How To Play Solitaire

By Darshan - 9/09/2020

Solitaire or Klondike Solitaire, 1-Card Draw, has been played for the last couple of centuries with playing cards (just for a little historical perspective). This particular game is so popular that it’s often just called Solitaire.

See the Glossary about terms used here.

General Overview

After the seven columns of the array are laid out, make all the moves or plays available among the columns and to the Ace piles (also called the foundations or Ace stacks).

Then, holding the rest of the cards, called the hand (or stock), face down, make the first pass through them; take one from the top and turn it over for play. If it can't be put either on one of the Ace piles, or on one of the seven columns, put it face up on the waste pile (also called the talon). Continue to the next card in the hand, and play it if you can, or place it on the waste pile face up. Also make other moves as they become available among the seven columns. After going through the whole hand in this manner, turn the waste pile over; it then becomes the hand again.

Continue this cycle of making passes through the hand, and playing cards to either the columns or the Ace piles, until no more moves can be made. The game is won if all the cards get moved up to their Ace piles.


Shuffle a standard deck of 52 playing cards. Deal out the initial seven columns (also called the array, or tableau, which is French for table), as follows:

First, put down one card, face up. Then deal out six more in a row to the right, face down.

Next, put a card face up on the second column; then put five more, each face down, on each of the remaining five columns. Then put a card face up on the third column, and stack one more card face down on each of the remaining four columns.

Continue in that pattern until each stack has one more card than the column to its left, and the top card on each stack is face up, with the rest of the cards face down.

The rest of the cards that are not dealt out to the seven columns make up the hand.

On our online solitaire game, all of this is done for you!

Rules for Play

Ranking: In Klondike Solitaire, King is high and Ace is low.

A card is available for play when it is face up and uncovered.

Ace piles: Aces are the first cards to be put on their respective foundations as they become available for play. These are normally placed above the array. There is one Ace pile for each suit. 2s are placed on the Aces of the same suit when they become available; 3s go on the 2s, etc., up to the Kings. Only an Ace may be used to start an Ace pile.

The seven columns: Face-up cards are built downward based on rank and color, as follows: a card may be placed on another card that is of the next higher rank, and of the opposite color. The card of the lower rank is placed such that the rank and suit of the card of the higher rank is visible. For example:

  • A red 4 can be placed on top of a black 5; all of the red 4 card will be visible, and the 5 and its suit symbol will also be visible.
  • A black 10 can be placed on a red Jack.

Key to winning is to expose (turn face-up) all the cards in the seven stacks. After moving a face-up card, the card below it is exposed and available for play.

The face-up cards on the columns are spread vertically, enough to see the rank, suit and color at the tops of each face-up card for later movement as opportunities arise. (Using playing cards, there was no need to spread the face-down cards, because one can see the stack of cards under it. If necessary, one could spread a stack out for a moment to see how many face-down cards were left. This could easily be written into a Solitaire program or app to save some screen space; there are any number of ways to display how many cards are left in a stack. But it would complicate the appearance of the layout some.)

Hand: Take the hand and, from the top, turn cards over, face-up, one at a time. When a card is turned over, it can be either:

  • Moved to a column in the array;
  • Moved to its Ace pile; or
  • Put face up on the waste pile.

When a card is put on the waste pile, it’s usually because there are no places to put it in either the Ace piles or the seven columns, at the time. But it can be put there for later play, if that may be more advantageous.

Then take the next card from the hand, place it as described above, and continue down through the hand. Once the hand has been dealt out, turn the waste pile over, and it becomes the hand again; make another pass through it as before.

As the game progresses, opportunities will arise to move cards among the columns. For example, if a black 6 (from either the hand or another column) is put at the bottom of a column on a red 7, and there's a red 5 at the top of another column, that 5 can be put on the 6, exposing the next card below the 5 for play.

The face-up cards in a column may be broken up. For example, suppose the clubs Ace pile can accept the 5♣, and it's on a red 6 in a column. If there is a red 4 on the 5♣, but the other black 5 is at the bottom of another column, you can move that red 4 there, so that you can move the 5♣ to its Ace pile.

If a column becomes empty (all its cards were put into play), it remains empty until a King becomes available to re-start that column. Only a King may be used to fill in or re-start an empty column.

When you can no longer make any more plays, the game is over. If you got them all moved onto the foundations, you won - you solved the puzzle!

Here is some more background, and variations on the rules

Also, check out our games and how-to guides for Spider and Freecell to learn new variations of solitaire, or try Mahjong, which is a tile matching solitaire game.