Solitaire Game Rules

Posted by John Taylor on

The set up of a traditional Solitaire game

(The set up of a traditional Solitaire game)

Card Game Rules

Solitaire, Klondike or Patience (as it is appropriately called in Europe), is a game that requires 1 player and a standard 52 deck of playing cards. The objective of Solitaire is to organize a shuffled deck of cards into 4 stacks (one for each suit) in ascending order (Ace to King).

For more classic card games, check out our guides for Devil's Grip and Crazy Eights.

If you are looking for cards to play Solitaire with, check out a standard deck here or check out one of our more recent arrivals here.

A free online version of Solitaire may be found here.

Set Up

In Solitaire, there are 4 types of piles: The Tableau, The Stock, The Talon, and The Foundations.

The Tableau

The Tableau consist of 7 piles. The first pile has 1 card. The second pile has 2 cards. The third pile has 3 cards and so on until there are 7 piles. Only the top card in each pile is faced up.

The Stock

The remaining cards after building the Tableau are called the Stock

The Talon

The Talon is a pile of 3 cards from the Stock. In the Talon, only the top card is faced up.

The Foundations

The Foundations consist of 4 stacks of cards (one for each suit) in ascending order (Ace to King). At the beginning of the game, The Foundations is empty.

How to Play

Within the Tableau, faced up cards are transferred in descending order (King to Ace) and in alternating color. The player may transfer the top card or stack of faced up cards to any of the piles in an attempt to create the sequence of descending value and alternating color. An empty spot in the Tableau may be filled with a king.  If the player cannot move any cards within the Tableau, 3 cards are selected from the top of the Stock pile to form the Talon. If the first card in the Talon cannot be played, 3 more cards are selected from the Stock. When and if the Stock runs out, the Talon is reshuffled to form a new Stock and the process continues.

While the player is sequencing the Tableau, the player is also trying to build up the Foundations stacks. The top card from the Talon or the Tableau stacks may be transferred to the Foundations. When all cards have been transferred in ascending order (Ace to King) to the Foundations, the game is won. If no more moves can be made and the Foundations is incomplete, the game is lost.

For more information on the game Solitaire and its rules, check out Wikipedia's article here or play a free online game of solitaire here.


Solitaire is a wonderful puzzle game that boasts a wonderful history. Originating in Germany, the game was first recorded in the royal game book Das neue Königliche L'Hombre-Spiel in 1788. Some early evidence suggest that Solitaire began as a fortune telling game and only later became a game of strategy. Some variants of Solitaire are still used for cartomancy exclusively today. From the Rhineland, the Solitaire craze moved west into France. From the French we get many of the terms used in Solitaire. For example, Tableau is “Table” in French and Talon is “Heel”. A popular rumor is that while Napoleon was exiled, he spent most of his days playing Solitaire. In reality, he most likely played the common game of Whist. Solitaire became increasingly popular throughout the 19th century and moved evermore west into England with Prince Albert being a notable lover of the game. In 1870, the first collection of Solitaire games in the English language can be found in Illustrated Games of Patience by Lady Adelaide Cadogan. Solitaire’s popularity steadily increased throughout the 20th century and became widely accessible after the 1980s when computer engineers developed a free digital version of the game.

More information may be found here.



Spider is a much more difficult version of traditional Solitaire. In Spider, there are two decks of cards in play, 10 Tableau piles, no Foundations piles, and no Talon pile. The objective in Spider is to sequence 13 cards of the same suit in descending order (King to Ace) within a Tableau pile. When 13 cards are sequenced, the cards are removed. If no moves can be made within the tableau piles, one card from the Stock piles is given to each Tableau pile. The game is won when there are no more cards. 

Forty Thieves

The game of Forty Thieves

(The game of Forty Thieves)

Forty Thieves, or Napoleon at St. Helena, is similar to basic Solitaire but, it doubles the number of cards. There are 10 Tableau piles with initially 4 cards in each pile (making up the forty thieves). The Tableau is built upon a descending sequence (King to Ace) of the same suit, instead of alternating color. Any card may fill an empty space. There are 8 Foundations and, like basic Solitaire, the game is won when all cards are transferred to the Foundations in ascending order in separated suits.


Yukon is a Solitaire game that uses a traditional 52 deck of playing cards. In Yukon, there are no Stock or Talon piles. All 52 cards are used to make up a 7 pile Tableau at the start of the game. To set up a Yukon game, the player first makes a traditional 7 pile Tableau. Then piles 2-7 receive an additional 5 cards, all faced up. The objective of the Tableau and the Foundations is similar to traditional Solitaire with the additional rule that any group of faced up cards may be moved within the Tableau regardless of sequence.


Invented in the 1980s as a computer application by Paul Allfile, FreeCell is a very winnable Solitaire game. FreeCell starts with 52 playing cards dealt to 8 Tableau piles. The first 4 piles have 7 cards each while the last 4 piles have 6 cards each. All cards are faced up. Instead of Stock and Talon piles, there are 4 empty storage piles. The player may place any one card in each pile at their own strategic discretion. The player may only move one card at a time in FreeCell, causing many games to last longer than expected. The sequencing objective of the Tableau and the Foundations remains similar to traditional Solitaire. 


Emperor is one of the most time consuming solitaire games out there and is very similar to Spider. Emperor is played with two standard playing card decks. 10 piles of 4 cards each are dealt. The first 3 cards in the column are faced down while the 4th card in each column is faced up. 

Cards cannot be moved in groups. They must be moved one at a time. The goal is to release the Aces and build up the 8 Foundations out of the Tableau.


To play Wish Solitaire, you first need to remove the 2s through 6s from a standard deck. Then make eight piles of 4 cards each with the top card faced up. Remove card by pairing them up. Once cards are paired, you may flip up the card underneath and continue playing. Once the cards are gone, you win!

Streets and Alleys

Streets and Alleys, or Beleaguered Castle, is a solitaire game similar to Freecell. To set up Streets and Alleys, the four Aces are placed vertically in the gameplay area to form four rows or foundations. The rest of the deck is then shuffled and sets of six cards are placed on both sides of each Ace to form the tableau. Only the top card in each tableau can be played. Players may build up incrementally the Foundations with cards of the same suit as the first Ace. Players may also move cards within the tableau as long as the moved card is a rank lower than the card it is being moved to. Cards within the tableau are not restricted to alternating suit Color.


In Accordion, all 52 cards are placed individually faced up on the gameplay area. Rows are formed whenever the player wished to create them or when space requires it. The player then can stack a card if the card to the immediate left or third to the left is of the same suit or rank. For example, in a row made up of a 7 of Hearts, 8 of Hearts, 2 of Clubs, 7 of Diamonds, and King of Spade, the 7 of Hearts can be placed on top of the 8 of Hearts or 7 of Diamonds. The player makes as much moves as possible with the objective being to stack up the entire deck.

Bowling Solitaire

To set up a game of Bowling Solitaire, the player sits around a stable playing area and shuffles the deck. Bowling Solitaire requires a deck with no face cards, Aces through 10s only. After shuffling the deck, the player sets up the “pins” by building a 4 row pyramid of flipped over cards, meaning the first row has 1 card, the second row has 2 cards, etc. The player then sets up the “bowling balls” by making three piles. The first pile has 5 cards, the second has 3 cards, and the third has 2 cards. Only the top card is flipped up in the bowling ball piles.

The player then uses the bowling ball piles to try and knock down pins. A player can knock down pins in three ways:

The pin card and the ball card have the same value.
Two or more pin cards equal the ball card.
The last digit of two or more pin cards equal the value of the ball card.

Like regular bowling, the player has two bowls per set of pins before they reshuffle the pin cards and make a new pyramid. If they cannot knock down any pins, it is a gutter ball and they move onto the next ball pile. Scoring is done like regular bowling.

Kings Corner

Kings Corner is a four player variation of Solitaire. To begin, seven cards are dealt to each player. the remaining deck is placed faced down in the middle of the gameplay area to form the stock. The top four cards of the stock are placed face up on each edge of the deck, to form a + like design. these four cards are the foundation piles. On a player's turn, they begin by drawing the top card from the stock. Making as many moves as they can, players use their hand to lay off cards onto the four middle piles in alternating color and decreasing rank. 

A player can make a new foundation pile by placing a King in the gameplay area.

Entire piles can be moved onto other piles if they continue the sequence. Any new card can then take the place of the previous pile.

The first player to lose all of their cards wins the game.

Looking for more card games to play?  Check out this article:

40+ Great Card Games For All Occasions

About the author: John Taylor is a content writer and freelancer through the company You may view his freelancing profile here. He has a B. A. in English, with a specialty in technical writing, from Texas A&M University and a M. A. in English from the University of Glasgow. You may view his previous articles about card games here and his LinkedIn profile here.

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Last update date: 08/29/20


  • I think its just a typo for recycle, as the y&u are right next to each other in typing.

    SGlover on

  • Thank you, I had forgotten how to play solitaire. Very helpful, awesome teacher!

    E.T. on

  • I play Solitaire quite a bit. Every once in awhile this hint comes up: “Recucle remaining cards.” I cannot find a definition for that. Could you please send me the meaning? Thank you.

    Berle Davis on

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