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Classic Solitaire Rules


Classic Solitaire (known only as simply “Solitaire” by some, and “Klondike Solitaire” by others) is a crazy popular card game that is won by moving all cards in a single deck from the tableau to the foundation piles.

So how do you play this game?


The layout of the card game table is fairly straightforward. Though you might not have heard these terms before, a game of classic is composed of the following items:

the tableau
the foundations
the stock pile
the discard pile (also known as the talon)
Initially, the foundation piles and the discard pile will be empty.

If you are playing by hand, you start by shuffling your deck of cards fully, then start building the tableau. For the tableau, begin by dealing the first card up then place 6 more cards face down (for a grand total of 7 stacks on the main playing area (the tableau)). On the next go round, you place a face-up card on tableau stack #2, then 5 more face down cards on the remaining stacks. You repeat this process until you’ve placed your last face up card on the 7th tableau stack. Of course, if you’re playing on the Classic Solitaire site, all of this is taken care of for you automatically when you start a new game.

If you are playing by hand, after you have placed the appropriate number of cards on the tableau piles, you will have cards left over. These cards will be used for the stock pile. The traditional rules of classic solitaire generally have you deal 3 cards at a time from the stock, where only the top most card is playable at any given time. However, many (and possibly even most) online solitaire games let you deal 1 card at a time, making the game friendlier and easier to win. On the Classic Solitaire site, you can choose to deal 1 card at a time or 3, whatever you want. Also, in some versions of classic/klondike, the number of times you can go through the stock pile is limited. Most games give you an unlimited number of redeals which is the default in this game, though you can configure the number of redeals in the game preferences.

So now that everything is laid out on the game board appropriately, you can begin playing.

In Classic Solitaire, there are 2 main sets of rules:

the rules for the foundations
the rules for the tableau
On the tableau, cards are arranged in descending order (meaning King, Queen, Jack, 10, etc) in alternating color (e.g. a black 7 can be placed on a red 8).

There are 4 foundation piles (initially empty), one for each suit of Ace. As soon as you find an Ace, you immediately move it to a foundation pile. Unlike the tableau, foundation piles are built in ascending order (i.e., Ace, 2, 3, etc) and by the same suit (so for example, only diamonds are allowed in one of the 4 foundation piles).

The basic strategy in this classic card game is to uncover your turned over cards as soon as possible. If you have the option of using a card from the tableau or a card form the stock pile, you will almost always want to use the tableau card.

One additional strategy that is often overlooked is that you can strategically move cards from the foundation piles back to the tableau. However, some online games do not allow this. Basically, for those versions of the game, once a card is in one of the foundation piles, it is locked into place. But assuming you’re playing a game that allows this type of move, let me give you a simple scenario where this move could come in handy. You’ve got a black 4 and a black 2, both on the tableau. The black 2 has facedown cards underneath it, so obviously, it would be advantageous if you were able to move the black 2. You’ve already been through the stock pile and you know that there’s no red 3 in sight. But wait! There’s a shiny red 3 in one of the foundation piles. So you move that red 3 onto the black 4 et voilà , you can now move that black 2 onto the red 3, thus uncovering whatever was underneath the black 2.

Sometimes moves like these are the difference between winning and losing a game.

When you are able to empty a tableau pile, you have a few options. The classic rules for Klondike say that only Kings can be placed in empty tableau spots. So this means you can either transfer an individual King card to the empty spot or a valid sequence of cards starting with a King to the empty spot (e.g. black King, red Queen, black Jack, etc). On the Solitaire Classic site, the default option is that only Kings can be placed in empty tableau piles. But you can choose this option or the option of allowing any card to go on a blank spot. Feel free to play however you want. Or hey, if you run into a dead end in a game, and your only option is to move a non-King card onto an empty space, feel free to change the rules on the fly. Is this cheating? That’s up to you. We feel you should have the freedom to play solitaire in whatever way makes it the most fun.
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