How Many Cards Do You Need for a Game of Solitaire?

Solitaire is a fun, versatile card game you can play anywhere, and there’s no limit on the variations you can try. While most card games need partners, you can play solitaire independently. However, how many cards do you need for a game of solitaire?  

You need 52 cards for a game of solitaire. However, some versions need two decks (104 cards). If you’re a beginner, it’s better to start with one-deck solitaire games and once you get more skilled, challenge yourself with the two-deck variations. 

If you’re interested in playing a game of solitaire but don’t know how many cards you need, keep reading the rest of this article. We’ll go through the ins and outs of a solitaire game so that you can enjoy it in your free time.

Solitaire Terminology 

Before we get into the details, you need to understand the most common concepts in solitaire: 

  • Tableau: This term refers to the card layout, consisting of seven (sometimes more) card piles or columns and one stockpile with which you play the game.
  • Foundations: These are four (sometimes more) empty piles at first (one foundation for each suit). You have to stack them up through the game and organize cards in ascending order.
  • Talon: Also referred to as the waste pile, it consists of cards you draw from the stockpile but can’t use for moves. In Klondike Solitaire, they’re face down, but in some other variations, they’re face up.

Number of Cards 

To play solitaire, you only need at least one deck of 52 cards. This one deck should include all of the cards except for the jokers, so be sure to remove them before you start. 

However, some variations can need more cards, such as double solitaire and Matrimony. These games usually require 104 cards or two 52-piece decks to play. Advanced players often play using two decks of cards. 

In addition, some solitaire games require you to leave the jokers in the deck. These games are called “Jokers Solitaire” or other variations. Each game is different, and some allow you to use the joker as a wild card, while others will enable you to clear a row if you place a joker on top of the foundation pile.  

Cards Setup 

To set up your cards, you should first shuffle the deck thoroughly, then deal them out into seven columns or foundations. Pick one card and put it on the left. 

Then, place six other cards on the right. The card on the left must be face up, while the ones on the right are face down.  

Now, put a face-up card over the second card and place face-down cards on the other five cards. Repeat the process until there’s one face-up card on top of each pile. So, now you have seven stacks. 

Each stack has one more card than the previous one. This card layout is the so-called tableau with which you play the game, and the remaining cards will go into one separate pile called the stockpile. These cards are also facing down, and you can use them if you can’t make any further moves. You should place this pile somewhere above or below the other stacks.

Don’t forget to leave some room above the card piles for the stack (or foundations) you’re going to fill – we’ll talk more about foundations in the below section.

The Objective of the Game

Now that you’ve laid out your cards, you’re probably asking yourself what this game’s final goal is. Your mission in the game is to divide the 52 cards into four stacks using the seven columns and the stockpile.

Each of these foundations should be stacked by only one suit and in ascending order. So, for example, you’ll stack up the first foundation by spades, which starts with its Ace and ends with the King.

If all the foundations are complete, you win. However, you lose if you reach a point where no further move is possible, and the foundations are incomplete.

Rules of the Game 

Like all card games, solitaire has its own rules – but don’t panic. They’re pretty easy to learn. 

You can only move the cards that face up and transfer them to the foundations or another pile. You can also get cards from the stockpile and make legal moves. Otherwise, you should transfer them to the Talon (the waste pile).

If you want to move a card from one stack to another, its value must be one less than the card you place it on, and it must have a different color. For example, you can’t put a 5 of spades (black) on the 4 of hearts (red), but the reverse is allowed.  

You can even move a group of cards from one pile to another, but remember, they must be in order from the highest rank to the lowest and alternating colors. 

When you move a card from a pile, the next card in that pile must face up – it becomes “free” or “unblocked.”  

Once you move all the cards out of one stack, you can start a new pile in its place. However, it has to start with a King. 

Another important point about the stockpile is that every time you want to get new cards, you have to flip three cards face up every time and if they’re unusable, put them in the waste pile. Remember that you can only use the top card of the waste pile. 

Once you have moved all the cards in the stockpile into the waste pile, you can turn it over to get a new stockpile (some variations allow shuffling while others don’t).  

How To Play a Game of Solitaire

When people talk about playing solitaire, they usually refer to the Klondike version, which is the most popular one. So, here we’ll talk about this variation and how it should be played and then move on to the other variations. 

The game’s objective is to fill each foundation with one suit in ascending order. 

The first step is to glance over the cards that face up on the tableau to see whether there are any aces among them. If yes, you should place it above the pile to start one of the four foundations.

Otherwise, move the cards that are face up according to the rules and free the cards below, so you may get the correct values to put into the foundations or other piles.

Once you have no usable cards and run out of moves, you can use the stockpile three cards at a time.

In short, you should move around the cards in the tableau, build sequences, free the cards that face down, and pile up the foundations until they’re all complete or no further move is possible. 

Note that no matter how much you try, some games are unbeatable. In solitaire, half of the game is determined by luck when you lay out the tableau, and your technique determines only the other half.

Other Solitaire Variations

Here’s a comprehensive table summarizing the differences between the different variations: 

Solitaire game variationNumber of cardsNumber of foundationsNumber of pilesStockpileTalon or waste pileStorage pile
Forty Thieves104810YesYesYes
Table Differences between Solitaire variations

What to know how often you can win at different solitaire games? That is why I wrote an article about why is Solitaire so hard and you can find the win percentages table there.

So, let’s look closer at the differences between all of these fantastic solitaire games. 

Forty Thieves Solitaire (or Napoleon at St. Helena)

This version is easier than the standard solitaire (Klondike) because all the cards are face-up. So, you can see them despite having an almost identical tableau layout. 

You play forty-thieves solitaire with 104 cards (two decks), but the object is still the same. You must pile up eight foundations for each suit in ascending order.

Here, we have ten piles of cards on the tableau, each containing four cards facing up. You can only move one top card every time. If one stack runs out, you can start a new one using any card you wish, and then you only draw one card from the stock part every time. 

If you want to add this card to the waste pile, remember to put it face up – you can also move it to a foundation. 

There are also four spaces above the stacks that you can use as storage space, meaning you can place the top card of one pile there to free the beneath card and make a move.

FreeCell Solitaire

FreeCell solitaire requires one deck of 52 cards. The most significant difference between this version and the standard one is that you don’t have any stockpile to use in your game, yet the object is the same. As you see, it’s more challenging and requires high mental activity to move the cards correctly and pile up the foundations.

You first deal eight piles in which all the cards face up. Remember that four foundations should contain seven cards, and four must contain six cards so that no extra card remains in the stockpile. Again, you can use four storage spaces. 

Yukon Solitaire

Yukon Solitaire requires one deck of 52 cards. Like FreeCell, you don’t have any stockpile or Talon in this version. After shuffling the cards, you should deal out 28 of them in 7 piles as you do in Klondike and add the remaining cards face-up to piles 2 to 7.  

One significant difference between the Yukon solitaire and Klondike is that you can move a group of cards from one foundation to another. However, it should form a series of alternating color cards in descending order to be legal. 

Spider Solitaire 

Spider Solitaire is another version of solitaire that requires two card decks, so it’s much more difficult. You should deal out the cards in 10 piles in which only the top card faces up. Four piles contain six cards, and the rest have five cards. 

The objective is to sort each suit in descending order – from King to Ace – and once it’s complete, you can transfer it to one of the eight foundations. You’re also allowed to move sequences of cards from one pile to another – descending order, alternating colors – but you don’t have any storage space.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Stacks of Cards Are There in Solitaire?

There are four stacks of cards in solitaire, but only if you’re playing Klondike. There can be more in other variations, such as the spider solitaire, played with two decks. Regardless of its variation, you must always organize the suits in these stacks. 

How Many Cards Do You Flip in Solitaire?

You flip three cards at a time from the stockpile in solitaire when playing Klondike. On the other hand, in some variations, such as forty-thieves solitaire, you can only flip one card at a time from the stockpile. 

Still, you don’t have any stockpile to flip cards from in some variations since all are in piles.

Can You Play Solitaire With 2 Decks of Cards?

You can play solitaire with 2 decks, but it gets more challenging. Variations like the spider solitaire or double Klondike require two decks, but the objective remains the same. You still have to organize all cards in sequence in the foundations. 

In addition to two decks, some variations need two players. Double solitaire is a turn-based variation similar to Klondike, where the player with the lower card begins the game. When either player plays all their cards. 

Final Thoughts

Playing most card games requires more than one player, but solitaire is single-player fun. Most variations require a deck of 52 cards, but you can graduate to two-deck variations as you build your skills. 

If you’re bored while traveling on the subway or bus, at home, or on any other occasion, you can play a game of solitaire with real cards on your smartphone or tablet and activate some of your gray cells while having fun. It can benefit your mind and meanwhile help you pass the time.