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Canfield Solitaire is a type of solitaire game that has incredibly low odds of winning each game. Original versions of the game were termed “Demon Patience,” reflecting the difficulty of game play.

Number of Cards: 52

Length: Medium

Difficulty: Medium-Expert

Family: Klondike

Type: Reserved packer

How to Play Canfield Solitaire

Canfield is a variation of Klondike solitaire — the classic version everyone knows how to play. There are a few key differences, and we’ll go over them below. Whether you like to play on the full screen of your desktop computer, an app on your phone or tablet, or the good old fashioned way with a deck of cards, here’s how to get started.

Types of Piles

Foundation piles: These are the empty piles at the beginning of the game. You’ll build them up as you go, usually starting with aces.

Tableau piles: These are the piles on the table. They are shuffled and dealt before the card game starts.

Stock pile: This pile is the remainder of the deck that hasn’t gone into the tableau piles.

Waste pile: As you empty the stock pile, the cards you don’t place in the tableau make up the waste pile.

Reserve pile: The reserve pile looks like a classic tableau pile: a pile of face-down cards with the top card face up. You can move cards from the reserve one at a time. No cards can be added to a reserve pile.


To set up a new game of Canfield Solitaire, flip the first card from the deck— this card will become the first foundation card. It can be any card — 9 of Clubs, for example — whatever the card is, it is now the base card of a foundation pile.

Create the tableau piles by dealing the next 4 top cards from the deck directly below the 4 foundation piles. These 4 tableau cards will be where most gameplay takes place. 

On the bottom left, create the reserve pile by dealing 13 cards facedown, turning the 13th card face up. Lastly, place all remaining cards in the upper left corner of the game board facedown to create the stock pile. 


The goal of Canfield Solitaire is to build on the foundation cards upwards by suit until all cards are used.

To play a game of Canfield Solitaire, a player will build up each foundation pile as a full-suit stack, following the Ace to King pattern. For example, if the base card is a 9, the next card will be a 10, and the final card will be the 8.

It will be necessary to work through the stock and reserve piles to find the cards needed to finish each foundation. A player should uncover these cards by building onto tableau cards in descending order, alternating colors.

Any time a card is uncovered that will allow the foundation piles to be built up, it may be used in that way.

Any time a tableau pile spot becomes empty, the top reserve pile card is automatically played into that spot. The top reserve card can also be played into any tableau pile and reserve pile as long as it fits the rules governing those spots.

If neither the reserve Card nor any of the tableau Cards can be played, try the stock pile.

 In difficult-level games, a player will only be able the flip through the stock pile one time. If playing the easier level of the game, the discarded cards, which form the waste pile, can be reused.


  • Foundations are built up in suit, starting from the same value card in each pile: If the random card from setup is a 4 of hearts, you’ll have to start the other foundation piles with the 4s of the other suits.

  • Any empty tableau pile spot must be immediately filled with a reserve card: This will be automatic until the reserve pile is empty. 

  • Tableau piles are built in descending order in alternating colors.

  • A player is allowed to “Undo” any move, however it will still count toward the total moves.

  • If a player is unable to move forward, the game ends at a stand-still.

What is a good strategy for Canfield Solitaire?

Take your time

The number one strategy for Canfield Solitaire is to have patience. This will allow you to build each foundation pile evenly. If one of the foundation piles has run far ahead, it could create a problem in finding other cards later on. 

Make space for the reserve pile

Use up the reserve pile first if you can. You want to get those cards in play before reaching for the stock pile if possible, because the stock pile can be searched multiple times; the reserve can’t.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who came up with Canfield Solitaire?

It is believed that the modern version of the game was invented in the 1890s by Richard A. Canfield. The game was introduced at Canfield’s Casino in Saratoga Springs, New York as a betting game. A solitaire card game may seem like an odd choice for a casino, but the man was onto something.

Patrons would buy a deck of cards for $50 and try to win their money back by playing Canfield solitaire. For each card moved to a foundation pile, they would receive $5. If a player won, that would mean $260, for a $210 profit. Mostly, people just tried to win back the money they’d spent on the cards.

What are the odds of winning Canfield Solitaire?

Some tests say it’s possible to win 70% of games played, while others say it is much lower than that. Play Canfield Solitaire yourself and discover what your own win percentage is! 

What is the hardest form of solitaire?

Canfield and Scorpion Solitaire are both consistently listed as two of the most difficult variants to win, much harder than similar variants Freecell and Spider Solitaire. The hardest form of Solitaire may be different for each player, since skill level and luck are both at play.