decks, just one deck will suffice; also uses Klondike layout

  • Will o the Wisp: This game seems to combine the best of both spider solitaire and spiderette

  • Gigantic: Should be called tarantula because it uses 4 decks to create massive spider legs

  • Spiderwort: Use three decks to complete this particular variant of the game

Spider Solitaire FAQ

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

  • Are jokers used in Spider solitaire?

The joker has no purpose in the game of Spider solitaire, so therefore it is not to be used. However, there are people who would rather use the joker to cover for a certain playing card if the card is lost. This is a creative way to keep your deck intact.

  • Are there unsolvable games of Spider solitaire?

Spider is often unsolvable, and that is ok. This game is meant to challenge the player and in doing so, provides great satisfaction when the game is completed. The charm of Spider solitaire is that the game is hard

  • Can I remove cards from the suited pile?

In theory, you can but in practice it makes little sense. Spending all that time getting them suited on the tableau basically takes care of this particular issue.

Final Thoughts on Spider Solitaire

Spider solitaire is not an easy game, but it is quite popular among younger solitaire players thanks to its inclusion in the game packages of the Windows operating system. Now found on various smartphones, Spider solitaire continues to be a great way to spend a few minutes of idle time. Engage the mind and your patience with this great game of solitaire.