How to Set Up Solitaire

Solitaire, the timeless card game, has been a staple of leisure for many. Its simple premise belies a complexity that engages minds across the world. Whether with a physical deck of cards or on a digital platform, setting up solitaire presents an opportunity for strategic thinking and a touch of patience. This guide is crafted to walk you through the process, ensuring that you can enjoy solitaire’s meditative challenge, regardless of your technical prowess.

how to set up solitaire

Game Setup Basics

Before diving into the world of solitaire, it’s important to understand the foundations. Solitaire, or Klondike Solitaire as it’s traditionally known, is played with a standard deck of 52 playing cards. The objective is to sort the cards into four foundation piles in ascending order, one for each suit.

Detailed Steps:

  1. Shuffle the Deck: Begin by giving your deck of cards a good shuffle to ensure the cards are randomized.
  2. Lay Out the Tableau: Deal cards face down to form seven piles in a horizontal line. Each pile should have one more card than the pile to its left, starting with one card on the first pile. Only the top card of each pile should be face up.
  3. Create the Foundation: Above your tableau, leave space for four foundation piles. These will be built in ascending order, starting with Aces and ending with Kings.


The game setup is a simple, yet crucial step to playing solitaire. While the setup is straightforward, it ensures that each game is unique and provides the foundation for hours of engaging gameplay. The shuffling prior to laying out the tableau ensures fair play, but can result in a non-winnable game, which is a part of the solitaire experience.

Card Placement Strategy

Once you have the basic layout prepared, it’s time to consider your strategy for placing cards. Successful solitaire relies on careful planning and recognition of available moves.

Detailed Steps:

  1. Reveal Cards: Turn the top card face-up on each tableau pile if it’s not already facing up.
  2. Moving Cards: You can move cards from one tableau pile to another if the moving card is opposite in color and one rank lower than the card it’s placed on (for example, a red 6 on a black 7).
  3. Uncovering Hidden Cards: When a face-down card is revealed, it should be turned face up to see if it can be used.


Understanding how to place cards is key to progressing in the game. Movement should be strategic, opening opportunities to shift cards to the foundation piles or reveal hidden ones. However, misplaced moves might block access to needed cards, so each action should be considered carefully.

The Stock and Talon

The remaining cards after setting up the tableau are known as the stock, and the cards that are drawn from the stock are placed into the talon. This is where strategic play is essential.

Detailed Steps:

  1. Draw from the Stock: Turn cards from the stockpile one at a time and see if they can be played either on the tableau or directly onto the foundations.
  2. Repeat Draws: If you can’t make a move, place the card in a separate pile (talon) face up. You can draw as many times as you want from the stock, but once finished, you can either reset the stock from the talon or limit the number of resets based on the game’s variation you are playing.


The stock and talon can save the game by offering new opportunities to make moves otherwise impossible with the current tableau setup. However, depending too much on the stock can be precarious as it may not always provide the cards you need when you need them.

Building the Foundation

The goal of the game is to build up the foundation piles. Doing so requires a well-thought-out strategy to transition cards from the tableau and the stock/talon.

Detailed Steps:

  1. Starting the Foundation: As soon as any Ace is available, it should be placed in one of the foundation spots.
  2. Building Up: Once an Ace is placed, you can start building the foundation by placing the 2 of the same suit on it, then the 3, and so on.


Successfully building the foundation is a gratifying process in solitaire. Each step brings you closer to victory. However, advancing too quickly without proper planning can lead to inescapable dead-ends.

Empty Tableau Spaces

Managing empty spaces in the tableau piles is a crucial tactical moment in solitaire.

Detailed Steps:

  1. Kings Rule: Only Kings, or sequences starting with a King, can be placed in empty tableau spaces.
  2. Strategic Moves: Use these spaces to free up other cards that you need to build the foundation or to clear out a tableau pile.


Empty tableau spaces provide strategic advantages allowing for larger sequences to be moved. It’s important to use these spaces wisely, as wasting them can hinder progression in the game.

Streamlining the Tableau

Ordering the tableau efficiently can vastly improve your chances of winning in solitaire.

Detailed Steps:

  1. Descending Order: Arrange the cards in the tableau in descending order and alternate colors.
  2. Strategic Shifts: Move cards between piles to reveal hidden cards and to open up plays for the foundation.


This practice serves as the core mechanic for gameplay. Efficiency and foresight in ordering the tableau are essential. Misjudging a series of moves can quickly lead to a stalemate.

The Winning Strategy

Understanding the winning strategy in solitaire requires attention to detail and patience.

Detailed Steps:

  1. Plan Ahead: Look for plays that will not only allow you to move cards now but will also enable you to make moves in subsequent turns.
  2. Prioritize Moves: Focus on moves that reveal hidden cards or free up cards for the foundation piles.


A winning strategy strikes a balance between immediate gains and long-term planning. Overlooking future moves for the sake of immediate ones can result in a no-win situation.

Variations of Solitaire

Solitaire comes in many variations, offering different challenges and rules.

Detailed Steps:

  1. Explore Different Games: After mastering Klondike, try your hand at Spider, FreeCell, or Pyramid.
  2. Understand New Rules: Each variation has its own set of rules, so make sure to learn them before playing.


Exploring variations keeps the game fresh and challenging. However, adapting to new sets of rules and strategies might be overwhelming for beginners.

Digital Solitaire

Technology has allowed solitaire to be played on computers and mobile devices.

Detailed Steps:

  1. Find a Solitaire App: Download a solitaire app from the app store or play online.
  2. Learn Digital Tools: Familiarize yourself with features like auto-complete and hints.


Digital versions can enhance accessibility and offer helpful tools, though purists may miss the tactile feel of physical cards.

Tips and Tricks

Keep these tips and tricks in mind to improve your solitaire game.

Detailed Steps:

  1. Expose Larger Stacks First: Tackle piles with the most hidden cards to increase your options.
  2. Don’t Empty a Space Without a King: Emptying a tableau spot without a King to place can limit your moves.


These strategies can turn a losing game into a winning one. However, relying on certain tricks might distract from other strategic moves.

In conclusion, setting up and playing solitaire is much more than a pastime; it’s a way to sharpen your strategic thinking and patience. Whether you’re arranging cards at your kitchen table or swiping on a screen, solitaire’s combination of simple rules and deep strategy has made it enduringly popular around the globe. With this comprehensive guide, you’re now ready to both set up and improve your solitaire gameplay.


Q: What do I do if I can’t make any more moves in solitaire?
A: When no more moves are possible, the game is considered stuck. You can start a new game or, if playing digitally, use a feature to shuffle the remaining cards.

Q: Can solitaire be played with more than one player?
A: Traditional solitaire is a single-player game, but there are multi-player variations, such as competitive solitaire where players race to finish first.

Q: Are all solitaire games winnable?
A: Not all solitaire games are winnable. Some deals may be unsolvable, which is part of the game’s challenge. It’s estimated that around 79% of Klondike Solitaire games are winnable.

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